Lanhydrock Gardens circular walk

Lanhydrock Gardens

A fairly short and easy circular walk through Lanhydrock gardens 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 passes the gatehouse into the house and formal gardens (which you can optionally visit) and climbs into 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.


  • 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
  • Diverse fungi in autumn
  • Vista to the main gatehouse through rolling parkland
  • 2 NT cafés - one beside the house and another at the end of the route near the car park

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107
  • Distance: 3.2 miles/5.1 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes or trainers
  • No stiles: ✓
  • Café: ✓

OS maps for this walk

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

Adjoining walks


  1. Follow signs for "house and garden" to reach a crossing over a road. Cross the road to the pedestrian entrance and follow the path past the ticket office (where you can purchase a ticket if you wish to visit the house and formal gardens). Continue on the path parallel to the drive until it ends and a short distance further to reach the gatehouse leading into the gardens.
  2. Here you can optionally visit the house and gardens before continuing on the route.

    To continue the walk, keep the wall on your right and follow the track to an information board beside a gate.

    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.

  3. Go through the gate (indicated by the red and purple arrows) on the left of the information board. Keep right to follow the track leading slightly uphill for a short distance to reach a path doubling-back on the right with a wooden post (with a "No Dogs" sign on the opposite side).

    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.

  4. If you don't have a dog, turn right and follow the path until you reach a junction to the left. Otherwise with a dog, continue ahead on the track to skip the next 3 directions and rejoin the route further ahead at direction 9.

    Britain lost most of its wild yew trees due to longbow production in the Middle Ages. Once the national supplies had been exhausted, Britain began importing yew wood from just about any European country that had any, rendering yew trees extinct or rare in many parts of Europe. Ironically, Britain now has possibly the world's greatest collection of yews and the majority of these are in churchyards where it was deemed inappropriate to fell them for longbows.

  5. Turn left and follow the path uphill and around a hairpin bend to reach another junction of paths.

    The bushes provide cover for small birds such as robins who have become quite tame from their visits to the outside tables of the café to tidy up crumbs. When Lanhydrock House used to open for Christmas, the cheeky robins would sometimes venture inside the house into the kitchens to peck at the bread.

    The tradition of robins on Christmas cards is thought to arise from Victorian postmen wearing red jackets. Consequently they were nicknamed Robins.

  6. Turn right and follow the path to where a path ascends to the left beside a wall, just before this path reaches a gate.
  7. Turn left at the junction and follow the path uphill until ends in a junction.

    Fly agaric is the most iconic toadstool - the red one with white spots that features in emojis and video games. They are often found where there are birch trees (which are not hugely common in Cornwall).

    Fly agaric is poisonous and the name was originally thought to be from their use as an insecticide but it's now thought to be questionable how effective they are for this. They have been used in religious ceremonies in come cultures due to their hallucinogenic effects which has given rise to another theory for the word "fly" - not in the sense of "trip" but from the mediaeval belief that mental illness was caused by flies in one's head.

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

    Camellias are bushes with thick, glossy leaves (but usually a little shorter than rhododendron leaves). As their similar appearance suggests, they are fairly close cousins of rhododendrons but not as closely related to rhododendrons as heathers are (which appearance doesn't suggest!). They flower in the winter, typically between December and the end of March.

  8. Turn left and follow the path past the Celtic cross to a bench and then downhill to where it ends in a junction with a track with a gravel path approximately opposite.

    Scholars speculate that the Celtic Cross (a crucifix with a circular ring) developed from the sun cross (a cross inside a circle), a common symbol in artefacts of Prehistoric Europe, particularly during the Neolithic to Bronze Age periods. When Christianity came to the Celtic regions, Christians extended the bottom spoke of this familiar symbol, to remind them of the cross on which their new Saviour was crucified.

  9. Cross to the gravel path opposite and follow this downhill through the woods until it eventually forks at a waymark.

    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.

  10. 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.

  11. At the waymark post, take the (non-waymarked) path to the right and follow this downhill. Keep following the main path (ignoring any smaller paths departing from it) 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.

  12. 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.

    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 red 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

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

    Male damselflies have two sets of genitalia. At the start of mating a packet of sperm (spermatophore) is transferred outside of the male's body between the two and then passed on to the female who uses it to fertilise her eggs as she lays them. Female damselflies lay their eggs inside vegetation. For some species this is in water plants and the female can swim underwater for half an hour before returning to the surface to breathe. Males often guard the egg laying female to prevent a rival male from sneaking in and replacing the spermatophore with his own.

    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.

    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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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. Dragonfly nymphs have a massive lower jaw to engulf their prey (a bit like an Angler Fish) and are also able to propel themselves by shooting a jet of water out of their anus.

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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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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