The full Lydford Gorge trail
Due to coronavirus the full gorge walk is currently still not possible. The River trail, (taking in Whitelady Waterfall, Tunnel Falls and Pixie Glen) is now open in addition to the shorter walk to see Whitelady Waterfall. Please follow the signage on site and do not pass any locked gates.
Start/Finish - Lydford Gorge - Waterfall (WF) entrance, EX20 4BL or Devil’s Cauldron (DC) entrance, EX20 4BH.
Difficulty - Challenging
Time - 2.5 hours
Distance - 3 miles (5 km)
Map - OL28 - Dartmoor
Dogs allowed - Dog friendly, on leads throughout whole site
The full Lydford Gorge trail can be started from either of the two entrances; it is a one way route due to the narrow paths which make passing difficult. Sturdy footwear is essential. Some paths are unsuitable for those with reduced mobility and very young children. When you arrive you'll receive a map of the routes and a safety briefing from a member of the team to help you make the most of your visit to the gorge.
This section of the trail will be the first part of the walk if starting from the DC entrance and the last part if starting from the WF entrance. It takes you through semi-ancient woodland with steep slopes down to the river on your right. There are a few sections of steep steps along the route.
Towards the end of the top path there is a bridge with a gate which takes you over the river that forms the Whitelady Waterfall when it plunges down 28.2 meters into the gorge below.
Through the seasons
In spring look out for drifts of pungent wild garlic and carpets of bluebells down to the river.
The trees in summer have their full canopy of leaves which provide shade from the sun and shelter from the showers. Also look out for Dor beetles on the path in summer, they are a black with an iridescent blue sheen and are a type of dung beetle.
In autumn take a moment to bask in the golden sunlight as it filters through the leaves which turn orange, yellow and brown before falling to the ground.
There are three path options that take you down to view the waterfall and then continue on the Lydford Gorge trail.
The zig zag path is the quickest with about 230 uneven steps.
The sloped path takes a slightly longer route, however it avoids all the steps and you get to walk along a tranquil section of the river Lyd. Also look out for the longest mine adit in the gorge, it has a metal grill over the entrance as in winter both Greater and Lesser horseshoe bats hibernate here.
The third option is via the railway path and bird hide; a great place to stop for a break and see what birds are visiting the feeding station.
Highest waterfall in the South West
Depending on the weather Whitelady Waterfall can be a gentle flow of water over the cliff face or a raging torrent crashing into the pool below.
Please be careful on the rocks here as they can be very slippery at any time of the year.
To continue on the Lydford Gorge trail, after viewing Whitelady Waterfall, cross the suspension bridge and head up river. This section of the trail has narrow paths with high drops above fast-flowing water and bare rock surfaces in many places which can be slippery even when dry.
Half way along a wooden walkway takes you up and over a series of potholes formed by the action of the River Lyd eroding down through the bedrock. This is Tunnel Falls which gets its name from the tunnel cut into the rock by the Victorians. The gorge has been drawing visitors in search of the picturesque since Victorians times and this tunnel is still part of the path today.
Through the seasons
In spring the new leaves appearing on the trees are so vibrant they seem to be lit from within.
Summer is the best time to spot dragonflies and damselflies as they flit over the water. Keep an eye out for the impressive golden-ringed dragonfly and the jewel-like beautiful demoiselle which certainly live up to their name.
In autumn the colourful fruiting bodies of fungi start popping up. Most of them live on rotting wood and fallen trees are deliberately left to provide this habitat. The rotting wood also supports a variety of invertebrates which in turn provide food for other animals and help maintain a rich ecosystem.
You'll hear the roaring of the Devil's Cauldron before you see it. Take a small detour off the 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.
Safety in the cauldron
Please take care when descending into the cauldron and supervise children.
We recommend that dogs are not taken onto the platform due to the narrow unbarriered steps and open grill of the platform floor.
After viewing the Devil’s Cauldron the Lydford Gorge trail can be extended with a trip further upriver to Tucker’s Pool. Add an extra half hour to explore up to the pool and back. The path here can be narrow in places, however it is generally less visited and so a great place to escape and perhaps spot the grey wagtails and dippers that call the gorge home.