Abbot's Way, Dartmoor, Dartmoor National Park

Abbot's Way, Dartmoor, Dartmoor National Park

The Abbot's Way is marked, in part, on the Ordnance Survey Explorer OL28 'Dartmoor' map.

You can follow the path marked Abbot's Way on that OS map from the moor just west of Buckfastleigh across Dartmoor's south plateau to the Plym Ford area. After that, you can continue to Tavistock. The Abbot's Way connects Buckfast Abbey on the east side of the National Park to Tavistock Abbey (Ruin) on the west. It's a beautiful walk that takes you across very remote moorland. Click through the images in the photo gallery of this listing to follow the Abbot's Way east to west.


A note on the Abbot's Way

Whether you're actually walking a monastic route and where it goes after it leaves the south plateau is open to debate. This site is intended to help people get out there and experience Dartmoor National Park. We lack the expertise to debate historical sources so please refer to authoritative Dartmoor writers such as William Crossing and Eric Hemery for further information. That said, we provide a route description within this listing. People tend to follow the route we describe but note that some follow variations of this or the Buckfast to Tavistock Monastic Route or the Tavistock to Ashburton Packhorse Track. The Buckfast to Tavistock Monastic Route has an extraordinary number of crosses on it so it's easy to understand why a local expert such as Eric Hemery thought that was the real Abbot's Way.

In his Dartmoor guide 'Walking Dartmoor's Ancient Tracks: A Guide To 28 Routes', Eric Hemery writes:

'The Jobbers' Road, having necessarily to connect with the southern farms and villages, followed a more southerly route than the monastic Track 10, and consequently breasted higher, wetter land and encountered river crossings suitable only for mounted travellers; OS maps and countless dependent publications nevertheless continue to show it as 'Abbots' Way', despite both lack of evidence and drastic unsuitability for inter-monastic travel. Only one granite cross stands beside Track 3; this, at the foot of Huntingdon Hill is a post-Reformation cross erected solely as a land boundary and irrelevant as a waymark.

West of Broad Rock the route given here is based upon field evidence, oral tradition, a map and a legal document - the latter two hundred years old and in the author's possession. The general confusion persisting over monastic ways, wool-jobbers' ways and the true function of granite crosses was unfortunately aggravated in part by William Crossing, who remarked in his Guide that 'Jobbers' Path is really the Abbots' Way, yet later he writes that ' is this part of the old monks' road (i.e. on Brown Heath) that the moormen generally refer to when they speak of Jobbers' Path.' Evidence supports the moormen rather than Crossing, who does not once comment on their apparent rejection, in his day, of the label 'Abbots' Way'. It is indeed possible that Crossing did not know that it had no place in traditional Dartmoor nomenclature and that it was first used by a traveller named John Andrews writing in 1794, since which it has found its spurious way onto maps and into literature of all types. Lastly, it is hardly surprising that the physical contrast between the two tracks (3 and 12) is as marked as that existing between their respective purposes.'


How far is the Abbot's Way in Dartmoor National Park?

This walk covers about 23 miles.


How long will it take to walk?

It can be completed in a day. We tend to cover about 30 minutes a mile on Dartmoor but walk at a leisurely pace. At this speed, the Abbot's Way takes about 12 hours. That said, we've also walked it at 20 minutes a mile taking about 8 hours.


What's the walking like?

The walking isn't particularly demanding. There are few steep sections. As ever with Dartmoor, the only real challenge is the weather.


Is there a path?

Not really. You're crossing remote moorland so there isn't a continuous path. However, some sections are worn by walkers. There's a short section of good path between Siward's Cross and Princetown. We've never experienced any problems in all weather conditions. Take a map and compass. A GPS or the OS app on a smartphone make it very easy. Note that you're crossing many streams and passing by many distinctive features so it's easy to follow progress on a map. The only genuinely featureless area is the arc of the Abbot's Way between Erme Head Ford and Plym Ford but even there you can pick up tracks made by walkers.


Where can I stay?

Holne or Scorriton.


How do I get to the start?

Buses run, for example, from Exeter/Plymouth to Buckfastleigh.


How do I get back from the end?

Buses run, for example, from Tavistock to Exeter/Plymouth.


Is it well signposted?

No. You're crossing high moor.


Are there shops on the Way?

Yes. There are shops in Princetown.


What kit do I need?

All the usual kit for a long distance yomp. Comfortable boots and backpack are essential.


An Abbot's Way route description

Buckfast Abbey to ford south of Cross Furzes

Start at Buckfast Abbey. Follow one of the moorland roads to Cross Furzes. We usually follow the moorland road to Combe and then down to Cross Furzes. Note that there's limited parking on the side of the road at Cross Furzes.


Ford south of Cross Furzes to Huntingdon Clapper Bridge

At Cross Furzes, an ancient lane drops down to a ford over which runs a clapper bridge. The sign at Cross Furzes reads 'ABBOTS WAY BRIDLEPATH PLYM FORD 7 MLS AND TO NUNS CROSS FOR PRINCETOWN 10 MLS'. Cross the clapper bridge, walk up through a short section of woodland and onto Lambs Down. A path of sorts worn by walkers crosses Lambs Down, drops down to a stream and then climbs to the moorland gate at Water Oak Corner. Signs marked Abbot's Way ask 'PLEASE KEEP TO WAYMARKED PATH ACROSS PRIVATE LAND'. This route is marked as a broken green line on the Ordnance Survey Explorer OL28 'Dartmoor' map and is named Abbot's Way. Wander across moorland and drop down to Brockhill Stream. The views across Avon Dam Reservoir are stunning. Note that it can get boggy around Brockhill Stream. Continue on the path north of the reservoir. You pass Huntingdon Warren Cross on your way to Huntingdon Huntingdon Clapper Bridge.


Huntingdon Clapper Bridge to Stall Moor Stone Row

Cross Huntingdon Clapper Bridge and there's a steep section of moorland that climbs to old workings associated with Red Lake China Clay Works. Walk to the Marker Stone for the Two Moors Way. Just beyond the Marker Stone, you'll see a path worn by walkers drop down to the right. This takes you to Red Lake Ford by Red Lake Mire. This area can get very boggy. Cross Red Lake (on Dartmoor, a 'lake' is a stream) and pick your way through a short section of long grass and reeds. Once you've cleared this tricky section, you're on solid moorland. Very soon, you walk across the upper section of the longest stone row in the world called Stall Moor Stone Row. You are now in the most remote section of the walk. It's a super place.


Stall Moor Stone Row to Nun's or Siward's Cross

Continue on good ground to Dry Lake Ford, Blacklane Ford and Erme Pits Ford. We've never experienced problems crossing these. Note that all Dartmoor rivers and streams swell after heavy rain. Climb through the remarkable mining landscape at Erme Pits and you're on the flank of a huge dome of moorland. The Abbot's Way curls around this dome and then drops to Plym Ford. Having crossed the River Plym, proceed to Nun's Cross Farm and Nun's or Siward's Cross. We'd recommend following the shape of the path on the Ordnance Survey Explorer OL28 'Dartmoor' map. Don't try to go over the top of the hill '452' as it's boggy up there.


Nun's or Siward's Cross to North Hessary Tor

Follow the very obvious path called the Jobber's Road from Siward's Cross to Princetown. There are shops, public toilets and a visitor centre. Next, yomp up to North Hessary Tor.


North Hessary Tor to Merrivale

From North Hessary Tor, drop down to the magnificent prehistoric complex at Merrivale and then continue to Merrivale and its pub.


Merrivale to Moortown

After a short stretch of road (it's the busy B3357 so take care), you cross Whitchurch Common to Moortown. The terrain is very gentle.


Moortown to Tavistock

Follow the moorland road from Moortown to Whitchurch Down. Descend to Tavistock and Tavistock Abbey (Ruin).