Lydford, Dartmoor National Park

Lydford, Dartmoor National Park
  • Amazing village on the western border of the National Park sat below the wild, western flank of Dartmoor
  • Visit Lydford Gorge (National Trust) and Lydford Castle (English Heritage)
  • Relax in The Castle Inn village pub which is next to Lydford Castle (English Heritage)
  • Enjoy the circular walk in Lydford Gorge (National Trust) and then head out onto the high moor. Great Links Tor is particularly impressive on the western side of the National Park. Dartmoor's highest ground at High Willhays and Yes Tor is near Lydford. Walk up from the car parking area at Meldon Reservoir. The Lichway/Lych Way long distance walking route runs to the heart of Dartmoor from Lydford St Petroc's Church
  • Cycle the Granite Way past Meldon Reservoir and over Meldon Viaduct to Okehampton. The multi-use recreation route provides top views of Dartmoor's high moor. Looking up at Yes Tor from Meldon Viaduct is a highlight
  • Main photo: Lydford Castle (English Heritage) in the centre of the village


Where is Lydford in Dartmoor National Park?

Lydford is located on the western border of Dartmoor. The Dartmoor gateway town Okehampton is to the north east and Tavistock is to the south. The village is just off the A386 and sits below the high and wild western flank of Dartmoor. 

The River Lyd rises at Lyd Head on Dartmoor's north moor. The magnificent Great Links Tor is to the south. From this high ground, the River Lyd arcs between Great Links Tor and Great Nodden before leaving the high moor in the direction of Lydford. There, it's cut Lydford Gorge. Having tumbled and rolled through the gorge, the river leaves Dartmoor National Park. It flows west through Lydford Forest to the Lifton area where it joins the River Tamar just north of the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Lydford is close to the Devon/Cornwall border and the A30 so it's a great spot from which to explore Dartmoor, the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Cornwall.


Directions to Lydford

Take the A30 to the Okehampton area and follow the A386 south. Lydford is on your right.

If you're coming from South Devon, follow the A38 to Plymouth and then drive the A386 north. Lydford is on your left.

If you're visiting from within Dartmoor, drive the B3357 to Tavistock and then head north on the A386. Again, Lydford is on your left.

We've positioned Lydford on Google maps. Zoom in on the 'Satellite' setting to see its location.


Parking in Lydford

The main car park is across the road from the Castle Inn and Lydford Castle (English Heritage).

There's parking at Lydford Gorge (National Trust) as well if you're visiting that attraction.


Why holiday or weekend break in Lydford?

To help you choose Lydford, we've listed some of the local attractions below.


The National Trust's Lydford Gorge

Experience the National Trust's Lydford Gorge (National Trust) and its Lydford Gorge White Lady Waterfall. There's the brilliant Lydford Gorge Circular Walk to enjoy. The noise of the water flowing through the upper section of the gorge can be intoxicating.

Other National Trust properties in the area include Finch Foundry (National Trust), Castle Drogo (National Trust), Buckland Abbey (National Trust), Saltram House and Cotehele House.

National Trust land includes the stunning The Dewerstone and Teign Gorge (National Trust).


Saxon burh or fortified town of Lydford

Lydford was once a very important place. This is reflected in its many historical sites.

'By the end of the 9th or beginning of the 10th century AD the Saxon kings of Wessex had created a burh here, that is part of a network established to protect southern England from Viking raids. Burhs were intended to be economic centres as well as strongholds and a mint was established in the late 10th century, which survived until around the middle of the 11th century.' (Source: information board on site)


The Viking invasion of Lydford

In 997 AD, the Saxon burh was attacked by Vikings.

As recorded in the 'The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle', a Viking army sailed up the River Tamar 'until they came to Lydford, and burned and killed everything that they met, and burned down Ordwulf's monastery at Tavistock, and brought indescribable war-booty with them to the ships.'

The Battle of Lydford is commemorated by the Battle of Lydford Memorial and the Lydford Viking Rune Stone.


The Norman stronghold of Lydford

Wander behind Lydford St Petroc's Church and you'll find what remains of Lydford The Norman Castle.

'The earthwork is all that remains of a small Norman castle which was probably built in the late 11th century in the years of consolidation after the Norman conquest. It holds a dominant position in the corner of the defended Saxon town.' (Source: information board on site)


The stannary towns of Dartmoor

Tin mining was an important source of revenue in the Middle Ages. Dartmoor had four 'stannary' towns where tin was sold and taxed. These 'stannary' towns were Chagford, Ashburton, Plympton and Tavistock and Lydford had jurisdiction over them. 

'In the Middle Ages Lydford was the centre of administration for the Royal Forest (hunting ground) of Dartmoor. It also had jurisdiction over the stannaries, or tin-mining districts of Devon. The medieval 'castle', which was actually a courtroom and prison for both these functions, was originally built around 1200. The stannary prison acquired a grim reputation and the Law of Lydford was notorious.' (Source: information board on site)


English Heritage's Lydford Castle

Today's Lydford Castle (English Heritage) was that courtroom and prison.

'Despite its name, Lydford Castle was never a true castle. It was built as a prison and courthouse, and was always used for this purpose.

The ground floor of this building was probably part of an earlier tower built in 1195 to detain prisoners. Richard, earl of Cornwall, was granted the manor of Lydford and the forest of Dartmoor by his brother, King Henry III, in 1238. He added two storeys to the tower and heaped earth around it, giving the impression it stands on a motte or mound. A dungeon was created by partially filling the former ground floor with rubble.

Courts were held in this tower to oversee the laws of the royal forest of Dartmoor, and those of the Stannaries, the tin mining areas of Devon. Tin mining was an important industry in medieval times, and its regulations, taxes and rights were closely controlled by the Crown.

The tower continued to serve as a prison and courtroom until the early 19th century, when the courts moved to Princetown, the new capital of Dartmoor.' (Source: information board on site)


The Lichway/Lych Way at Lydford

The Lichway/Lych Way, or way of the dead, was a long distance route running from the heart of Dartmoor around Bellever Forest to Lydford St Petroc's Church in Lydford on the western border of the National Park.

The dead had to be carried to the consecrated ground of Lydford St Petroc's Churh for burial. With this in mind, it's an extraordinary walk from Lydford.


Lydford St Petroc's Church

Pop into the church to discover more about Lydford's history. You'll find models of the Saxon burh and the church at various stages in its story.

'The Saxon wood and thatch church was built about 650AD and was destroyed by the Viking invaders in 997AD. The pre-Norman Font remains from this early church. The church was rebuilt in stone and is recorded in July 1237 in the reign of Henry III when the right to tithes from Dartmoor was awarded. The church was extended by adding the South Aisle and the porch in 1260 to accommodate the increasing population of Lydford Parish which included most of Dartmoor. It was rededicated by Bishop Bronscombe in 1261. In 1450 the Tower was added. After that the church remained structurally the same for the next 400 years.' (Source: information sheet in church)


The Castle Inn at Lydford

Having discovered Lydford's extraordinary past, lunch in Lydford The Castle Inn.

There are plenty of pubs in the local area. Try The Dartmoor Inn and Bearslake Inn.

Lydford Gorge (National Trust) serves a great cream tea in the gardens above the gorge.


The Granite Way at Lydford

Cycle, or walk, the Granite Way that runs between Lydford and Okehampton. This is a safe, off-road bike ride that takes you past Meldon Reservoir and over the stunning Meldon Viaduct. The views from the latter to Yes Tor are sensational. Highly recommended.

If cycling's your thing, also ride Drake's Trail between Tavistock and Plymouth.

You might also want to try mountain biking the Granite and Gears Princetown Railway Cycling Routes up at Princetown.


Brentor or Brent Tor near Lydford

Visit Brentor.

The church on the tor is one of Dartmoor's iconic landmarks and is located just down the road from Lydford.

Brentor St Michael de Rupe Church provides immense views of the western flank and Dartmoor and the National Park's highest and wildest land.


Walking in and around Lydford

As mentioned above, Lydford sits below the high and wild western flank of Dartmoor. It's a great base for a walking holiday.

There's a car parking area across the A386 from the main entrance to Lydford. To access the car park, use the lane by The Dartmoor Inn. From there, you can walk up to Widgery Cross on Brat Tor (Bray Tor).

Great Links Tor is one of the best in the National Park. Try the Great Links Tor Circular Walk.

The Tavy Cleave to Ger Tor Circular Walk is superb.

Explore Meldon Reservoir and summit Yes Tor and High Willhays. We'd recommend the Dartmoor's Highest Points Circular Walk (High Willhays/Yes Tor).

For an adventure, follow the Lichway/Lych Way.


Outdoor activities near Lydford

Enjoy some of Dartmoor's other outdoor activities.

Go horse riding from Cholwell Farm Riding Stables.

Try climbing, bouldering, wild swimming and canoeing. Browse our Best Dartmoor Outdoor Activities listing for further information.


Discover Okehampton near Lydford

Visit English Heritage's Okehampton Castle (English Heritage)

Spend half a day in Okehampton's Museum of Dartmoor Life where you can learn about Dartmoor's prehistory and history.


Dartmoor's prehistory near Lydford

Once you've visited the Museum of Dartmoor Life, experience some of Dartmoor's internationally important prehistoric sites. English Heritage's Merrivale (English Heritage) is a must.

We'd also suggest you read the displays about Dartmoor's prehistory in both the Princetown National Park Visitor Centre and the Postbridge National Park Visitor Centre.


Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty from Lydford

Owing to its location to the west of the Park, take the opportunity to discover the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Tavistock is part of the Tamar Valley & Tavistock UNESCO World Heritage Site which is one of the sections of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape UNESCO World Heritage Site. These UNESCO sites are internationally important.

Other highlights include Morwellham Quay UNESCO World Heritage Site, the National Trust's Cotehele House and the beautiful Calstock.

Those looking for adventure should try the Tamar Trails Centre. Activities include treesurfing, mountain biking, canoeing, archery and walking. 


The Cornwall and Devon coastlines from Lydford

Head west to the North Cornwall coast. The vast low tide sand beach running north of Bude is wonderful.

Alternatively, drive the A386 south to connect with the A38. Roads run off this to places such as Bigbury-on-Sea Beach and Bantham Beach. See our sister site Love South Devon for more information.


Plymouth and Exeter from Lydford

Plymouth is a fascinating and beautiful city. It's also home to the National Marine Aquarium which is great for a rainy day. Follow the A386 south.

Exeter is essential visiting. Experience Exeter Cathedral, Exeter Underground Passages, Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) and Exeter's Historic Quayside.

The Exe Estuary leading to Topsham is amazing. Hire a bike and ride the Exe Estuary Trail.


Local towns and villages near Lydford

To the north east try Okehampton. To the south try Tavistock.

For villages, we'd recommend visiting Belstone and Sticklepath on the northern border of Dartmoor and Two Bridges and Postbridge in the heart of Dartmoor.