I visited Dartmoor National Park in July this year, and it stunned me with its eery beauty. There is so much to see there, from open moorlands and deep river valleys to castles and pony centres. But Wistman’s Wood stands out as the most magical and legendary forest in Dartmoor. If I had to choose only one place to visit during my stay on the moors, it would be it.
This ancient fairy tale oak wood is one of the most mesmerizing Tolkienesque forests I have ever visited.
If you are up for an adventure in Dartmoor, it’s one of the most exciting places to explore.
Here is my list of 10 things you need to know before going on a walk to Wistman’s Wood:
- Wistman’s Wood is not for the faint of heart.
- For your own sanity, leave Wistman’s Wood before dusk.
- You should not walk among the trees anymore.
- Don’t forget your hiking clothes.
- Two Bridges is the closest hotel to Wistman’s Forest.
- You don’t need a car or a taxi to get there.
- It takes around 30 min to walk to Wistman’s Wood from the Two Bridges Hotel.
- The best time to visit Wistman’s Wood is on a weekday.
- The Wistman’s Wood area is dog friendly.
- There are car parks next to the trail to Wistman’s Wood.
Wistman’s Wood is not for the faint of heart.
The wood is considered the spookiest place on Dartmoor and one of the most haunted places in the UK. Legend has it that the wood was the sacred grove of the Druids, and it’s here where they carried out their secretive rituals.
The wood is also believed to be haunted by demonic hounds, ghosts, mischievous fairies, goblins, the devil, and some other terrifying creatures of folklore. Once you see oddly contorted old tree branches that look like witches’ fingers, you can easily imagine why Wistman’s Wood inspired so many legends.
For your own sanity, leave Wistman’s Wood before dusk.
Unless you want to see a spectre badly enough, stay away from the wood once the sun goes down (especially if you have read all the spooky stories) 🙂
The walk to Wistman’s Wood is delightful during the day but can be scary at the witching hour, even if you don’t believe in ghosts and mythic creatures.
There are usually many visitors to Wistman’s Wood, and most likely, you won’t feel alone on the trail. But during my first solo visit (it was foggy and pouring down), I didn’t see many fellow hikers on my way back, and a solitary walk through the moorland late in the evening was a creepy experience.
You should not walk among the trees anymore.
This year visitors to Wistman’s Wood were advised to “walk around” the wood and not among the trees. This is to protect its delicate ecosystem and avoid any damage to its trees, lichen, and mosses.
It may sound disappointing, but I must admit that it is possible to enjoy a beautiful wood view without going deep into the forest.
It was nice just to sit on the rocks around the wood, admiring the view and taking in its enchanting atmosphere.
Don’t forget your hiking clothes.
The weather is unpredictable on the moors. The first time I visited Wistman’s Wood, the weather changed rapidly from sunny to rainy. You walk through the wet and boggy moorland and some paths are rocky and slippery. So waterproof hiking boots are key. I would also recommend a windproof rain jacket and comfortable clothes made from quick-drying fabric.
I bought a pair of hiking boots by Vivobarefoot, which I would highly recommend. They can be pricey but are incredibly comfortable, reliable and look so pretty on your feet.
If you are looking for comfortable women’s outdoor wear, I can’t recommend the Acai brand enough. I bought their stretch shower resistant trousers for my Dartmoor hikes, and they are my favourite for any outdoor adventure.
Two Bridges is the closest hotel to Wistman’s Forest.
Two Bridges is the nearest hotel to Wistman’s Wood and the best accommodation to choose if you need to stay in the area overnight.
I spent one night in this lovely hotel and enjoyed its cosy atmosphere and idyllic countryside surroundings (be sure that the resident geese will give you a warm welcome on arrival).
The hotel restaurant was unfortunately closed during my stay because of the pandemic. But usually, you can stop here for a delicious Devon cream tea (a nice reward after a hike).
You don’t need a car or a taxi to get there.
Many people told me that there was no way to get to the Two Bridges Hotel by public transport. I did some research though and proved them wrong :). A tourist bus – Dartmoor Explorer – runs daily from Exeter and Plymouth to Dartmoor and stops at the Two Bridges Hotel. For 10£ you can get to your destination in about 1.5h. Also, it’s fun to explore the moorland views from the bus.
It takes around 30 min to walk to Wistman’s Wood from the Two Bridges Hotel.
We all walk at a different pace, but on average, it should take you 30 min to get to Wistman’s Wood from the Two Bridges hotel. You may add some extra time for taking photos :).
The walking route is relatively easy to follow. There are footpath fingerposts that will show you the way through the moorland.
I got a map from a nature reserve warden on my way to the wood, but you can also get it at the Two Bridges hotel.
The best time to visit Wistman’s Wood is on a weekday.
Wistman’s wood has become a popular place to visit, and it can get very busy on weekends. If you have a chance to see it on a weekday when it’s less crowded (preferably in the morning), I would highly recommend it.
You will also have a better chance to find a parking space if you travel by car.
The Wistman’s Wood area is dog friendly.
The area is perfect for dog walking. During my last visit, I went to Wistman’s Wood with my friend and his furry companion and the dog loved running through the moorland.
Where else could he find so many sticks to chase?
The Two Bridges hotel is also pet friendly and welcomes dogs so you can enjoy your holiday break with your four-legged friend.
There are car parks next to the trail to Wistman’s Wood.
If you travel by car, you can park it opposite the Two Bridges Hotel. It’s free for guests and customers. For others, it costs 5£ for 4 hours refundable against the purchase of food or drink. There is another car park across the road from the Two Bridges and some other parking spaces along the road. I would recommend coming here early in the morning as the parking spaces get filled up very quickly, especially on weekends.