Last Updated on 11th January 2017 by Sophie Nadeau
Lydford is so called after the river Lyd that winds its way through the Lyd valley on the West side of Dartmoor. Not far from the legendary church of Brentor (that sits atop an extinct volcano), Lydford also happens to sit on a Ley line. Inhabited for millennia, Lydford was once home to Celtic people, Norman Knights, and even Vikings. So here’s a quick guide to Lydford town, castle, prison, and gorge. Packed with history, culture, and adventure, there’s something that everyone will enjoy in this Devonian town:
The prison, also known as ‘Lydford Castle’ was a law court and prison run by the unruly Tin Mine Kingpins who ruled Dartmoor with an iron fist. Being so remote and so far away from the local governing bodies of Exeter and Plymouth, those who controlled the tin mines often controlled the law on Dartmoor.
Lydford Prison was notorious for its harsh conditions and unfair punishments. Prisoners could expect to be hung before receiving just trials and given just rain water to drink.
Today, Lydford Prison is free to visit and managed by English Heritage. And as the sign says, the prison is open at ‘any reasonable daylight hour’. It is also reputedly one of the most haunted places in the country…
There has been a Christian church on the site of the current 14th-century church since around 650AD. The Church of England St Petroc church is surprisingly large for such a small village.
Today, the quaint little church is filled with wooden carvings and intricate glass stained windows.
In reality, all that remains of the modest Norman castle are a few trenches and man-made hills in a sheep field. However, once upon a time, there was a settlement of half a dozen houses here. Today, although little remains, it’s the perfect place to view the surrounding countryside.
The river Lyd has spent the last 10,000 years carving intricate wells, streams, waterfalls and deep pools through the Lyd Valley, creating Lydford gorge. Today, the National Trust manages Lydford Gorge. You can visit the gorge and walk the three-mile round trip walk to see the White Lady 30m high waterfall and the ‘Devil’s Cauldron’ deep churning whirlpool.
The houses that line this cute little Devonian village are typical of the area: all thatched roofs with rendered walls. A typical English pub sits in the very centre of the village opposite the car park and next to the prison. It’s the perfect place to pick up a traditional fish and chips or taste a local cider.
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