Lydford today has retained its friendly community atmosphere with many period houses built of local granite lining the main street. While many of todays visitors will still be drawn to Lydford by the beauty of the gorge and its proximity to Dartmoor, the opening of the Granite Way in 2002 has brought a new visitor, the cyclist. (see below)
Why not treat the text on this page as a guide to a tour of the village beginning at the public car park opposite the Castle Inn? Print a copy of this map for your walk.
(opposite the public car park)
This 16th century Inn and restaurant was used during the filming of the 1980’s version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles”. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have approved as he and another local notary, the Reverend Baring Gould were regular visitors to their friend, Mr T.H. Radford (who gave the gorge to The National Trust in 1943). Mr Radford’s country residence, Bridge House, was just over the bridge from the church. It was the stable block and walled rose garden that now form The National Trust Shop and car park. It is likely that Conan Dyle would have visited the Castle Inn.
To visit the castle, church and fort, turn right from the Castle Inn. The Inn, castle, entrance to the site of the Norman Fort and the Church are all next to each other.
Carved in 1997 by ‘Erik the Red’ to commemorate the Viking raid of 997. It can be seen resting against the outside of the wall marking southern boundary to the castle grounds, to the right of the path to the site of the Norman Fort. (see history page)
Take this link to its own page where you may like to compare the old photo of the late Peter Hill standing by the watchmaker’s tomb that is in the centre of this photo.
Entrance down the hill below the church. The 3 mile full tour of the gorge can take 2 hours or more so should be tackled as a separate walk. See The National Trust site for details.
As mentioned elsewhere, Lydford Gorge and its geology were one reason for Lydford being sited where it is. Two of its features worth mentioning here are the Devil’s Cauldron, reached by a walkway slung over the water and the White Lady Waterfall so called because when in full flow the water fans out like the skirt of a dress.
The photo below was taken at such a time but not many will see the falls like this because the torrent soon floods the paths and the gorge has to be closed.
With a little imagination you might be able to see a bride in a wedding dress holding a bouquet. The water on the camera was from the spray – it had stopped raining!
For photos from a visitor take this link and to see what the BBC make of the gorge take this link.
From the Church, return to the Castle Inn but turn left into their car park. Through the car park and the track continues past two tracks to the right and on to the ancient spring on the left, once the only source of water for the village.
Lydford Old Spring being cleared Feb 2007. An award from ING will enable the village to fully restore the spring and make access easier from the village.
From the spring, continue to a T junction and turn right to return to the village street by the old Methodist Chapel, now a private residence.
The Methodist Chapel
The hub of any community is often the village hall. Lydford’s village hall is the Nicholls Hall. Built in 1929 by Alderman Nicholls, its name is partly why it was built in Lydford.
Mr.Frederic James Nicholls, an alderman in Exeter, lived in the house, currently called Torside, down the rough track that once lead to the Great Western Railway’s station at Lydford Junction (See History). Technically this bit of Devon is part of Brentor Parish so Alderman Nicholls offered to build a village hall for Brentor. There were two stipulations, one was that the parishioners should furnish the hall and the second that it should be called ‘Nicholls Hall’. Unfortunately for Brentor, the Parish Council at the time could not agree to naming it after the benefactor so the same offer was made to Lydford Parish Council. The rest is history.
Nicholls Hall built by
Gilbert Huggins for £1700 in 1929.
If you continue past the War Memorial you soon pass Lydford School, built in 1878 with 2 teachers and 20-30 children. Read the full Ofsted Report Lydford Primary School.
A few hundred metres further on and you reach the railway bridge that crossed the London & SW Railway that ran between Plymouth and Waterloo. It now marks the start of the Granite Way.
The Granite Way from Lydford to Okehampton is part of the Sustrans long distance Coast to Coast cycle route 27, but with the spectacular Meldon Viaduct, the tallest steel viaduct in the country, and the grand Lake Viaduct, it promises to be one of the most popular cycle routes in the country.
Continue your tour of Lydford by passing over the railway bridge. You soon reach Lydford House Hotel where F.J. Widgery once lived.
William Widgery, a celebrated Victorian artist, was a mason by trade. He erected the granite cross on Brat Tor in 1887 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s jubilee. Ever since it has dominated dominated the sky line above the village and is know as Widgery’s Cross. Before this he built Lydford House to dwell in, probably around 1875. His son Frederick John Widgery was an artist from the start and trained abroad in Europe becoming a more accomplished artist than his farther and went on to be mayor of Exeter. A hotel guest book has its first entry on 19th August 1890 and speaks of the kindness of the proprietors which we try to emulate today. (Info courtesy of the proprietors)
Passing the Hotel, continue to the main road and the ….
The small peep hole in the side of the porch (nearly hidden by the sunshade) is reputed to be a spy hole used by Dartmoor prison wardens to keep watch along the road when an escape had occured from the prison at Princetown in the centre of Dartmoor.
Return to the war memorial and turn left down the hill to the cross tracks at the bottom. Carry on to beneath Lydford Viaduct one of the many industrial ruins that were so well crafted that the greenery grows on and around the masonry, slowly obscuring the massive granite block that men laboured so long to put in place.
Once the walk down the gorge extended this far but the paths have long since been covered with debris and are too dangerous to explore. A wooden bridge that reached them has since disappeared and has not been replaced.
On reaching the private house at the bottom, once the miller’s house to a watermill that stood by the river below, retrace your steps to the cross tracks and turn left, eventually joining a tarmac road now called Silver Street but once called Silvery Street and Back Lane. Some believe this is a reference to a silver mine in the vicinity but it could also be that the track, worn down to smooth bedrock near the bottom may have shone when wet. At the top you join the road opposite the old chapel and can turn left back to the car park.
Please take this link to a list of local accommodation and services provided by or recommended by residents.
Lydford – Another View. For more information about Lydford and the surroundings, you may like to visit this website.
Other Devon town & Village web sites :-
Or for whole county why not Discover Devon or look up your town or parish in this comprehensive list of Devon towns and parishes