River Dart, Dartmoor, Dartmoor National Park

River Dart, Dartmoor, Dartmoor National Park

The River Dart rises in two remote, boggy areas below some of Dartmoor National Park's highest moorland. Far north, by Whitehorse Hill and its remarkable cist, are the headwaters of the East Dart River. A little further south, on the flank of Cut Hill, are the headwaters of the West Dart River. Each river flows through stunning, varied landscape until they merge at Dartmeet to form the Double Dart or, more simply, the River Dart. We cover the East Dart River and West Dart River in detail in their own listings. Here, we describe the journey of the River Dart from Dartmeet down to Buckfast on the eastern border of Dartmoor National Park and beyond to Totnes and the South Devon coast at Dartmouth.

Dartmeet is a popular visitor destination in the heart of Dartmoor National Park. Across the road from the spacious car park and public toilets, on the north bank of the river, is a viewing point where you can see the East Dart River merge with the West Dart River. The water flows past a wide, grassy area popular with families picnicking and wild swimming and enters the Dart Gorge. Water tumbles and froths over cascades and runs smooth through long pools of water. The gorge walls climb higher and the woodland becomes wild. Luckey Tor rises close to the north bank. High above, on the lip of the gorge are Sharp Tor, Mel Tor and Bench Tor.

The river is joined by Venford Brook and runs fast to Mel Pool and then Sharrah Pool. The latter is popular with more adventurous wild swimmers. The river then runs through the National Trust's Holne Woods to New Bridge. Downstream, the river bends at Spitchwick which is usually heaving with people in the holiday season. The Dart then loops through private land to Holne Bridge and the River Dart Country Park. It enters more National Trust land at Hembury Woods, runs past Buckfast Abbey and exits the National Park at Buckfast.

The famous South Devon Railway follows the course of the Dart to Totnes. From there, it widens and tourist boats rumble through exquisite South Devon countryside to Dartmouth. The estuary meets open sea by Dartmouth Castle and Kingswear Castle. This is some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK.

River Dart walks in Dartmoor National Park include the following:

You can follow the East Dart River from its headwaters down to Dartmeet. You can walk sections of the West Dart River as well. Try the Wistman's Wood area and the various sets of stepping stones from Sherberton through Huccaby and then Dartmeet.

At Dartmeet, you can walk the north bank of the river in to the Dart Gorge to Luckey Tor.

From Venford Reservoir, you can walk along the south bank of the river to New Bridge. This is a difficult walk so avoid unless you are a confident walker.

At New Bridge, you can walk the north bank upstream to Sharrah Pool although, again, this is not for the faint-hearted.

Above New Bridge, the view from Br Blackall's Drive down to the Dart are special.

There's a lovely walk along the river in the National Trust's Hembury Woods.

Beyond the boundary of the National Park, the Dart Valley Discovery Trail is superb. We'd also recommend walking from the National Trust's Greenway to Kingswear.

Canoeing on the River Dart:

In season, it's great fun to watch canoeists negotiate the cascades between Dartmeet and New Bridge. If you want to test the water, consult specialist canoeing sites.

Wild swimming in the River Dart:

The most popular area is Spitchwick. There are pools of water all the way upstream to Sharrah Pool. Mel Pool is more remote. There's a nice spot by the stepping stones at Sherberton. Families dip in the water at Bellever. Up on the high moorland, you often see people in the pool below the East Dart Waterfall. Beyond the National Park, there's the famous Totnes/Dittisham River Dart 10km swim. Clearly, that's one for the hardcore wild swimmer. Again, fun to watch.

Best views along the River Dart:

For views down to the River Dart, try Bench Tor to the south of the river and Sharp Tor to the north. Dr Blackall's Drive is always a joy. If you can walk down to the Mel Pool area, there's an amazing view upstream to Rowbrook House perched on the northern lip of the gorge.

The Dart at Holne Bridge and the National Trust's Hembury Woods is impressive.

Thankfully, the river is outstandingly beautiful so you can't really go wrong whatever you choose.