Blow away the cobwebs at Lydford Gorge

Walking on the bare rock path

A circular walk taking in the towering Whitelady Waterfall will take about an hour and so is a perfect way to start the New Year off.

The Whitelady waterfall can be reached by three routes all of which can be turned into a circular walk by taking a different route back to the entrance.

The wintry sun glistening on a snowy Whitelady Waterfall
The winter sun making the snow shine next to Whitelady Waterfall
The wintry sun glistening on a snowy Whitelady Waterfall

Please be aware that if high winds are forecast then the walks will be closed for safety reasons. There will be notices on the website if the gorge walks are closed – www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lydford-gorge. We have a lot of trees growing on steep banks in thin soil which are more likely to fall or drop branches when it’s wet and windy so please choose to visit another day.

The yellow zig zag trail has over 200 steps, so if you are planning on taking this route you might want to go down the steps to the waterfall rather than up. On your way you can admire the views that open up as the leaves fall from the trees and listen out for the crashing of the river Burn as it tumbles down Whitelady Waterfall to join the Lyd almost 30 meters below.

The other yellow trail takes a longer route to the waterfall with no steps. The path meets the river Lyd and follows it up stream to the waterfall; look out for river birds such as dipper and grey wagtail. Along the way have a peep into the old mine shaft, it is believed to be an exploratory working for copper and is the longest shaft in the gorge. It is barred with a gate to keep people out but allow other residents in. Due to the conditions in the shaft, which stays dry and at a relatively constant temperature, it provides a safe habitat for both the greater and lesser horseshoe bat, which are nationally rare having seriously declined in numbers in previous years.

A Greater Horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) hibernates in a cave
Greater Horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) hibernating in cave
A Greater Horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) hibernates in a cave

The waterfall can also be reached via the railway path which links up with the yellow trail. The railway played a big role in putting Lydford Gorge on the map, bringing visitors from cities such as Plymouth and Exeter quicker and cheaper than ever before. At the end of the railway path is a bird hide, a great place to rest and look out for woodland birds such as the beautiful nuthatch and great spotted woodpecker.

A nuthatch
Nuthatch
A nuthatch

The gorge is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its geology as well as the plants and animals that call it home. Winter is the time that the rangers take back most of the gorge and get stuck into making it a great habitat for wildlife and visitors alike. Since March 2018 over 100,000 feet have walked the gorge and this takes its toll on the surfaces, handrails, steps and bridges. The rangers work hard to maintain the safety of the paths over summer, but need the time in the gorge over the winter to do some of the bigger jobs. For example to stop the path edges from eroding away winches are used (powered by ranger muscle) to move large lengths of tree trunk into place. If you need a bigger challenge then the full gorge will re-open from Saturday 2 March. 

Fixing the steps and path edging after being damaged by a fallen tree
Fixing steps and path edging damaged by a fallen tree
Fixing the steps and path edging after being damaged by a fallen tree