Walk Distance: 6.5 km
Walk Duration: 2 hours
OS Map: OS Expore OL 28 Dartmoor; OS Landranger 191 Okehampton & North Dartmoor.
Older children; possible with babies in backpacks but parents should be aware there is a steep climb at the end.
Start of walk and section from Fingle Bridge suitable for all-terrain buggies.
Walk features: Great views, woodland walking, riverside walking, paddling & picnic opportunities, site of historic interest, cafe, pub, toilets and baby changing facilities.
With gorgeous gorge views, perfect paddling, woodland wandering and passing England’s last castle to be built, the Castle Drogo to Fingle Bridge circuit is a varied and exhilarating walk for families with older children or fit parents with babies in backpacks. What’s more, there is plenty to do along the way including fantastic pooh stick opportunities at pretty Fingle Bridge, perfect picnic and paddling spots along the meadows by the River Teign, a suspension bridge and Castle Drogo. There are also refreshment options both at the start and half way along the walk making this a great family walk.
Whilst the start of the Castle Drogo to Fingle Bridge circuit walk is lovely for a stroll with an all-terrain pushchair and technically you can access the route as far as the last suspension bridge with a buggy, the steep descent to Fingle Bridge make it challenging and beyond most pushchair users’ comfort zone. A much better option is to park at Fingle Bridge and enjoy a leisurely walk (and some paddling for the little ones) with the buggy along the Forester’s Path before returning along the same route.
The walk starts from Castle Drogo – the last castle to be built in England which is now owned by the National Trust. Parking is available in the Castle Drogo car park and the start of the walk is just left along the road to the castle from the car park. Follow the signs for Teign Valley Estate Walks.
From the road, follow the footpath signs downhill a short way before reaching another marker. Turn left across the grass track following signs to Piddledown Common (the children are going to love the walk for the name of the common alone…) and Fingle Bridge. Keep to the upper path across the green before passing through a gate and onto a path edged by gorse bushes, with the edge of Piddledown Common to the left hand side.
At the next marker, turn right downhill before turning left to join Hunters’ Path, following signs to Fingle Bridge. Walk along the wide track enjoying dramatic views in both directions along the gorge.
When the path splits, take the right hand fork and begin to walk downhill. If you are walking the first stretch of the walk with a pushchair, this is the point at which you will want to turn around (or continue a little further on the left hand path) as the walk now continues down a steep descent to the river at the gorge bottom.
Wave goodbye to the views for now and walk down through the woodland with its gnarled trees contorting themselves over the path on your descent. The path eventually emerges onto the side of the road at the bottom of the hill. From here turn right and past the inviting Fingle Bridge Inn.
Cross Fingle Bridge – an old and narrow packhorse bridge thought to date from the 17th century, turning right immediately after the end of the bridge and into the pleasant meadows beyond. If you’ve resisted the lure of the idyllic Fingle Bridge Inn with its pub lunch and cream teas, the meadows by the edge of the babbling River Teign here make a great place to picnic with children, with some good paddling spots.
Continue the walk along the meadows, following the edge of the river. Turn left across the small footbridge, joining the path beyond (or go up the steps if you’ve missed the bridge). Here the walk joins the Foresters’ Path – a gently undulating track through the oak trees along the side of the River Teign leading back west along the gorge. Be prepared for a few short but steepish inclines along the path but they are all manageable and the track is broad and fairly even. A note for those rejoining the walk with a buggy from Fingle Bridge – the Foresters’ Path can get muddy in places in the winter or after prolonged rain.
Follow the Forester’ Path until a small metal roofed structure comes into view on the right hand side. This is a hydroelectric plant, making the most of the rushing river beneath it. Keep left on the uphill track, passing the hydroelectric plant below on your right. If you have been walking from Fingle Bridge with a pushchair, you will want to turn around here.
Walk back down the hill on the other side before passing through a gate to the left, with a stone wall on its right side. A short walk further on and there are steps cut into the stone wall on the right. Climb over and down the other side and then over the suspension bridge over the River Teign.
Follow the signpost to Castle Drogo and Gardens, turning your back to the bridge and River Teign and heading straight up the hill ahead. The path takes you over a wooden step gate and past a lovely farmhouse on your left, climbing steadily.
On the right hand side, a signpost points to Castle Drogo and Gardens and Hunters Path. Follow this path to the right and climb up the hillside, enjoying the views down the valley as they begin to emerge. As the path bends back sharply to the left, a smaller path weaves out and down to the right. This leads to a view point on Hunter’s Tor and is worth a quick detour – just take care with children as it is steep and narrow.
Continue left up the hillside and the beautiful views along the gorge will reappear, with Castle Drogo looming above on your left. At the path intersection turn left up the hill and through the gate, following the signs to Castle Drogo and Gardens. Continue up the grassy track to the drive where you began.
If you are in need of refreshment, there is a great cafe just next to the Castle Drogo car park where you can get soup, toasties, hot meals or just a cream tea or cake from the National Trust restaurant. The Castle and gardens are also worth a visit.
Map of Route:
Parking is available at Castle Drogo. For an alternative start to the walk, there is some roadside parking next to the Fingle Bridge Inn – a better option for those with all-terrain pushchairs or walking with little children.
View Castle Drogo to Fingle Bridge Circuit in a larger map
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