Lanhydrock to Restormel

The lanes on the last section of the walk can have a reasonable amount of traffic at peak holiday times.

A circular walk from the mediaeval bridge at Respryn along the River Fowey through the bluebell woodland of the Lanhydrock Estate to the circular Norman castle at Restormel which had a pressurised piped water system 700 years ahead of its time.

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The walk follows the River Fowey from Respryn bridge through the grounds of the Lanhydrock estate to Restormel Castle. The route then crosses over the river at Restormel Manor into the woodland owned by the Duchy. The return route is on lanes passing the Duchy Nursery before descending, with views over Restormel Castle and the neighbouring valleys, to Respryn.


  • The last 2 miles of the walk are along lanes that get a reasonable amount of traffic at peak holiday times.


Great circular walk today. Started at Respryn car park and walked through beautiful countryside alongside the river Fowey to Restormel castle. A look around the castle then back to the footpath to Restormel Manor, on to the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery and then on through country lanes returning to Respryn. Lots of interesting things throughout the walk - lovely buildings, great views, gorgeous wild flowers, birds and dragonflies and Restormel castle (English Heritage site).
Totally loved this walk 6 miles of gorgeousness.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107
  • Distance: 5.3 miles/8.5 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

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  • Ancient woodland along the River Fowey, rich in wildlife
  • Restormel Castle - a circular Norman keep
  • Pretty meadows and woodland surrounding Restormel Manor
  • Café and a plethora of flora at Duchy Nursery
  • Huge amounts of wild garlic in Spring near Fairy Cross


  1. Make your way towards the car park exit and follow the gravel path to the left to reach the lane. Bear left to follow the lane over the bridge until you reach a path with wooden posts on the right.

    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.

  2. Pass between the posts and bear right down the step to reach the dog bathing area. Then bear left and follow the path along the river until you eventually reach a footbridge.

    The River Fowey rises close to Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor and is fed by 7 tributaries along its 25 mile course, many of which also start on Bodmin Moor. It is the third longest river in Cornwall after the Tamar and Camel.

    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.

  3. Cross the footbridge over the river and bear left to reach the wooden post with an orange waymark.

    In summer, dragonflies and damselflies can often be seen whirling above the river.

    Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve, around 300 million years ago in the "age of amphibians" before the dinosaurs. Fossils of early dragonflies have been found with wingspans of up to two feet across.

    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.

  4. Turn left onto the path and follow it along the river until it eventually forks beside a fallen tree inscribed with "GH" and the main path leads away from the river.

    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.

  5. Bear right at the fork and follow the path until it ends in a pedestrian gate.

    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. Go through the gate and follow the path over a stream then turn immediately left to the red gate with a "Footpath to Restormel Castle" sign. Go through this and follow the path between the fields to reach another gate.

    Bracken is a type of fern. Perhaps the easiest way to spot mature bracken plants is by their sturdy stem which acts a bit like the trunk of a tree with leaves going out horizontally from this. Other ferns leaves tend to grow directly out of the ground. Earlier in the year, bracken is recognisable by the fronds emerging from the ground singly rather than grouped in tufts.

  7. Go through the gate and follow the path across the middle of the field to the gateway opposite.
  8. Go through the gateway and follow the track between the fences until you reach the main gate of the water works on your left.

    The River Fowey rises close to Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor and is fed by 7 tributaries along its 25 mile course, many of which also start on Bodmin Moor. It is the third longest river in Cornwall after the Tamar and Camel.

    The Fowey is used as a conduit for the public water system to feed water from the Siblyback and Colliford reservoirs on Bodmin Moor down to Restormel where it enters the water mains. The increased demand for water from summer visitors has the effect of buffering the river levels in the drier months from the reservoirs.

  9. From the water works entrance, continue on the lane until you reach a fork at a sharp bend with a no-through road sign and a wooden gate ahead.

    To your right slightly, the hill behind the one ahead was the location of a Roman Fort.

    In 2007, the remains of a small Roman fort (known as a fortlet) was discovered upon a promontory overlooking the River Fowey near Restormel. It's likely this was a satellite of the slightly larger fort at Nanstallon, and the two were strategically positioned to cover the Camel and Fowey river trade. Their position also allowed them to cover the main land route, which ran past these two points on the upland ridge along the Cornish peninsula. It's thought that this might have originally been an Iron-Age fort which was then repurposed by the Romans. Finds of pottery suggest it was occupied continuously for most of the Romano-British era (from mid-first to early-fourth centuries). It has been postulated that although it might have started as a military encampment, it may have evolved into a defended settlement towards the end of this period.

  10. Go through the pedestrian gate on the left of the gate ahead. Follow the lane until you reach some buildings.

    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.

    Where tracks met in a T-junction, this presented a challenge for horses and carts as these didn't have a tight turning circle. The triangular islands often visible on junctions of tracks and small lanes today were formed by the cartwheels cutting the corners of the junction. Eventually these cut corners were formalised as surfaced tracks with a grassy triangular island in the centre.

  11. Bear right to follow the lane between the buildings and continue following the lane to reach a pair of gates by a large barn.
  12. Follow the lane through the gate ahead. The entrance to Restormel Castle is up the lane to the right which you may want to visit then return here. Continue ahead on the lane, in the direction signposted for the Dutchy of Cornwall Nursery, to reach a public footpath sign on the left.

    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.

  13. At the footpath sign, turn left into the drive of Restormel Manor and follow the drive to a gate with a public footpath sign on the left.

    English Heritage began in 1983 as a government department responsible for the national system of heritage protection and managing a range of historic properties. In 1999 it was merged with the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England and the National Monuments Record. In 2015 a charity was formed called English Heritage Trust which was split off from the government to manage the National Heritage Collection (which is still owned by the state). The "English Heritage" name is now associated with this charity. The remaining government body is known as Historic England and is responsible for the statutory and protection functions that were part of the old organisation.

  14. Go through the gate and turn right and follow the drive in the direction indicated for the Nursery to reach three gates. Go through the pedestrian gate on the left and follow the track until you reach a gate onto a bridge over the river.

    Restormel Manor and the adjoining woods are owned by the Duchy.

    For many centuries, it was traditional for landowning families to create trusts from the land and assets so future generations could live off the income, but were unable to dispose of the assets so these would be available for future generations. The Duchy estate is an example of this and was created in 1337 by Edward III to provide his son (and future Princes of Wales) with an income. Consequently, unlike other Royals, the Prince of Wales and his family are not paid for by the taxpayer via the Civil List; instead their living costs and all their charitable activities (such as The Prince's Trust) are funded by income from the Duchy estate.

    Only 13% of the Duchy land is in Cornwall; the rest is dotted over 23 other counties with some in London but most is in the South West of England, with nearly half on Dartmoor.

  15. Go through the gate (on the right) and cross the bridge. Follow the track to a railway bridge.

    Foam on the surface of a river can look like pollution but, as with sea foam, it's normally a natural phenomenon. When water plants such as algae die and decompose, organic matter is released into the water. If the water is agitated, proteins in the water can form a froth, just like whisking egg whites. Plant nutrients entering the water will increase the amount of algae, making foam more likely or prolific so a very foamy river can be an indicator of nitrate or phosphate pollution.

  16. Cross the railway and follow the track until you reach a gate with a Nursery sign.

    The main line railway through Cornwall was originally conceived as a means to link the port of Falmouth to London. However, whilst funds were being raised for the railway, much of Falmouth's Packet trade was transferred to Southampton. The line was built to Truro instead but initially failed to make money and was bought up by Great Western. Once established, the new railway allowed rapid exports of perishables to London including fresh flowers and fish. It also made large-scale tourism possible and the term "Cornish Riviera" was coined.

  17. Go through the gate ahead and follow the track up the hill until you reach a hairpin bend with a signpost for the Dutchy Nursery.

    Rosebay willowherb is a tall plant with a spike of pink flowers in late summer which can often be seen beside paths and tracks. Their long leaves have a distinctive thin, white vein along the centre.

    The plant is known as fireweed in USA as it's found on burnt sites after forest fires. For similar reasons it was known as London's Ruin after the Great Fire. In the Second World War it was also known as bombweed due to its rapid colonisation of bomb craters.

    It is fairly well-known that conifer plantations support less biodiversity than native broadleaf woods but there are a number of different reasons for this. One is that many of the conifer species are introduced from abroad and the insects that normally accompany them in their native habitat are not present. Another factor is the commercial nature of plantations: some insect species which would live on the trees cause damage to the tree growth and are actively removed as pests. Similarly, plants that compete with the newly-planted trees are removed to allow the commercial crop to succeed. Also the harvesting process means that dead trees do not fall to the forest floor and provide the rotting wood that a range of insects and fungi require.

  18. At the bend turn left onto the path for the Nursery and follow it to reach a junction with a path to the left.
  19. Keep right to follow the path uphill and reach a smaller path departing from the right. Bear right onto this to emerge on a track.
  20. Bear right to follow the track uphill until you reach another signpost for the Nursery.

    A mature tree can absorb tens of kilograms of carbon dioxide each year adding up to a tonne over a number of decades. However, burning one litre of petrol produces just over 2kg of carbon dioxide so it takes about half an acre of trees to absorb the average amount of carbon dioxide produced by one car in a year. When trees die and decompose, the majority of the carbon is gradually released back into the atmosphere depending on how fast the various bits of tree rot (the woody parts take longer).

  21. Turn left at the signpost and follow the small path until it ends in a pedestrian gate opposite the Nursery entrance.

    The "greenhouse effect" is often thought as trapping heat from the sun reflected from the surface of the earth but most heat rises from the earth's surface in convection currents (thermals). It's quite high in the atmosphere where heat starts to be radiated away into space as infrared. Up here it's pretty chilly as greenhouses go - around minus 18 Celcius! "Greenhouse gasses" are chemicals that absorb the (quite long) infrared wavelengths that are being emitted by this cool matter. They then re-emit this in all directions but some of that ends up going back down towards the earth, reducing the rate at which heat escapes.

  22. Go through the gate to reach the lane. The walk continues on the lane to the left. There is a café and toilets in the Nursery opposite. Follow the lane uphill for half a mile until you reach a junction.

    As you approach the junction, there are nice views across the valley to Restormel Castle.

    A bailey was essentially a fortified settlement, typically on the top of an embankment and surrounded by wooden pallisades. If breached, the motte provided an even more fortified position for retreat and defence during a siege.

  23. At the junction, bear left and stay on the lane and follow it for another mile and a half it until it eventually ends at a junction beside a cottage with a wayside cross in the garden.

    Wild garlic grows alongside the lane beneath the tree cover.

    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.

    The inner bark of the tree carries sugars created by photosynthesis down from the leaves to feed the rest of the tree. The inner bark dies over time to produce the outer bark which protects the living part of the tree.

  24. At the junction, turn left and follow the lane over bridges over the railway and river to complete the circular walk.

    The cottage with the large wayside cross planted in the middle of the front garden is appropriately named Cross Cottage.

    There are over four hundred complete stone crosses in Cornwall and at least another two hundred fragments.

    In the mediaeval period, stone crosses were sometimes placed by the road or path to mark the route to the parish church. Farms and hamlets were usually linked to the church by the most direct and level route. Crosses were also placed along routes of pilgrimage. Both of these have evolved to become some of today's Public Rights of Way.

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