Lanhydrock Gardens circular walk

Lanhydrock Gardens

A fairly short and easy circular walk through Lanhydrock gardens (note that you will need to pay an entry fee unless you are NT member) with plenty of picnic spots along the River Fowey that you can combine with a visit to the house.

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The walk starts from the gatehouse into the formal gardens and climbs through the magnolia arch to the Higher Gardens overlooking Lanhydrock. The route then descends through the woodland gardens and the Great Wood to the river. The walk then follows the River Fowey to Respryn Bridge and returns via the drive passing through the gatehouse and the parkland to Lanhydrock house.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107
  • Distance: 3.3 miles/5.3 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes or trainers

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 107 OS Explorer 107 (laminated version)

Click or tap on map for more info (blue=laminated)


  • Lanhydrock House with opulent furnishings and impressive kitchens
  • Colourful and elegant formal gardens
  • Higher Gardens with ornamental trees and nice views
  • Pretty woodland along the River Fowey, rich in wildlife
  • Vista to the main gatehouse through rolling parkland

Adjoining walks


  1. Start with a visit to the gardens (and optionally the house). You will need to purchase a ticket unless you are a National Trust member. Follow signs for "house and garden" to reach the gatehouse leading into the gardens. After exploring the house and gardens, make for the top of the steps next to the Holy Well near Joseph's Cottage at the top of the formal gardens.

    The first version of the house at Lanhydrock , completed in 1651, had a 4 sided layout around a central courtyard. During the first half of the 18th Century, it was neglected and by 1750 in so much disrepair that demolition was seriously being considered to recover some money in salvage and building materials. In 1780, some restoration and remodelling occurred which included demolition of the East Wing to create the U shape. After this, there was another period of slow decline. Then in the mid 1800s, the house underwent a major rework. Not long after this, in 1881, a fire destroyed the south wing and caused major damage to the central section. After this, the house was rebuilt with the exterior in the style of the original building and the Victorian interior was reconstructed, with the addition of kitchens behind the south wing.

  2. Facing the Holy Well, make your way up the two steps on the left and then turn right to follow the wrought iron Magnolia tunnel uphill to the Higher Gardens to reach a fork in the path.

    The garden's design relates to the Victorian restoration of the house. It was laid out along mid-19th century lines by George Truefitt, to complement the style of the house and to provide a pleasure ground for the family. The formal gardens include an enclosed forecourt with topiary, based on rows of Irish yews and box-edged rose beds, a parterre also hedged with box and a herbaceous garden enclosed in a circular yew hedge. The picturesque woodland gardens, leading from the formal gardens to the Great Wood, specialise in magnolias, camellias and rhododendrons.

  3. At the fork, bear left and follow the path until it meets another path next to the thatched Summer House.

    The higher gardens have been crafted so that as the path passes above the house, there is a view over the house to your left. Low-growing hydrangeas are planted in the line of the house so that they provide a colourful frame for the view when they flower.

    Gardeners have known for a long time that acidic soils lead to blue hydrangea flowers whereas alkaline soils lead to pink flowers. Biochemists have found that aluminium is the thing that actually turns the pigment in hydrangeas blue. Acidic soils free-up aluminium already in the soil to be absorbed by the plant. Within the plant, aluminium combines with a normally-red pigment to turn it blue. Varieties of hydrangeas have been bred with a higher concentration of the pigment and these have more vivid colours (i.e. red rather than pink). Similarly varieties with lower concentrations of the pigment have been cultivated to create pastel colours.

    Since Victorian times, it's been common practice for gardeners to use aluminium sulphate to turn their hydrangeas blue (without necessarily knowing why) but this has become less popular in recent years as aluminium sulphate is extremely harmful to aquatic life. Twenty tonnes was accidentally deposited into Camelford's drinking water supply in 1988 which was hastily flushed into the Camel river system, killing many fish.

  4. Bear left through the gate marked "woodland garden" and follow the path straight ahead until it emerges onto a track.

    This area of the gardens contains many fine specimens of ornamental Camellia and Rhododendron which provide a burst of colour in early spring.

    Rhododendron is a member of the Ericaceae family to which heathers also belong and like its cousins, it is tolerant of acid soils. The word rhododendron is from the Ancient Greek for "rose tree" due to their spectacular flowers. As a result of these, rhododendrons have been popular ornamental plants for over two centuries and the species that we now call the common rhododendron was introduced in 1763. The plants thrive in the UK climate and were once native but were wiped out by the last Ice Age. Being a vigorous plant, common rhododendron was often used as a root stock onto which more fragile but exotically-coloured hybrids were grafted.

  5. Bear slightly right across the track onto the gravel path opposite. Follow this downhill through the woods until it eventually forks at a waymark post with a red arrow.

    During periods of cold weather, spring flowers, such as bluebells, have already started the process of growth by preparing leaves and flowers in underground bulbs during summer and autumn. They are then able to grow in the cold of winter, or early spring, by using these resources stored in their bulb. Once they have flowered, the leaves die off and the cycle begins again.

    Other species (such as cow parsley or dandelions) require warm weather before they are able to germinate and grow. With the warmer springs induced by climate change, bluebells lose their "early start" advantage, and can be out-competed.

    The Great Wood alongside the parkland at Lanhydrock has been designated as an Important Plant Area by the organisation Plantlife for its ancient woodland and lichens. Trees include beech, oak, sycamore, ash, sweet chestnut, holly and a number of Scots Pine. Since the clearance of invasive Rhododendrons from the Great Wood, fantastic displays of bluebells can be seen in the spring. Lanhydrock is also home to kingfishers, dormice and 12 species of bat.

  6. At the waymark, follow the waymarked gravel path to the right past one red waymark (where a path joins from the left) to another red waymark in front of a large tree where a path departs downhill to the right.

    Deer sometimes venture into the woodland, typically early in the morning when there aren't any dogs around.

    Red and Roe deer are the two truly native species of the six found in the UK and both have pointy, branching (rugose) antlers. The Red deer is the largest of the species and has a characteristic large white V on its backside whereas the Roe deer just has a small white patch.

    The fallow deer was introduced by the Normans and has flat, elk-like (palmate) antlers and an inverted black horseshoe surrounding a white patch on its rear end.

    In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, three "exotic" Asian species (munjac, sika and Chinese water deer) were introduced. These all have quite rounded ears whereas the European species all have pointy "elf-like" ears.

    Roe deer, Fallow deer and Red deer are all present in Cornwall and the populations of all three species has increased substantially over the past decade, possibly by as much as a factor of ten. There are also a small number of munjac deer, but far fewer than in the rest of England.

  7. At the waymark post, take the (non-waymarked) downhill path to the right and then stay on the major path, keeping left where a smaller path departs to the right. Keep following the path until it ends in a gate.

    The Roe Deer is unusual among hoofed animals as the egg is fertilised at the time of mating but then goes into suspended animation for several months - a process known as delayed implantation. This mechanism means that instead of being born in late winter, the young are born in early summer when food is more plentiful.

    In most species with delayed implantation, the mother sends out a hormonal signal to tell the embryo to wake up. However in the case of the Roe Deer, the embryo has a built-in egg timer which sends a chemical message back to the mother that it's time to resume the pregnancy.

  8. Go through the gate to a lane and turn right to reach a signpost at a bend. Turn left in the direction of "Respryn via footbridge" and follow the track downhill to where another track joins from the left at a post with a red waymark.

    Autumn colours are the result of two processes. The first is that a normal healthy leaf contains chemicals which are both green (chlorophyll) and yellow (carotene). If chlorophyll stops being produced, leaves turn yellow. This happens when sunlight is reduced either temporarily (e.g. accidentally leaving something on the lawn) or in autumn when there is less sunlight overall and when cold temperatures also speed up the breakdown of chlorophyll. When a tree prepares to shed a leaf, it creates a barrier of cells to close the leaf off. Sugars produced from photosynthesis which normally flow back into the plant instead build up in the leaf and react with proteins in sap to form red anthrocyanin compounds. Sunny autumn days produce more sugars and result in more red leaves. Frost causes the leaves to drop off quickly so mild, sunny autumns produce the best colours.

    Mosses reproduce with tiny spores rather than seeds. Many mosses use wind to carry their spores and produce tiny stalks with the spore-releasing equipment on the top in order to catch the wind - these can be seen as thread-like structures standing up from the moss. These spore-releasing devices often have a ring of teeth around the edge (visible with a magnifying glass) to control the release of the spores, allowing them to be released gradually over a period of time to catch gusts of wind of different speeds and in different directions.

  9. Continue downhill to reach a fork in the path with a gate on the right signposted to Restormel Castle and a stone footbridge ahead leading to a smaller gateway.

    Restormel Castle is one of the four chief Norman castles in Cornwall and is notable for its perfectly circular design; the 13th century circular shell-keep still encloses the principal rooms of the castle. The mound on which it is built is the site of an earlier castle, probably originally built at the start of the 12th Century, shortly after the Norman conquest of England, as a motte and bailey castle. The castle is strategically positioned, overlooking the primary crossing point over the River Fowey and was located in the middle of a large deer park. The castle had an early form of pressurised tap water, piped into the buildings from a natural spring.

  10. Keep left at the fork to follow the path downhill over the stream and through the gateway beyond this. Continue on the path to reach the river.

    The upper reaches of the Fowey river system run through 2 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and the Fowey valley is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The river has populations of sea trout and salmon as well as brown trout which make it popular with fly fishermen.

  11. When you reach the river, continue following the waymarked path upstream until you reach a fork at a waymark near a footbridge.

    Damselflies are predators similar to dragonflies but are easily distinguishable by the way their wings fold back parallel to the body when at rest whereas the dragonflies' wings are fixed at a right angle to the body. The Damselfly has a much smaller body than a dragonfly which means it has less stamina for flight. Nevertheless, it can hover, in a stationary position, long enough to pluck spiders from their webs.

    If you look carefully in some of the slower-moving sections of the river, you can often see fish slowly swimming against the current to remain stationary.

    Trout are members of the Salmon family who all have an extra tiny (adipose) fin on their back towards their tail, that most other fish don't have. No-one is quite sure what the purpose is of this fin but a neural network in the fin indicates that it has some kind of sensory function.

    The trout that supermarkets and trout farms stock is the Rainbow Trout (which has a red flush along its side) and is native to North America not to the UK. Our native trout is the Brown Trout which has well-defined dark red spots along its sides. You can often make out the spots when you see them lying in pools. Rainbow Trout are often stocked in fishing lakes so do sometimes escape into the wild.

    Small trout typically feed on invertebrates whereas larger trout generally feed on other fish but have been known to eat anything of a suitable size unlucky enough to fall into a river. In fact in New Zealand, mouse-shaped lures are sold for trout fishing!

  12. Keep right at the waymark to follow the path across the footbridge. On the other side, follow the path upriver until it passes through a gap between a wall and large tree.

    The dandelion-like flowers along the coast are most likely to be catsear, also known as false dandelion. Catsear is very salt tolerant, not only growing along the coast but actually in sand dunes. The easiest way to recognise it is by the hairy leaves, hence the name. If you can cope with the texture, the leaves are edible and are much less bitter than dandelion leaves.

    Another way to tell them apart is when they are flowering. Although dandelion flowers over quite a long period, the most profuse flowering is in April and May whereas catsear's intense flowering period is in late June and through July. Catsear has neater flowers than dandelion with squarer edges to the petals (but still toothed). The stems supporting the flowers are also solid, in contrast with the hollow stem of the dandelion.

    If you do happen to see a really large fish then the chances are that it's either a salmon or sea trout.

    Sea Trout have a very similar life-cycle to Salmon, being born in a river, migrating to the ocean to feed and then returning to the river to spawn. As with Salmon, they do not feed once they enter freshwater and after spawning they are susceptible to disease. It is not unusual to see them with fungal growths in early winter, but as long as these infections aren't too major, the trout return to the sea where they recover and return to spawn again.

    What is intriguing is that Sea Trout are exactly the same species as Brown Trout, which live all their lives in a river. It seems to be that if there isn't enough food, young trout undergo "the change" (known as smoulting) in which their physiology permanently alters for an existence in saltwater, they change colour to silver, and they head off to live in the sea.

  13. Keep right after the gap to follow the well-defined path. Continue on this until you reach a lane.

    Dragonflies are named after the way they hunt, as both the larvae and adults are carnivorous predators. Mosquitoes form a large part of their diet both for adults and particularly for the larvae (nymphs). One dragonfly can eat tens of mosquitoes in a day and an average of over 100 per day has been recorded for the nymphs of some species. It is thought that this is an important factor in keeping the mosquito population under control.

    National Trust cafés serve around 4.5 million cups of tea per year which is enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool.

  14. Turn left onto the lane and follow it over Respryn Bridge. Continue past Respryn car park on your right until you reach a path on the left with a large rock in the centre leading onto the tarmacked driveway.

    Respryn Bridge is a five-arched mediaeval bridge constructed of granite and rubble spanning the River Fowey at Lanhydrock. The central pointed arch dates from the 15th century; the other arches are more recent. Before this, there was a 13th Century bridge on the site. The place name indicates a ford was here before the bridge, on an ancient trackway between Bodmin and Looe. A chapel was also documented as being located by the river in the 12th Century. In the Middle Ages, chapels were quite common at fords, so the prospective crosser could pray that they were going to make it to the other side, or in the other direction (only, if successful!) give thanks for a safe passage.

  15. Bear left onto the path and merge onto the driveway. Follow the driveway away from the road to reach a gatehouse.

    Unlike their more versatile narrow-leaved cousins the three-cornered leeks, ramsons grow mainly in shady places such as woodland. Their broad leaves are solar panels that have evolved to capture the weak winter light early in the year before the trees are in leaf. They are an indicator that woodland is ancient and has provided a shady environment over a long period to colonise.

    Foxgloves are reliant on bumblebees for pollination and bumblebees are much more active when the weather is good. Partly, as an insurance policy against bad weather, foxgloves have evolved to stagger their flowering over several weeks, starting with the flowers at the base of the stalk and working up to the top, where the higher flowers protrude over other vegetation that has grown up in that time.

    Lanhydrock lies just south of the A30 below Bodmin near Bodmin Parkway station. The Lanhydrock estate originally belonged to the Augustinian priory of St Petroc at Bodmin, but the Dissolution of the Monasteries during Tudor times saw it pass into private hands. It was bought in 1620 by wealthy merchant Sir Richard Robartes, who began building the house in 1630 but died only 4 years later. The building was finally completed in 1651 by his son and the estate remained in the Robartes Family until the 20th Century.

    The Robartes family declined significantly during the First World War, losing the heir who was killed during the Battle of Loos in France whilst trying to rescue a colleague from no-man's land. The estate passed to his younger brother, Francis, who became 7th Viscount Clifden. In the Second World War, the house was used to accommodate evacuees. After the war, in 1953, the house and approximately 400 acres of parkland were given to the National Trust by the ageing Viscount. On the death of his younger brother Arthur, the barony and viscountcy of Clifden and barony of Robartes became extinct. Only one descendant of the family survives, living in a cottage on the estate.

  16. Go through the pedestrian gate on the right of the gatehouse (or through the main gate if open) and follow the drive through the park to Lanhydrock House.

    The granite parish church that stands in the grounds of Lanhydrock House predates even the first version of the house: parts of the church date back to the late 15th century, though an earlier church or chapel once stood on the site. The church was restored at the end of the 19th Century, following on from the reconstruction of Lanhydrock House after the fire. The church is dedicated to St Hydroc, a 5th Century Celtic saint, possibly a hermit. Outside the church is an ancient granite cross, reported by one source to be from the 13th century.

  17. Turn right at the crossroads in front of the house to return to the main car park.

    During mediaeval times, whilst the land at Lanhydrock was owned by the priory of St Petroc, it was let out as a small manor farm (sometimes known as a "barton"). The farmhouse was thought to be located approximately where the northern range of Lanhydrock House is situated today. It is recorded that in 1545, the tenant farmer was evicted for allowing the house to fall into decay and for stealing apples.

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