Belstone Common connects a series of rugged granite outcrops in the north of Dartmoor and offers an excellent starting point for exploring the northern moor. From the highest point there are spectacular views in all directions. Belstone makes an ideal location for those wishing to find an accessible tor in a less crowded area.
How To Get Here
From Exeter head west on the A30 towards Cornwall. After 20 miles you will see a Services sign, plus an exit for Belstone. Take this junction and then turn left past the services and take the first right signposted Belstone. Continue through the village passing the standing stone on your left. After several hundred yards you will find a small parking area opposite a South West Water building.
- Parking Lat/Long: 50.721628, -3.9571787
- Nearest Parking Postcode: EX20 1QZ (Belstone village)
- Location OS map co-ordinate: SX 617 934
- Map: OS Explorer Map OL28 (1:25 000) Dartmoor
What to Shoot and Viewpoints
This is a two mile round trip if you visit all the viewpoints.
Viewpoint 1 – Ladybrook Tor
A mere ten minute walk from the parking area brings you to Ladybrook Tor. This first outcrop you reach has plenty of interest to photograph, but for only another 5 minutes walking uphill the rocks are far more interesting. A series of piled up granite rocks run from north to south along the ridge of the hill. The rocks here are generally more broken up than the lower area, offering countless opportunities for unique compositions. Possibly the best compositions will be looking northwards down the ridge and over the rolling Devon countryside.
Viewpoint 2 – Belstone Tor
Another five to ten minutes uphill leads you to the highest part of Belstone Common (SX 614 920) one mile from the car park. At the summit the ridge flattens onto a wide plateau comprised of both larger granite tors and scattered rocks, known as clitter. With so much rocky debris here there is a wealth of both foreground and mid-ground potential, while the background all around is a feast for the eyes. To the east neighbouring Cosdon Hill dominates the skyline; over this hill the sun rises throughout the year. To the north, the view down over Devon’s patchwork countryside is even more impressive due to the extra elevation. The lower outcrop now gives a mini-mountain backdrop in front of the countryside beyond. To the west a dramatic view over moorland and rolling fields ends at Yes Tor and High Willhays.
Viewpoint 3 – Rabbit Rock and Irishman’s Wall
Close to the summit of Belstone Tor stands a very photogenic granite outcrop unofficially known as Rabbit Rock. When photographed from the southern side the shape of the rabbit complete with ears can be seen quite clearly, at least by some.
Nearby, the tumbledown stone Irishman’s Wall runs up and over the moor. The true history of this wall is now lost to legend, but one story tells of a group of Irish men who built the wall in an attempt to enclose some common land. The people of Belstone had other ideas and one night ventured onto the moor to knock the wall down.
Whatever the origins, the wall now provides a wonderful photographic subject offering a great lead-in line. When photographed from the north, it can be included in a composition together with Rabbit Rock.
Viewpoint 4 – Towards Higher Tor
A few metres walk south from Rabbit Rock, the plateau suddenly descends several metres in a vertical granite wall. This position provides an excellent viewpoint for shooting over the south into the heart of Dartmoor’s moorland. The vista takes in Higher Tor in the mid distance, before stretching out over moorland towards Steeperton Tor and beyond. This vast area of wilderness forms part of the MOD’s Okehampton Ranges, used as a firing range with restricted access.
Viewpoint 5 – The Nine Maidens
On the way back down from Belstone Tor, a five minute diversion brings you to the Nine Maidens, a small megalithic cairn circle. Smaller than stone circles, cairn circles such as this one were built in the Bronze Age to surround burial sites. In a wild moorland setting surrounded by dramatic peaks the Nine Maidens
provides an extremely photogenic subject.
From the car park, the walk to the summit of Belstone Tor gains about 120m in elevation and typically would take between 20-30 minutes. The first section of the walk has a very gentle incline, followed by a fairly steep ascent as you climb onto the tor. As the walk is over open moorland there aren’t predefined footpaths as such, but the route up onto the tor is very obvious. The ground is very rocky throughout and boggy in places, so good walking boots are recommended. Not suitable for wheelchairs.
Best Time of Year/Day
Due to its high elevation and geology Belstone Common is a perfect photographic viewpoint at all times of the day. However, for the best light plan to visit at either sunrise and sunset. In summer, the moorland is covered with verdant bracken; this turns to beautiful brown tones in autumn and winter. Due to its high elevation and relatively easy access, Belstone Common can be a great place to photograph winter snow.