Things to see and do at Lydford Gorge
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.
From Monday 30 October 2023 only the trails to Whitelady Waterfall and the bird hide are open. The rest of the gorge trails are shut every winter for safety and essential maintenance work. This can include tree work, path work and rock face inspections, so please do not pass any locked gates. We plan to reopen from Saturday 16 March 2024, although the river path will remain closed while we work to repair a section of path damaged by a landslide.
Visit the Whitelady Waterfall
This 30-metre 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.
Enjoy winter scenes
Whitelady Waterfall can be dramatic in winter. Some days it’s cloaked in mist, on others it’s lit from above by the late winter sun, and after heavy rain the water comes pounding down the cliff face. If we’re lucky enough to get a heavy frost – or even a light dusting of snow – the gorge can be truly magical.
With the trees bare, winter brings views out over the gorge that are hidden by leaves in summer. From the railway path, look towards Dartmoor to spot Widgery Cross sticking up from the top of Brat Tor. It’s a four-metre granite cross erected by William Widgery, a renowned local artist, to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
Stop off at the bird hide
Head along the old railway line to find the bird hide. It's a sheltered spot to stop and see what birds are visiting the feeding station.
Lydford Gorge provides food and shelter for many bird species, including goldcrests. Being the UK’s smallest bird they can be hard to spot, so instead listen out for their very high-pitched calls, although the sound may be too high for some people to hear.
Just off the path by the river, you’ll find an old mine working to peep into. These days it’s barred with a gate to keep humans out but allow other residents in and so provides a safe habitat for rare greater and lesser horseshoe bats, whose numbers have seriously declined nationally in previous years.
Explore a temperate rainforest
Lydford Gorge stays green and full of life nearly all year round as it 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?
Take a time out
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.
Planning a visit from spring 2024
We plan to reopen the gorge from Saturday 16 March. This is when the visitor welcome, tea-room, second-hand bookshop, and toilets will be open again. Plus, the Devil's Cauldron walking trail and orchard meadow will be open once more to explore.
Take in the might of the Devil's Cauldron
A short way off the main path 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's this action and the tremendous force of the water that created this giant pothole over the centuries.
Visit the orchard meadow
This is a great space to escape the crowds. There's plenty of space for picnics and free play. It's full of blossom during spring, insects in summer, and autumn colour as the season turns. During most school holidays there is a free family trail running too.
Discover how to have a dog-friendly visit to Lydford Gorge, including where to walk, what to be aware of and what facilities are available for your four-legged friend
Discover where to eat when visiting Lydford Gorge, how to find the tea-room, what’s on the menu and what treats you’ll find in the second-hand bookshop.
At Lydford Gorge the best winter adventure is to see Whitelady Waterfall. After heavy rain it’ll be at its roaring best. Get wellies on to splash your way around some fun ’50 things’ activities.
A Tramper can be hired to access Whitelady Waterfall and the bird hide in the gorge, thanks to Countryside Mobility South West. Available again from spring 2024.
Discover the history of Lydford Gorge from its earliest fossil formations and its importance to the Anglo Saxons and Vikings, to how it influenced the Picturesque and inspired artists.
Plan a visit to one of the special countryside places in our care and discover the benefits of being in the great outdoors. Pack your walking boots and get ready to explore woodlands, valleys and rivers.