Things to see and do at Lydford Gorge

Bluebells on the slopes above the river

Nestled on the edge of Dartmoor, the impressive landscape of Lydford Gorge offers an opportunity to immerse yourself in the wonders of nature. Winding walking trails take you through ancient woodlands with cascading waterfalls and fascinating rock formations carved out by the River Lyd.

 

Visit the Whitelady Waterfall

This 30-metre high cascade is a spectacular sight and makes for a great photo opportunity. It formed when the River Lyd captured the headwaters of the River Burn, the Lyd’s greater strength meant that it could erode the bottom of the gorge faster than the River Burn, resulting in the huge difference in height you see today. Whitelady Waterfall can be seen on the Waterfall and River trails.

Whitelady Waterfall, Lydford, Devon
Whitelady Waterfall, Lydford, Devon
Whitelady Waterfall, Lydford, Devon

 

Traverse Tunnel Falls

A long wooden bridge 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, which is still part of the path today. You can see this on the River Trail.

 

Take a time out

A trip into the gorge is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life. You may wish to try some forest bathing, proven to help reduce stress, by letting your senses engage with the woodland around you. Find a spot away from the path and listen to the sound of the water, smell the damp earth and vegetation, and observe the smaller details of the scenery that surrounds you.

 

Spring highlights

Bluebells cover the steep slopes of the gorge from mid-April to May. Being on the edge of Dartmoor and sitting around 150m above sea level, the bluebells can be later to arrive here than other Devon woodlands.

When bluebells reach their full glory and carpet the woodland floor they are a delightful sensory experience that can’t fail to raise the spirits. Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson described bluebells ‘like the blue sky breaking up through the earth.’

Other wildflowers to look out for in spring include wild garlic, celandines, pink purslane and many more.

 

Explore a very green scene

Lydford Gorge is a temperate rainforest, a habitat that is becoming increasingly rare in the UK. Nearly every surface is covered with plants, moss, lichen, and liverworts. As the River Lyd and Whitelady Waterfall crash through the gorge they release moisture into the air and help to keep the gorge lush and green. Why not take a minute to look around and try to count how many different greens you can see?

 

Spot wildlife

In spring the gorge is filled with bird song. Look out for great tits, blue tits and nutchatches flitting through the trees. Great spotted woodpeckers and tree creepers love the woodland, however they can be very hard to spot. Head to the bird hide to get a closer view of some of the birds while they take advantage of the feeding station.

From May the pied flycatchers start to arrive from West Africa, where they spend the winter. There are over 60 nest boxes up around the gorge specially designed for these rare birds, to encourage them to breed here. The boxes are in groupings of three, the theory is that as blue tits and great tits are territorial they will only occuy two of the three boxes, leaving the other free for the pied flycatchers to use. So far this seems to be working and in 2021 we had 6 pairs of pied flycatchers nest at the gorge.

A male pied flycatcher about to be released with a new identification ring
A male pied flycatcher, part of the monitoring scheme at Lydford Gorge, Devon
A male pied flycatcher about to be released with a new identification ring