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Plymouth to Gunnislake – The Tamar Valley Line

14 miles of marvellous scenery, classic Devon and Cornwall railway charm at its very best, culminating in the magnificence of the Calstock Viaduct

Prices:

Off Peak Single - £7.80

Travel Type:

Train

No. of Attractions:

10 places to visit

View journey Attractions
Journey Duration:

46 minutes

Route Frequency:

Every 2 hours

Starting point:

Plymouth Railway Station

How to get here

Journey fact:

Gunnislake Clitters Mine is a lesser-known mine that was active during the 19th century and produced copper, tin, and arsenic. Remnants of its industrial past, including engine houses and spoil heaps, can still be discovered in the surrounding woodland, offering a fascinating glimpse into the area’s mining heritage often overlooked by visitors.

Journey Overview

Step back in time as this trip feels like a retreat to a bygone era, through perfectly sculptured villages that have changed little over the years and of the character and charm of the railway of a golden age. This is a captivating journey, that’s convenient but has a compellingly slow pace and atmosphere.

As the train departs from Plymouth, the scene outside the window quickly transforms from urban bustle to scenic tranquillity. Plymouth’s industrial landscape fades away, replaced by the historical charm of Devonport, where naval heritage subtly permeates the surroundings. Dockyard’s looming cranes and warships underscore the area’s maritime significance – it dates back to 1691 and is the largest Naval Base in Western Europe.

Approaching Keyham, the view is a blend of suburban homes and the distant shimmer of the River Tamar, a serene contrast to the industrial backdrops. At St. Budeaux, the railway skirts close to the water, offering glimpses of the river and its banks lined with lush greenery. The air feels fresher here, the hustle of city life giving way to the soothing cadence of nature.

The transition from St. Budeaux to Bere Ferrers is marked by sweeping panoramas of rolling hills and patchwork fields. The train straddles the River Tamar and looking back, there’s a great view of the impressive Brunel-designed Royal Albert Bridge, which opened in 1859 and where the vista expands dramatically. The suspension road bridge, completed in 1961 is also visible, creating a great backdrop of two bridge. Below, the river winds lazily through a mosaic of fields, woods, and tiny hamlets, each contributing to the picturesque countryside. A jetty in the river is visible and on the right hand side of the train, buildings that comprise the Defence Munition Centre can be seen – this important place has been providing ammunition for Royal Navy Ships since the 1920’s.

This fab journey continues and on the left is Warleigh Point, a densely wooded nature reserve. Then it’s over the River Tavy – the river soon flows into the River Tamar and looking back the two bridges are still visible but also on the opposite bank of the river is the lovely village of Cargreen.

Onto Bere Ferrers  (on the blissful Bere Peninsula) a quaint village where the platform’s flower beds and old stone building nods to a simpler time. There is a Heritage Centre here and some of the railway carriages have been converted to holiday accommodation. The scenery is pastoral, with grazing sheep and neatly tended farms stretching to the horizon.

The train continues to Bere Alston, a faming community which in previous times loaded produce onto the trains. Calstock then presents a dramatic shift with the train crossing its towering viaduct, 35 metres above the river and completed way back in 1908. From the train, the view is breathtaking over the viaduct – the Tamar Valley spreads out in all directions, in its abundant glory –  a mesmerising tapestry of green punctuated by the sparkling river. On the return journey, there are fabulous views of the viaduct itself as the train approaches it, creating a real sense of occasion and anticipation!

Onto the village of Calstock, nestled on the riverbank and which looks like a scene from a postcard, its boats gently bobbing on the water. Meanwhile, on the left hand side of the river, there is a glimpse of the National Trust property, Cotehele House, which dates back to 1845 and Prospect Tower, a three-sided folly on the palatial Cotehele Estate.

Cautiously, the train descends a steep gradient, crossing two narrow lanes, passing a large stone chimney, visible afar across Cornwall and representing the remains of steam driven pumping stations for cleaning water from mines.

Finally, arriving at Gunnislake, the surroundings are dominated by the dense woodland and the tranquil river. The train’s journey through the Tamar Valley concludes with a sense of serene isolation, the landscape seemingly untouched by time, where nature’s beauty is on full display.

A Fab Day Out!

Start your day in Plymouth with a trip around the Hoe on the 25 Plymouth City Bus. The Hoe offers panoramic views of Plymouth Sound, the iconic Smeaton’s Tower lighthouse, and the historic Royal Citadel. After soaking in the scenery, make your way to Plymouth Station and board the Tamar Valley line train.

Your first stop is Devonport, rich with naval history. Visit the Devonport Naval Heritage Centre to delve into the maritime past before continuing to Dockyard. Here, you can witness the bustling naval activity and perhaps take a guided tour of the dockyard itself, where ships have been built and launched for centuries.

Next, at Keyham, take a brief stroll through Ham Woods Nature Reserve, a hidden gem of tranquillity amidst the suburban setting, of streams and luscious woodland and copious wildlife. Back on the train, this time to St. Budeaux, where the line skirts close to the River Tamar, offering beautiful riverside views perfect for a few photos.

Arriving at Bere Ferrers, step off the train to explore the village’s charming church and the heritage centre, which highlights the local history and its railway heritage. Then, head to Bere Alston, where you can embark on a gentle walk along the Tamar Valley Discovery Trail, offering stunning vistas of the surrounding countryside.

For lunch, stop at Calstock, a picturesque village by the river. Enjoy a meal at the Tamar Inn, a historic pub with a riverside garden. Savour local dishes while admiring views of the Calstock Viaduct and the river.

After lunch, explore Calstock’s art galleries and perhaps take a short walk to Cotehele, a beautifully preserved Tudor house and garden managed by the National Trust. The gardens offer a tranquil retreat and the house itself is a fascinating glimpse into the past. Be sure to visit Cotehele’s Bull Pen Gallery, which showcases high quality craft from professional West Country Makers.

Continuing to Gunnislake, the final stop, you’ll find yourself surrounded by dense woodland and serene river views. Spend some time exploring the Tamar Trails, perfect for a late afternoon hike.

Before heading back, enjoy a light bite at The Rising Sun, a cosy pub in Gunnislake, known for its welcoming atmosphere and hearty food. If you have time and are staying longer, then a visit to The Tamar Valley Donkey Park in St Ann’s Chapel, Gunnislake, is a treat – it’s home to 26 donkeys, over 20 goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, ponies and much more!

As the day ends, take the train back to Plymouth, reflecting on the fun packed and enriching experiences of your Tamar Valley adventure.

How to get here...

Visit the megabus website and view megabus services that will transport you to this exceptional scenic journey.

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Visit the National Rail Enquiries website to discover train routes that will lead you to this magnificent scenic adventure.

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