I came about the Drake’s Trail, sort of by accident, and I walked it out of desperation. Let me explain….
The day before, I had traveled 1 hour from Plymouth to Tavistock, with the intention of getting the 10:50 Dartmoor Explorer into Dartmoor. I waited at the bus stop (one stop ahead of the first stop – this is important). However, nothing came. I checked online and couldn’t find anything saying it was cancelled, in fact, everything I saw said it was running.
So I wondered if the bus had been on diversion which is why it never came to this stop. The next Dartmoor Explorer was in 2 hours. I got myself some coffee, and did a little research to see where I could walk instead, and noticed the Drake’s Trail. It looked to run mostly near a big road which I didn’t fancy, so I cut my losses and went home.
Try and try again
The next day I came back out to try again. When I arrived in Tavistock I had just missed the 9:50 Dartmoor Explorer, so I went and bought some coffee and waited for the 10:50. This time at the start of the bus line.
I waited. It gets to 11:15 and still nothing has come. I’m not the only one waiting though. One woman gives up and leaves, another couple are searching online to try and find some information. There is no update on their twitter, or the Dartmoor Explorer Website….then they find it. The information we all needed. Due to driver shortage, the 10:50 bus yesterday and today had been cancelled. The exact bus I had been trying to get.
Did I just travel for an hour to buy a coffee, two days in a row? The next bus was in 2 hours, but that wouldn’t leave enough time in Dartmoor before the last bus back (at 3:30), which also turned out to be cancelled anyway.
The Drake’s Trail
The couple recommended I do the Drake’s Trail. I told them I wasn’t so sure, due to it being near a road, and I don’t fancy the road noise. However, they assured me you don’t notice the road. I thought about it a little. It was a Sunday, and buses back to Plymouth are hourly. I had just missed one. As I could walk the Drake’s Trail from Tavistock to Yelverton, and at Yelverton I could get the bus back to Plymouth, I figured I might as well do it. I wasn’t about to lose another day.
So that’s how it happened.
What to expect when walking Drake’s Trail
I discovered it’s actually a cycle path, route number 27, and runs all the way to Plymouth. I was also pleasantly surprised by it. First of all, I can confirm that you can hear the road, but it’s not always bad, and for most of the way it’s a faint hum in the background. The route is very green, with lots of bushes and trees, some sheep, and a bunch of Dartmoor ponies.
It’s an easy route both under foot and navigation wise, and the only noticeable hill is at the end, on the walk into Yelverton. Now, my elevation graph tells me the walk is a gradual undulating uphill the whole way, although I never noticed it. It was just that one at the end I noticed.
Now, there are two things on the Drake’s Trail walk, which make it really stand out…..
The tunnel and the bridge
First, there is a bridge tunnel you walk through (Grenofen tunnel), which is the creepiest thing I have ever experienced. It’s a very very long never ending tunnel, with cave vibes. There are a few lights in there, but they are minimal, so it’s pitch black in parts and you literally can’t see anything except the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the kind of tunnel where you think about how you wouldn’t want to walk in here alone…except I was alone.
The second thing is the Gem Bridge. It’s a super high walkway bridge across the tree tops. It gave me de ja vu of tree top rainforest walkways. It is pretty incredible, and you have views as far away as the Dartmoor Tors. If you do anything out here, I would say come to this bridge.
Logistics for the Drake’s Trail walk
- Start: Tavistock. Post code: PL19 0BA
- Finish: Yelverton. Post code: PL20 6DW.
- How to get there: Located just on the outskirts of Dartmoor National Park. Both Tavistock and Yelverton are connected by the bus number 1 which also runs to Plymouth. In Tavistock, the number 1 goes to the main bus terminal, in Yelverton, it goes to the big roundabout.
- Distance: 6 miles
- Time: Just under 2h
- Option to shorten the walk: Yes. See tips.
- Terrain: Asphalt, concrete, road.
- Difficulty: Easy
- Time of year: Spring
- Dog friendly: Most of it is, except near Yelverton, where there are some roaming sheep and ponies.
- Amenities: Everything in Tavistock. Near the creepy bridge there is a cafe. Yelverton has a co-op, cafe and pub.
Tips for the Drake’s Trail walk
- Normal trainers are fine for this walk
- If you want to avoid the creepy tunnel, walk the Drakes Trail the other way from Yelverton, then turn back at the Gem Bridge.
- The couple mentioned to me it’s a popular trail, so gets quite busy, however, I did this on Sunday and it wasn’t busy at all. I could have got lucky though.
- If you are a runner, this trail would be perfect for that.
- It also goes without saying, that this is a good route for cyclists, because it is in fact a cycle route.
- The worst part for road noise, is the first section of the walk from Tavistock (which technically isn’t the Drakes trail anyway), and then right at the very end as you enter Yelverton. So you could take some headphones and listen to nice music for this bit…or bird noise songs.
- If you want to shorten the walk, you could end it at Horrabridge (about 4.5 miles in). The number 1 bus between Tavistock and Yelverton runs through here.
Map for the Drake’s Trail walk
If you want more of Dartmoor, check out the Best Walks In Dartmoor National Park. Alternatively, more walk ideas near the Drake’s Trail, with a full link to the guides, will be at the end
Route Description for The Drake’s Trail Walk
First you need to get to the start of the Drake’s Trail, and you have two walk options to get there in Tavistock….The quicker way on the road, or the slightly longer more scenic way. I of course chose the scenic route. I will guide you if starting from the main Bus Terminal. If you have come to Tavistock by bus, then you have probably ended up here.
Walk towards Drake’s Trail along the Tavistock Canal
From the bus terminal, go to the main road and turn right. Then turn left into the parklike area with tennis courts, and a bit further along, you will reach the Tavistock Canal. Cross over the bridge and walk along it to the right.
Although it was quite pretty along here, I still wasn’t convinced. Not quite the Dartmoor walk I had planned today.
Keep going and cross over the road on the other side. Note. There is an option to walk under the bridge on the left if you don’t want a road crossing.
Over the bridge and onto the trail on the other side, there will be an immediate fork. Take the right to get onto the canal again. If you went under the tunnel, you will need to turn right when through it, to get to this fork.
At first the canal runs next to some houses, then the houses disappear and everything becomes more nature like.
You will then walk under the trees for a bit, but you need to keep an eye out for a left turn. It’s not obvious. To spot it, keep an eye out on the left for a little wooden plank bridge thing down below.
Leave the Tavistock Canal to walk through the residential area
When you see the wooden plank thing, go down to it, and continue straight. First along a tree lined trail, then next to a playing field, and then over the bridge to reach the road.
From this point on it’s very well signposted for the rest of the walk to Drake’s Trail. Look out for the stickers with a picture of a bike and the number 27.
At this one, you turn right, then left at the warehouse:
Then walk across a car park, and onto the main road – You will then see a path sticker across the street. Follow it.
Further along the main road, the signs will direct you to the left and along a residential area.
The next sign tricks you a little. At the next junction, it directs you left. So far so good.
Then there is another one telling you to go down onto the stream. I went down onto it and there is no way to walk along there. Unless you have a boat. What you need to do instead, is just follow it along the road.
You will be walking in residential areas for a bit, with a few bends and curves, all signposted with the bike sticker. Keep following them, and they will lead you to the start of the Drake’s Trail, where the real walk now begins.
Walk along Drake’s Trail
The rest of the way is as simple as just following this main path. It will be a mix of tree and bush lined, and open bits next to fields. But mostly tree lined.
Grenofen Tunnel (the creepy one)
Just before you reach the creepy tunnel, there is a fork junction. The left one takes you up to the Drake’s Cafe. From what I can see, you can’t get down onto the Drake’s Trail that way. So you need to take the tunnel.
As I approached the entrance to the tunnel, it didn’t look too bad. I could see the light at the end, and some lights further along inside. Even for the first bit of walking through the tunnel there isn’t much to report, apart from the fact that it felt a bit like walking in a cave and was quite interesting.
However, as I get deeper, it got darker. There were lights ahead and that’s all I could see. It was so dark in my immediate vicinity, I had no peripheral vision. I couldn’t see the ground below me. It was a really strange feeling, being in that level of darkness. My footsteps echoed, and I was being dripped on from the ceiling. The further in I got, the further away the light at the end seemed to be.
I got my phone out for my torch. But it was useless in this level of dark. I picked up my pace to get out of here as quick as I could, but that light at the end seemed to be getting further away.
Once I was out the other side, I breathed a sigh of relief and was glad that I wasn’t planning to walk back this way. I don’t know that I ever want to walk in that tunnel again, even if someone else was with me.
Walk to Gem Bridge (the cool one)
After the tunnel, the trail resumes its normal state of more trees and bushes. A little further along the Drake’s Trail, you will walk over a wooden bridge. For a moment there, I thought this must be the Gem Bridge. I was a little disappointed. I knew that the Gem Bridge was something special, and although this bridge was nice, it wasn’t that level of nice. Looking down below, I saw some bluebells, so that’s something at least.
Continuing on past the wooden bridge, I soon learnt that, it was not the Gem Bridge. I felt a little excited when the real Gem bridge presented itself ahead of me. I wasn’t on it yet, but it already looked a lot more impressive.
It’s very high up, and as you walk along, you will be at tree top level, and way in the distance you can see some of the Tors of Dartmoor. This bridge cancelled out the creepy bridge.
Walk to the next bridge
I didn’t know there would be a next bridge. It wasn’t on the map. So it was a nice surprise to see it ahead, after some more tree lined trail walking after Gem Bridge.
The walls of the bridge are a bit high, so not user friendly if you are short, however, the bridge people though if this, and have provided little steps you can stand on to see over the top.
Walk to Horrabridge
After the bridge it’s more walking through trees, this time you do get some occasional views through them. I saw a horse in a field and got excited. I didn’t yet know of the ponies galore to come.
Some way further along, you will reach a residential road. You should see a sign on the left for Horrabridge. If you want to go there, you will now turn left. To continue the walk along Drakes Trail to Yelverton, keep going straight up the road.
Walk to Yelverton – The final stretch of the walk along Drake’s Trail
At the top of the road, at the junction, you should see the trail directly on the other side. Go over to it, and guess what? You will be walking surrounded by yet more trees. This is a very tree heavy walk. This little bit was quite car noisy, but it does ease up further along, before picking back up right at the end into Yelverton.
After a little bit of walking along this bit of path, you will make your way uphill. This is the hill I mentioned at the beginning. It took me by surprise a little. It was a different level of hill to the rest of the walk so far.
As you get towards the top, the trees will start to open up, and you will have some nice views.
The sheep and the ponies
Right near the end, as I was nearing the Yelverton roundabout, is where I saw the animals. First some sheep on the trail. One of them was scratching its bum on a tree.
Then in the big field on the right, were all the ponies.
After some pony pictures, I continued past the car park and towards a play ground. I wasn’t supposed to walk through the playground, but rather walk around it. Somehow I ended up in there, and had to go over a stile to get out on the other side. I rushed through this bit. All the children noises.
To reach the Yelverton roundabout, you need to go in a rough direction of straight. If in doubt, walk towards where the car noise sounds the loudest.
More walking route ideas near Drake’s Trail
Yelverton to Sheepstor – This walk in Dartmoor, takes you to the Burrator Reservoir, and then up Sheepstor, before returning back down to the reservoir. It has good variety. Think woodland, river crossing, bluebells, hills, tors, views, reservoir etc.
Burrator Reservoir walk – This one fully circles the reservoir. I was very surprised by this walk, in a good way. It’s very easy, but also very beautiful, with an optional short hill with amazing views at the end.
Foggintor Quarry walk – One of my favourite places in Dartmoor. This walk is very easy and short, and takes you to the most gorgeous magical place. You can get a bus to the start of it from Tavistock.
Wistmans Wood walk – My other favourite place in Dartmoor. Also not that long, and also very magical. A bus will also get you here from Tavistock.
Princetown King’s Tor walk – A very easy route to follow, along the old railway line. This walk also includes Foggintor Quarry. So you get to see both in one go.
Ivybridge to Western Beacon walk – This walk involves a few hills, and is fully exposed so you get incredible far reaching views across Dartmoor National Park. Although there are hills, it’s a fairly easy walk, and very easy to navigate.
The Tamar Valley AONB is just around the corner, and you can read a little more about it in my Tamar Valley walks guide. For a quick look at my favourites, see below.
Calstock Riverside walk – This one is over in the Tamar Valley, and you can get between the two on the number 79 bus. It’s an easy walk, and features a really impressive viaduct and old mines.
Gunnislake and the Devon Great Consuls walk – Also in the Tamar valley, and also connected to the Drake’s Trail by the number 79 bus. This is a bit more challenging (but not that challenging). It’s a fantastic walk, mostly through woodland, alongside the river, and to some really impressive old mines.
For more walk ideas in Dartmoor, you could check out the Visit Dartmoor website.