Lydford Gorge Circular Walk, Lydford, Dartmoor National Park

Lydford Gorge Circular Walk, Lydford, Dartmoor National Park

When we first moved to Dartmoor in 2008, we were told repeatedly that the National Park was bleak and wet. Whilst sections of the high moors on both the north and south plateaus can be challenging landscapes in cold months, much of the National Park is extraordinarily beautiful and far from the bleak stereotype. This is particularly true of the many cleaves (valleys) and gorges that fringe the moors. Walking in these places is a very special experience. The Lydford Gorge Circular Walk is one of the best.

Lydford Gorge (National Trust) is a National Trust property on the western border of Dartmoor National Park. It consists of a steep sided wooded valley and vertical rock walls cut by the fast flowing River Lyd. There's a three mile circular walk around Lydford Gorge that we'd recommend you complete if you're visiting the National Trust property.

Start from the main National Trust car park that's just down the road from English Heritage's Lydford Castle (English Heritage) and Lydford St Petroc's Church. Show your National Trust member card, or buy a ticket, in the office by the shop. We've walked here dozens of times over the years and the staff have always provided a map of the walk. Leave the ticket office and you'll pass a toilet block and cafe before you pick up signs on the lip of the gorge that guide you one way along the upper wall of Lydford Gorge to the area at the top of Lydford Gorge White Lady Waterfall. Again, note that this is a one way walk. The paths get narrow so it's important you complete the walk in the right direction!

From there, the path drops to the valley floor. You have two choices for the descent. One is a steep path that zig-zags down to the foot of the White Lady Waterfall. The other is a more gentle descent that takes you to a pretty area on a bank of the River Lyd from which you wander to the waterfall. It's a quite stunning sight, especially after a period of heavy rain on the high moor.

Cross the wooden bridge and follow the path that runs up the side of the River Lyd. There are hand rails and special walkways in sections of the gorge and it can be slippery owing to spray from the river. We've walked with kids as young as four so it's not difficult but take care as there are some big drops.

The gorge becomes increasingly beautiful, and loud, the further up you go. The whirlpools below huge vertical rock faces at the Tunnel Falls are superb. At the upper end of the valley floor is the Devil's Cauldron where water powers through a narrow neck of rock. It's amazing. We'd also suggest you Facebook the National Trust's Lydford Gorge videos to see this place after really heavy rain when it's closed to the public. From the Devil's Cauldron, follow the path that climbs to the cafe. They sell excellent cream teas, cake and ice cream.

If this type of walk is of interest, we'd also suggest you try the Teign Gorge Circular Walk. The Dart Gorge Circular Walk is much more difficult.