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Things to see and do at Lydford Gorge

Visitors taking photos with mobile phones on the viewing platform of the Devil's Cauldron at Lydford Gorge, Devon
Capture the drama of the Devil's Cauldron at Lydford Gorge | © National Trust Images/John Millar

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 temperate rainforest with cascading waterfalls and fascinating rock formations carved out by the River Lyd.

The Lydford Gorge walking trails

Take in the might of the Devil's Cauldron

A short way off the circular Devil's Cauldron trail 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 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.

Stop off at the bird hide

Head along the railway path, which follows the line of the old Great Western Railway, to find the bird hide. It's a sheltered spot to stop and see what birds are visiting the feeding station.

Explore the orchard

The meadow area here is a great space to escape the crowds. There are mown grass paths to wander along and the orchard is full of blossom during spring, insects in summer, and autumn colour as the season turns.

What's different?

At Lydford Gorge we're putting a pause on a section of the gorge walking trail, which has become unsafe to open, while we assess the effects of a changing climate on the rare temperate rainforest it contains.

A visitor crossing a bridge over the water surrounded by trees in spring at Lydford Gorge, Devon
Walking at Lydford Gorge | © National Trust Images/John Millar

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.

No swimming at Lydford Gorge

We ask visitors not to swim, however tempting, as it's not safe. If something were to go wrong the area is very inaccessible. Please avoid disturbing the wildlife and special habitats of the gorge and don't go in.

A chalkboard on the walking trail at Lydford gorge, Devon. Lydford Gorge is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as it has some very rare plants. Please help us keep it special by taking only photographs and leaving only footprints.
Help keep the temperate rainforest at Lydford Gorge special. | © National Trust/Rose Cooke

Spring colour at the gorge

Lesser celandine

These bright yellow wild flowers are one of the first to appear, they grow low to the ground near the path edges. It's worth taking a closer look as they are the favourite food of violet oil beetles.

Since the 1960s the distribution of violet oil beetles has shrunk dramatically, the South West is one of the last strongholds.

They are highly dependent upon wildflower-rich, semi-natural grasslands which support the solitary mining bee populations that they take advantage of. As juveniles they grow up like cuckoos in the bee's nests, eating food collected by the bees for their young.

The adults start to emerge in March and April is the best time to look for them. These iridescent insects stuff themselves with lesser celandine and soft grasses, and like to sun themselves on bare ground in woodland glades.

Wild garlic

The leaves begin to appear as early as February in a mild year. Then the starry white flowers spring from the dark green leaves in April. You are likely to smell this before you spot it on your walk.

As the gorge is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), please leave the wild garlic where it is for everyone to enjoy, thank you.

Wood anemone

These flowers are an ancient woodland indicator species. Their presence in the gorge tells us that it has been contiuously wooded for over 400 years. They flower from March to May, and they open their petals on a sunny day but close them again as night falls or if it begins to rain.

Three small white flowers, each with seven petals, growing among the brown, crinkled leaves on the woodland floor
Wood anemones growing on the woodland floor in early spring | © National Trust Images/Emma Weston

Spot wildlife

In spring the birds are busy getting ready to breed and there's usually lots of activity around the woodland. Listen out for the male great spotted woodpecker drumming to atract a mate. Watch out for the marsh tits, great tits and blue tits as they collect moss, feathers and even some fir needles to make their delicate nests. Head to the bird hide on the railway path to get a closer view of the birds as they visit 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 occupy 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 breed at the gorge.

Visitors standing on the new railway inspired bridge at Pixie Glen bridge in Lydford Gorge, Devon

Discover more at Lydford Gorge

Find out when Lydford Gorge is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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