By Cath Harris
Devon is known for its green landscapes, sandy beaches and rolling hills – all of these things combined make it the ideal place to explore with your four-legged companion. Dartmoor National Park is 365 square miles of moorland nestled in the centre of the county between Exeter and Plymouth. The landscape is renowned for its granite structures called ‘Tors’ and its topography is so extreme that the British Army have a training ground in the North West quarter.
When you reach the top of a tor the wind is often high and so this can cause you and your dog to be unbalanced. It is not advised to climb the granite themselves as they are natural structures to protect for future generations.
The North West quarter of Dartmoor is owned by the British Army where there is frequent live firearms training – you can check the training dates here.
Take water for your dog as they will dehydrate quickly in warm weather and there is no guarantee of finding running water for them. Pack treats to incentivise their quick return if necessary.
For example, there is Bellever Forest, Meldon Viaduct, Hound Tor, Belstone Common, Burrator Reservoir or Castle Drogo where you can create any number of circular walks whilst sticking to clearly labelled paths, and still get the feel of being in the National Park.
For those a little more accomplished
Most accomplished walkers find 6-12 miles on Dartmoor more than ample for a day walk. Build your dog up to walking long distances as tackling a long walk without ample practise can cause musculoskeletal issues.
If I am heading out on a long walk with my Vizla, I feed her cooked liver for breakfast as a nutritious boost before a day on the moors. When we return I put canine electrolytes in her water to ensure she stays nice and hydrated. Your dog will also probably thank you for a decent rest the day after your hike!
My advice is to build a walk that is in serpentine loops, so you can double back if necessary, rather than walking in one direction for a long time. As I mentioned earlier, the climate and landscape of Dartmoor is unique and can mislead even the toughest of walking partners.
Take lots of rest stops – you and your dog will need regular water breaks.
The moorland is wild and this doesn’t excuse leaving dog poop on the ground – please ensure you clean up after your dog and take it with you when you leave.
And my final advice; Leave nothing but paw prints, take nothing but photos.