Planning a visit to Lydford Gorge
Turn a day out into an adventure with walking trails and activities to suit whether you have an hour, a morning or a whole day.
At almost 30 meters, Whitelady Waterfall is the highest in the south west of England. Depending on the weather it can be a gentle flow of water over the cliff face or a raging torrent crashing into the pool below. After a day of heavy rain it can be an exhilarating experience standing at the base of the Whitelady and feeling the spray on your face. You can see Whitelady Waterfall on the Waterfall and Lydford Gorge trails.
The river path takes you up and over a series of potholes formed by the action of the River Lyd eroding down through the bedrock. The falls are named after a tunnel cut into the rock, which was created for Victorian tourists to traverse the gorge, and is still part of the path today. The river swirls like whirlpools as it tumbles and cascades down this section of the gorge. You can see Tunnel Falls on the Lydford Gorge trail.
The Devil's Cauldron
You'll hear the roaring of the Devil's Cauldron before you see it. Take a small detour off the main path and you enter a dark ravine surrounded by dripping rock faces covered in mosses and ferns. Brave the narrow rock hewn steps which take you onto a platform suspended over the water. Here the river seems to boil and it is this action and the tremendous force of the water that has created this giant pothole over the centuries. You can see this on the Devil's Cauldron and Lydford Gorge trails.
Lydford Gorge is only accessible on foot; the paths can be steep, narrow and slippery with high drops. There are not always barriers or hand rails and so a relative degree of fitness and agility is required to do the full Lydford Gorge trail. Sturdy footwear is also recommended, and a walking pole can be very useful.
Depending on your ability and time frame there are shorter and longer trails available, the friendly visitor welcome team are very knowledgeable about the gorge and will be happy to advise you. On arrival you’ll receive a map detailing the routes; there is a one-way system in place on the Devil’s Cauldron and Lydford Gorge trails due to the narrow paths and lack of passing places. Allow about two hours to see both the Devil’s Cauldron and Whitelady Waterfall.
In exceptional circumstances some paths might be shut due to fallen trees or flooding, and if high winds are forecast the gorge will be shut completely. Check the website or facebook page before heading out to find out about any closures.
Food and drink
Take the opportunity to refuel at one of two tea-rooms. You can choose to stop off before, after or even half way through your walk as there is a tea-room at each of the two entrances to the gorge. They offer a range of drinks, snacks and treats including the traditional cream tea which can be enjoyed guilt free after a hike in the gorge. You can also pick up takeaway items to add to your picnic basket. Well behaved dogs are allowed inside the tea-rooms, outside seating is also available.
Keep your eyes peeled on your walk; the gorge is teeming with wildlife. Near the river look out for grey wagtails with their bright yellow rumps, and dippers, recognisable medium sized brown birds with white chests that 'bob' on stones. Brown trout can often be spotted swimming against the current in the deeper pools. There is also a bird hide at the end of the railway path where you can see a host of woodland birds on the feeding station.
The children’s play area with zip-wire can be found in the orchard at the Devil’s Cauldron entrance. Tick off some of the 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4 on your visit. Build a den in the orchard, play pooh sticks from the suspension bridge at the Whitelady Waterfall and skim a stone on the river. Take a look at the events page for more fun activities.