Friday, 13 August 2021

Merrivale Walk, Dartmoor - Ruins in the Landscape with Stone Rows, Neolithic Huts and Old Stone Quarries

The majesty of Hucken Tor towers over the moorland above Merrivale and below King's Tor

When the weather is right there is no finer place in the world to be than in Devon and one of our favourite places to walk is Dartmoor and in early June, when we were experiencing wall-to-wall sunshine and blue skies, and with Will home for a few days from Torbay Hospital in the last weeks of completing his medical studies, we headed off to Merrivale near Princetown in the middle of the moor; to follow a walk around King's Tor that takes in Neolithic monuments and the remains of the pre-iron age stone circle villages built by the first people who lived here, together with the remains of Dartmoor's Industrial heritage centred around stone quarrying, providing the materials that created London's most famous landmarks, in a landscape that would have been familiar to French and American prisoners of war of the Napoleonic War and War of 1812, detained in Dartmoor prison near Princetown, whose foreboding walls and buildings still dominate the town today.

French prisoners of war being marched across the moor on 24th May 1809 - E.P. Coles

The route we determined to follow is illustrated on my display captured from View Ranger and shows the direction of march from the roadside carpark under the red pin that first took us past the Merrivale stone row and village circles out towards the wooded vale that leads up on to higher ground crossing several leats that run off the moor from King's Tor and flow into the nearby River Walkham.

We cut the corner of the route as we circled past Hucken Tor seen above and up and behind the lower slopes of King's Tor before turning back towards the road following the path via the Swelltor and Foggintor Quarries, about five miles and combined with the incline and warm weather more than earned us a fish and chip supper on the way home. 

Our walk route, more or less, from the carpark on the B3357 with arrows indicating our direction of march, taken from my View Ranger walking app.

An easy part of the walk setting out from the car park heading down to the wooded vale below the dip in the ground beyond and with the Merrivale stone row and village remains ahead 

Looking to our left we could see King's Tor in the distance 

Little stone tops appeared peaking above the heather indicating the outline of pre iron-age, village circle huts, with Merrivale stone quarry in the background.

The Merrivale Stone Row, dead ahead

Dartmoor is covered in these Neolithic remains for those interested in visiting them and don't attract the same attention or crowds as the more famous and much larger Stone Henge, but are never the less fascinating 'ruins in the landscape' that provoke the imagination about the people who built them and why.

As we made our way past the Merrivale monument the ground descends and the terrain changes with trees and undergrowth, often indicating proximity to water, and we soon found ourselves among them and walled enclosures either side of our path with the fields beyond shimmering with a lilac haze of early June bluebells waving in the summer breeze.

Did I mention bluebells, 'fouzands of em!' and absolutely stunning to see

Did I mention water, Dartmoor has a lot of it and it likes to flow down hill making things interesting for walkers watching out for crossing points and avoiding Dartmoor bogs.

An ancient path heading out towards King's Tor

After the pleasant shade of the wooded river valley the ground climbed back out on to the moor above Hucken Tor and towards the lower slope of King's Tor where we inadvertently took a slight detour, which we pressed on with - you have to be pragmatic when out walking and often include the occasional change in route!

The ground climbs out from the river valley as we get back out on to moorland again

On the lower slope of King's Tor

Moving around the back of King's Tor our path joined up with the much broader quarry track that indicated our route towards the old workings at Swelltor and Foggintor stone quarries, with heaps of stone blocks on the side of the path indicating our proximity to the remains of the old buildings.

A quick refreshment break and a chance to admire the view from the junction on the quarry track behind King's Tor.

These old 19th century quarry buildings speak of an early pre industrial Britain on the brink of bringing a new age to the world and always make me think of a much harder way of life for those people labouring out here for instance on the moor, probably not really able to enjoy the surroundings in the quite the same way we were.

As our path headed back to the B3357 Princetown Road, the remans of the old stone railway and its sequential sleepers with ruts created for the carts that carried the stone away on them were still discernible, evoking comparison with similar Roman stone built roadways with less predetermined wheel ruts left for later generations to pause with thought over.
The stone railway leading from the quarry peaks through the gravel of the quarry track.

Soon we were back on the road with the car park in sight and with the late summer afternoon starting to turn a bit 'dimpsey', a Devon expression describing the decline in light of the onset of evening, our thoughts were of pulling off the boots and tucking in later to fish and chips.

Another glorious day out on the moor and one for the memories.


Next up: Lots to come and it's back to wargaming, and I'm off to club this weekend to play Target for Tonight with an op to Hannover planned by Bomber Command in our penultimate game in the Battle of Berlin Campaign. Plus time away walking and enjoying getting out and about has taken me away from the shipyard but I have two sloops rigged and will show the first three that are done before working on the other three, and I have a post about a recent walk Mr Steve and I did looking at the Siege of Devizes and the Battle of Roundway Down


  1. On a dark and rainy morning on day two of painting the kitchen, the post of your journey is a wonderful escape.

  2. Great looking walk it must be 30 years ago since I visited Dartmoor .

  3. Some great photos of a fun looking outing.

  4. Thanks for your comments chaps and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. We are so very lucky to have such an amazing place like Dartmoor on our doorstep and it is such a pleasure to be able to enjoy it on days like the one we had back in June and to share it with others.

    I have another such post coming up as Carolyn and I celebrated our wedding anniversary in July by staying at the Rock Inn at Haytor Vale, right on the moor and doing an eight mile trek close to Hay Tor.

    More anon