By: Blonde Two

As we ease out of lockdown it’s natural for most of us to be seeking peace and quiet in our favourite outdoor places. However, with predictions suggesting a continued increase in the numbers of people wanting to walk, swim, cycle, paddle, camp, or even just sit, outdoors, that peace and quiet might be difficult to find.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted to see more people outside, and convinced that our outdoor spaces have a far better long term chance of survival if more people enjoy using them. However, it’s not every day you want to queue to touch your favourite trig pillar, or wild camp within snoring distance of someone else.

How to avoid the crowds

Here are our top tips on how to find your own quiet outdoor space away from the crowds.

  1. Stop looking online for ‘secret locations’
  2. Check out the car parks before leaving home
  3. Be prepared to walk away from your car
  4. Avoid known beauty spots
  5. Learn to read a map
  6. Book a navigation course today

1. Ditch the internet’s ‘secret locations’

I’m a big fan of online information (good news for an outdoor writer) but searching online for secret lonely places in which to experience the outdoors simply doesn’t work. The title of those, ‘Ten secret river swims’ type articles might just as well read, ‘Ten soon-to-be-overcrowded river swims’.

That’s Google’s job. It introduces what it sees as useful information to the people whom it determines are looking for it. In the case of increasingly popular occupations such as wild swimming or wild camping, that’s a lot of people.

River swimming on the River Dart

2. Find out where the car parks are before you leave home

Consider these two scenarios:


  • You arrive at your intended car park to discover it is full
  • You don’t know where other car parks are
  • You see everyone else has parked on the road so you join in
  • You inadvertently disrupt access to a gate
  • The local farmer can’t feed his sheep
  • You’ve caused a problem without meaning to.


  • You check you map before leaving home and pick three or four possible car parks
  • You arrive at your intended car park to discover it is full
  • You go to car park two, it looks very busy
  • You move on to car park three, it’s empty
  • You enjoy a peaceful and non-problematic visit to the outdoors

By checking out car parks before you leave home, and having some kind of flexibility about your walk, you give yourself a better chance of avoiding the crowds. You also give the local community a far better chance of successfully going about their daily business. All National Park’s websites have visitor information (here’s Dartmoor NPA car parking example) or you could take a look at a map.

3. Walk for at least half an hour

I’ve tried this one many times on Dartmoor. It’s amazing how little distance most people are confident to travel away from their vehicles. This is perhaps a shame for them although I am a firm believer that all exercise and all fresh air are good for us. However this reluctance (or lack of confidence) to leave a defined area is good news for your quest for peace and quiet.

Walk for fifteen minutes and you will see far less people, walk for half an hour and you might well find yourself on your own. Learning how to navigate off the main track (on access land only please) can make for an even better wilderness experience.

4. Avoid known beauty spots

You’re going to have to stay off the internet again for this one. Known beauty spots are popular because they are simple to find, easily recognisable, written about a lot, and often over geo-tagged. They are also beautiful but not necessarily more beautiful than somewhere else half an hour’s walk away.

Take Haytor on Dartmoor as an example. It’s stunning to look at, has plenty of stories to tell, and is next to the loos, coffee vans and visitor centre. However it is also usually covered in people, and is one tor out of over 160 other almost empty Dartmoor tors.

Avoiding known beauty spots takes a bit of self discipline but adopting the exploration not destination attitude will help. Get used to wondering what’s around the next corner, and you’ll find yourself wandering into your very own actually-secret beautiful locations.

5. Learn to read a map

You knew I was going to say that didn’t you. It’s true though. Having the confidence to read a map and invent your own routes is the key to all of the above.

With a map in your hand, and the skills to read it, you won’t need to ask Google. You’ll be able to find alternative car parks, you’ll be able to see what’s within half an hour’s walk of you, and you’ll have the confidence to find your own beautiful spaces.

6. Book a navigation course today

We Blondes love nothing better than teaching navigation. We run fun, friendly beginners’ navigation courses on Dartmoor every year, and are looking forward to meeting you.

Come along and join a course, or talk to us about bespoke or individual navigation training. We offer plenty of safety tips too and will soon have you wanting to explore further, and find your own peaceful locations away from the crowds.

Dartmoor Navigation Courses 2021

Dartmoor Wild Camping Courses 2021

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