Hard to pinpoint on a map and even harder to reach, Rippon Tor is often missed out in favour of its more famous counterpart, the rocky outcrop of Haytor. After all, the walk to Haytor is more like a stroll in the park than the tough hike through muddy marshy grassland and up towards the highest point in this area of Dartmoor, that of Rippon Tor.
But, venture up the slippery slope, and once you finally reach the group of cairns that litter the top of the mount, you’ll spot the strange architecture of the former Rippon Tor Rifle Range in the distance, a relic of times gone by. Look the other way, and you’ll be rewarded with views over onto Hound Tor, home to an abandoned medieval village, and many say the rocks that inspired the Sherlockock Holmes’ novel, Hound of the Baskervilles.
Dartmoor Walks: The Climb to Rippon Tor
If you want to hike up to the top of Rippon Tor, you’ll find your first challenge is finding a space to park your car! Nevertheless, when you approach Rippon Tor from Bovey Tracey, you’ll see Saddle Tor to your right. Carry on along the road and around the bend and you’ll see a small parking lot on the right-hand side, to the base of Saddle Tor.
Park here and cross the road on foot. You’re now heading in the right direction to reach the top of Rippon Tor! If you do decide to climb up to the top of the tor, a group of stones thought to have been left behind as a result of glacier movements during the last Ice Age, then make sure you’re prepared for the weather. After all, the mist can, and often does, descend with little warning, leaving you a little lost. Bring a windbreaker jacket and waterproof shoes.
If you want somewhere a little drier to park, and with more space, then carry on a little along the road that winds its way through the moors. Leave your car at Hemsworthy Gate car parking area for an easier hiking trail up to Rippon Tor. While the climb up to the top is harder than to nearby Saddle Tor, Hound Tor, or Haytor, it still remains much easier than further up on the high moors, such as in places like Grimspound.
That being said, the Tor still stands an impressive 473 metres above sea level, and on a clear day offers views all the way to the sea, and to the North Devon National Park of Exmoor. Climb up to the top and you’ll most definitely be rewarded for your efforts!
Highlights of Rippon Tor
While Haytor gets all the attention thanks to its semi-hidden disused quarry lake, its many hiking trails, and the fact that a visitor centre and ice cream van are located in one of its car parks, Rippon Tor has much more in the way of history.
Nutcrackers Rock: This unusual formation of rocks is called Logan Stone and reputedly used to sway with the wind.
Neolithic points of interest: While Rippon Tor is by no means the most interesting place to see Neolithic and Bronze Age historic sites, there are still things to be seen if you have a keen eye and a penchant for details. Near Rippon Tor, you’ll spot Bronze Age boundary walls, and several mounds which may well have been Bronze Age Hut circles.
Medieval Rippon Tor Cross: Lying a few dozen metres from the tor’s trig point, there’s an unfinished cross lying on its side. This is thought to date back to medieval times, though it’s obviously hard to date the carving of stone!
Newhouse Inn Ruins: Just a few piles of granite are all that’s left of Newhouse Inn, a pub which burned down in the 1800s. There is little left to suggest that this was once a thriving drinking establishment that was a welcome refuge from the wild roads that crossed the open moorland. If you’re looking for a pub to drink or eat in, then here are the very best pubs in Dartmoor National Park!
Trig Point: Once you reach the top of Rippon Tor, you’ll see the Trig Point, a small stone indicating that this is the highest point in the area. This Trig Point is in the top ten highest Trig Points on Dartmoor.
Rippon Tor Cairns: Once you reach the summit of the mound, you’ll not only be rewarded with views over the surrounding landscape but the chance to experience some history for yourself. There are three cairns at the top, including one which surrounds the Trig Point. These cairns likely were once used as the final resting place of bodies during the Bronze Age.
Urbex on the Moorland: Rippon Tor Rifle Range
A bygone of an era gone by, Rippon Tor Rifle Range rises up and above the barren landscape surrounding it. Nearby to the highest point in the local area, Rippon Tor, and not far from the quintessentially British village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor, it’s one of those hidden gems of Dartmoor that even the locals don’t know about.
During WWII, Dartmoor provided the perfect training ground for military personnel. After all, it has few inhabitants, a harsh and barren landscape, and is the perfect place to erect training grounds. Such was the position of Rippon Tor, that the decision was taken to build a rifle range a mile away, below its peak.
The range was constructed in 1942, and from the outset, the vast structure has divided opinion. Some say that the rifle range is impressive, while others call it an eyesore. Whatever the case, there’s no denying that this is certainly a feat of architecture!
Today, plenty of the military facility still exists, though much in a dilapidated state. There’s the range itself, a colossal construction comprising of 19 buttresses to the back and six to the side. The protected trench where the troops would have stood still stands with all of its military paraphernalia, as does the toilet block a little way down the hill!
We visited on a particularly cold winter’s day and the area was secluded and more than a little creepy, to say the least! While Rippon Tor Rifle Range remains one of the most intact examples of military history on the moors, there are definitely more interesting historical things to see on the moor if you’re looking to see a little history for yourself.