In our “Fairly Easy Walks on Dartmoor” book there are details of a walk in the stunning Teign Valley which goes from Fingle Bridge to Dogmarsh Bridge and back. A couple of weekends ago we decided to try a variation of this walk that takes in Hunters Path and Castle Drogo.
There is a National Trust car park at Fingle Bridge next to the Fingle Bridge Inn – a quaint pub nestled at the bottom of the woody gorge, right on banks of the river. We crossed the pretty stone packhorse bridge and turned right at the notice board which displays a map of the area.
There is a higher and lower path to choose from. We decided to walk along the lower as it was right next to the river and, we felt, looked a little more interesting. The river is popular with kayakers and there were a few of them out that day braving the cold January weather. After a couple of minutes we came to a natural weir area and the path turned into a set of unofficial stepping stones. On the other side we went up some steps where the lower path now meets the higher and begins to climb the gorge.
At one point a stream flows from the hill above, across the path and down into the river below.
When you get to a fork in the path you have the option of turning right and taking a little detour past the small hydroelectric plant.
The paths merge again a little further on and eventually we came upon a gate and an imposing, green moss covered stone wall.
The next couple of hundred meters were very muddy indeed, and at times we had to scramble up on to the bank next to the path to avoid the churned up ground. We then came to a stile built into the wall, over which was the “New Bridge”. Here you have three options: carry on along the river bank to your left to Dogmarsh Bridge, turn right and walk back along the other side of the river to Fingle Bridge or go straight on up to Castle Drogo.
We went straight on towards the castle. Despite the time of year we both ended up taking off our coats here (or in my case – my coat, hoody, scarf and hat) as the road was very steep. After, what felt like an age of walking up hill we came to a very sharp bend on the right which leads up to the Hunters Path. The views over the patchwork Devon fields and the beatiful Teign Gorge made the uphill walk completely worthwhile.
We followed the path for a couple of hundred meters and enjoyed the views along the way. After a very small climb up a set of steps we were in the grounds of Castle Drogo. The path comes out near the car park which you can walk through to get to the all-important café.
We stopped at the café for around half an hour. I had a scone, cream first and then jam in the proper Devon tradition, and Simon had a chocolate brownie. I scoffed my scone in record time after all that walking and thoroughly enjoyed it!
The way back is all downhill, you just go back out the way you came and pick up the Hunters path back in the direction of Fingle Bridge. I would say that Castle Drogo is around 2/3rds of the way around the circuit and so it is a much shorter walk on the way back. The path took us to Sharp Tor (you will know it when you see it!) and continued on through the woods back down to the river valley.
The way here is very uneven and the slope can be quite steep. We came out in the National Trust car park at Fingle Bridge, right next to our car!
All in all this was a lovely walk and one we will definitely do again. There are lots of other paths in this area to explore and I am sure we will spend much time here in the future. In total we were out for around 3 hours including the stop off at Castle Drogo. You could do it quicker but we stopped lots to enjoy the views and take in the beauty of the area in which we now live.