If you’re looking for somewhere to visit in Dartmoor National Park, I heartily recommend Lydford Gorge!
The deepest river gorge in South West England, Lydford Gorge traverses through temperate rainforest and terminates in a dramatic waterfall, making it a unique place for hiking in the area.
Read on, and I’ll detail all you need to know about this enchanting place, including how to do the Lydford Gorge walk, what to look out for in this beautiful woodland and where to visit nearby.
About Lydford Gorge
Owned by the National Trust, Lydford Gorge is situated in one of Dartmoor’s ancient woodlands and is a great place for hiking and climbing.
Its woodland is actually a temperate rainforest, which are dotted throughout the South West, including a few in Dartmoor National Park.
Defined by their specific plants (such as ferns) and humidity, these temperate rainforests can make you feel like you’re in a country much closer to the tropics!
There aren’t that many temperate rainforests in the UK, and they need protecting. Luckily, the National Trust is doing a stellar job of looking after this one!
This beautiful gorge is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of the unique flora and fauna. The trees are beautiful, reminiscing the tropics, and the animals include wagtails, woodland beech and kingfishers.
Visiting Lydford Gorge is one of the best things to do in Dartmoor National Park, and your contribution helps to preserve this unique slice of British wildlife.
Where is Lydford Gorge?
The gorge is located on the northern side of Dartmoor National Park, near Lydford Village.
It’s about halfway between Okehampton and Tavistock.
Things to do at Lydford Gorge
See White Lady Waterfall
Whitelady Waterfall (also known as Lydford Gorge waterfall) is a 28.2 metre high cascade – the tallest in Devon – and is the best place to visit around Lydford Gorge.
If you’ve got a decent camera, you can get some epic photos here!
You can also visit Whitelady Waterfall without doing the rest of the hike, which is great if you’re short on time.
Nobody’s really sure where the Whitelady Falls got their name from.
Some people theorise it was due to a ghostly lady appearing in the area, whereas others think that it’s because the falls resemble a bride.
Take the circular walk
The circular Lydford Gorge walk is the full walk around the entire gorge. It’s about three miles or five kilometres in length.
Because it’s quite rocky with lots of steep sections and loose rocks, it can take a while (officially around three hours, but it took us just over two).
This isn’t an easy hike, involving quite a lot of climbing, but it’s worth it to enjoy the beautiful trees and the rest of the wildlife!
It’s worth noting that this hike has a one-way system, so you can’t turn around and come back if you get tired.
Once you start the circular walk, you’re committed!
Lydford Gorge Waterfall Trail
The Lydford Gorge Waterfall Trail is a moderate hike that takes around an hour.
From Whitelady Waterfall, you need to retrace your steps back from the river until the path splits.
Take the right-hand path which spans through the woodland and eventually leads to a flat railway path.
Lydford Gorge Railway Path
The Lydford Gorge Railway Path is a flat hike through what used to be the Great Western Railway track between Tavistock and Okehampton.
This is an easy trail that takes around 30 minutes. It’s open in the winter, but take care, as it can be muddy!
Devil’s Cauldron Trail
The Devil’s Cauldron Trail is an extra 45-minute hike that you can do on its own as an add-on to the circular walk.
It’s at the end of the trail, near the Devil’s Cauldron Car Park.
It has been closed in recent months, but it’s worth doing the add-on when it’s open!
When to visit Lydford Gorge
Lydford Gorge is beautiful throughout the seasons. In spring, look out for wildflowers, with the scent of wild garlic wafting through the air.
In the summer, enjoy the green leaves on the oak trees, which turn all of the colours of a sunset in autumn.
There’s usually essential maintenance over winter, which means that you can access some of it, but don’t pass through any locked gates.
The gorge isn’t safe in particularly heavy rain and will shut in wet weather, so do check the forecast before you travel!
Where to park at Lydford Gorge
There are two parking spots at Lydford Gorge; the Waterfall Car Park and the Devil’s Cauldron Car Park.
Overnight parking is not permitted.
Lydford Gorge FAQs
How long is the walk around Lydford Gorge?
It depends on which one you do! It’ll probably take you between 30 minutes to nearly four hours.
What is the entrance fee for Lydford Gorge?
It costs £10.00 for adult entry to Lydford Gorge, £5.00 for child entry and £25.00 for a family (if you’re a one-adult family, it costs £15.00.
Can you get into Lydford Gorge without paying?
If you become a National Trust member, you don’t need to pay the fee to enter Lydford Gorge. We got in for free by doing this!
You can read my National Trust membership review here, or click the button below to go to the website.
Otherwise, you do have to pay to see Lydford Gorge.
By paying, you are helping protect nature and preserve history for generations.
Is Lydford Gorge dog-friendly?
Yes, dogs are more than welcome at Lydford Gorge!
However, anyone visiting with a dog is asked to keep them on a short lead. This is to ensure the safety of your dog, yourself and other hikers.
Is the walk accessible?
Unfortunatley, the circular walking trail of Lydford Gorge isn’t accessible at all, due to many steep sections and slippery paths.
The hike to Whitelady Waterfall is a bit easier, but it’s still not completely accessible.
However, the flat railway path is much easier for people with walking difficulties to hike on; although it isn’t wheelchair accessible.
Can you swim at Lydford Gorge?
Swimming isn’t permitted at Lydford Gorge because the water isn’t safe.
It can be very tempting on a hot day, but the National Trust asks you to refrain – entering the water could be putting yourselves and others’ safety at risk.
Are there toilet and shower facilities at Lydford Gorge?
There are toilets but no shower facilities. The accessible toilet is available when the tea room is open.
Are there refreshments available for Lydford Gorge?
Yes, but be sure to use the Devil’s Cauldron entrance for refreshments – this is where the tea room is located. It’s usually open in the summer, but it’s limited in the winter.
Things to do near Lydford Gorge
There are so many things to do in the area around Lydford Gorge!
- After visiting Lydford Gorge, I recommend heading into Lydford village, where you can see the iconic Lydford Castle. This was a medieval castle that turned into a notorious prison, the site of many harsh punishments for rule-breakers.
- Aside from Lydford Castle, the village has a Norman fortification, a couple of pubs and a historic church.
- Just down the road in Okehampton, you can explore Okehampton Castle and the Museum of Dartmoor Life.
- Or, visit the beautiful market town of Tavistock, which has historic buildings and fascinating cafe culture.
- Brent Tor Church is also nearby, which is a beautiful and unique spot to visit in Dartmoor. You’ll enjoy panoramic views over the west of the national park!
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