A Great Scenic Train Journey From Cornwall To Devon
Let the train take the strain! All aboard to enjoy one of the best train journeys in Cornwall - The Scenic Tamar Valley Line.
This spectacular scenic train journey from Gunnislake to Plymouth is one of the best in Cornwall. Stopping off along the way at Calstock and the Bere Peninsula, then journeying on past the Dockyard and Devonport until finally, you roll sedately into Plymouth station.
Gunnislake - Until 1820 this old mining village was known as Williams Town, after the wealthy Williams family of Scorrier who owned the nearby Old Mine. It was renamed Gunnislake after a copper mine that opened in 1796 and its stream that ran from the nearby downs into the River Tamar.
Gunnislake lies just across New Bridge on the Cornish side. The bridge itself is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and was built in 1520.
It is the starting point for our 15 mile long rail adventure.
Despite its peaceful, rural setting today it was the site of a bloody civil battle: In 1644 Parliamentarian forces faced off against the Royalists. Whilst both sides suffered losses, the Royalists were defeated with some 200 men either killed or taken prisoner. One can almost imagine the cries of bloodied and dying men as they fell from its high parapet into the waters below.
Get really into the atmosphere of the times - read Daphne du Maurier's 'The Kings General' for a fabulous novel based in 17th century and with familiar place names around this area.
Surrounded on all sides by fine English countryside, Gunnislake offers some stunning country walks, riverside walks and woodland adventures.
Rise a little further up the hill with the village at your back, and you’ll be treated to the most fabulous views of the Tamar Valley, the distant twin bridges, and Plymouth Sound.
The village has a rich mining heritage. If walking or cycling in the locality you’re bound to encounter old mine workings, a stark reminder of the once noisy, smelly, and dangerous industry. An industry that dominated the area for hundreds of years, employed over 7000 people and satisfied 50% of global demand for arsenic from one of the richest mining areas in Europe.
For those exploring the Tamar Valley, Gunnislake train station is the northernmost terminus and provides both car and bike parking. This great line connects to Plymouth via Calstock and Bere Alston - both worthy stop-off points on your adventures.
All aboard? Lets go..
Calstock - The picturesque village of Calstock, or Kalstock in Cornish, is the first stop on this very special train Line and definitely worthy of a visit.
Evidence of human settlement has been discovered at Calstock dating back to Roman times. Indeed, a Roman Fort was discovered near the Church back in 2008.
Hop off the train here as the village itself is a real riverside treat with its jumble of cottages clinging to the slope of the valley. You’ll see its boat-yards, riverside walk and surrounding pasture and woodland.
Admire the spectacular viaduct from below before rejoining the train to rumble across it.
Although now a quiet, peaceful idyll, once upon a time all the mineral produce of East Cornwall was shipped through Calstock’s quays, along the river and onward to the sea. The river would have been heaving with craft. The quay bustling with men and noise.
Calstock’s waterway orientated way of life succumbed to the railway when in 1908 it gained a direct rail link with Plymouth. Today its quiet waters are dotted with sailboats, row boats, and other pleasure craft.
Across the bridge from Calstock, the train passes into Devon and onto the magical Bere Peninsula. Hop off the train here as well, and step back a generation or two to a slower pace of life. You might even see a kettle of Red Kite or a Heron fat with fish haul himself into flight!
Bere Peninsula - The settlements of Bere Alston and Bere Ferrers are sleepy and soothing offering a gentler pace of life due in part to a complete lack of through-traffic. Folk simply don’t drive through on their way to somewhere else. Meaning quiet country lanes and an abundance of wildlife. It wasn’t always that way.
The Bere Peninsula supported a thriving silver and lead mining community for hundreds of years. The Tamar River would have been thick with boats transporting silver, timber and oak-bark.
The train offers a great vantage point from which to consume picture-postcard views of fields, trees, cottages, lanes and the River Tamar.
In case you’re wondering Bere is a Celtic word meaning spit of land which is exactly what the Parish of Bere Ferrers is.
Get back on board and leave Bere Alston station behind, the train will make its way along a massive embankment and onward through a 63 ft deep cutting to Bere Ferrers and across the Tavy Bridge with its clanking iron middle section, at the mouth of the river Tavy.
A little further on, the train might pick up some speed along a half mile embankment at the water’s edge known as the Tamerton Flat.
Enjoy spectacular views of Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge before turning inland towards Devonport and Plymouth.
Finally after a delightful 45-minute trip, your train will arrive at Plymouth Station.
Once there, take a short walk into the town centre and to a bit of shopping or wander down to the Barbican to see the Mayflower Steps.
Stop by The Box, Plymouth’s newest museum and art gallery, an ecclectic mix of maritime history and art. Plymouth has so much to offer, you will be spoilt for choice!
And then, as if that wasn't enough, do it all over again in the other direction as you rejoin the train for a great return journey home!
We are grateful to Sarah Bartlett who runs the Tamar Marketing Agency for her blog which we have adapted here. To read more about the Tamar Valley go to: www.visittamarvalley.co.uk