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Cornish Times Feature July 2015

Days Out & Short Breaks – Close to Home

Staycations often prove to be the best holidays, with all the advantages of home comforts and convenience, without the hassle of foreign travel. To make life easier, we’ve put together some ideas for you, and given links to help you with directions and opening times.

Most people want to relax, refresh and restore their spirits when they go on holiday. Here in Cornwall, we’re spoilt for choice. There are brilliant things to do, and places to go, and, depending on where you live, many are easily accessible with just a short drive, or rail or boat trip.

If you want to explore somewhere new, unspoilt and uncrowded, not too far away, where life moves at a gentler pace, the intriguing Tamar Valley ticks all the boxes. Many people drive straight through it on the A30 or A38, or on the train, without realising what they’re missing. So close, but a world away, the Tamar Valley combines uniquely beautiful countryside, varied things to do and see, places to stay or eat, with ease of access.

In addition to the well-frequented north and south coasts, Cornwall effectively has an east “coast” in the form of the River Tamar. This tidal river forms the natural county boundary, with one shore in Cornwall, and the other in Devon. The surrounding Tamar Valley countryside is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and as yet, is still an undiscovered ideal holiday destination, offering a wide range of different venues, attractions and activities, for all ages.

If you’re looking for ideas for days out - country walks, eating out, boat trips, nurseries and gardens, historic houses and gardens, castles, or somewhere special for that gourmet celebration meal, then look no further. There are plenty of venues, restaurants, and country pubs in the Tamar Valley, and many are dog-friendly. You can check them out and plan your route

Here are some ideas of Places to Visit and Things to do, to get you started:

Walking, cycling, canoeing, and other activities

Lots of us love walking, and whatever our level of fitness, there is a length and pace for everyone. Try one of the many walking trails starting from the Tamar towns of Callington , Launceston , , Tavistock , and Check out the 50km Tamar Valley Discovery Trail from Launceston to Plymouth.

Or visit Gunnislake near historic Tavistock, for 25km of scenic countryside routes suitable for walkers, cyclists or horse riders. Some of these paths meander through breathtaking scenery with glorious views. They also offer Canadian canoe trips watching birds and wildlife along the tranquil banks of the beautiful Tamar River.

For the more energetic, there is a fabulous range of high adrenalin activites such as tree surfing on a high ropes course through the treetops, plus zip wires, archery, and bike hire. There is a newly opened Junior Course for 4-12 years olds, minimum height 1 meter.

Boat trips

To experience the beauty of the River Tamar first hand, you’ve got to get aboard one of the range of boats available. located near the Pilgrim Fathers Mayflower Steps on Plymouth’s historic Barbican. Choose from their scenic river cruises to Calstock with its picturesque viaduct, or Morwellham Quay setting for the TV series Victorian Farm and Heritage village, quay and mine, and part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site

There are also one-hour naval harbour, dockyard and warship cruises, with fascinating commentary about the history of the area. If that leaves you peckish, when you step ashore call into the Boathouse Café at the quayside freshly caught and cooked fish, shellfish and local produce. They also offer 3 and 4 hour general and deep water fishing trips where all equipment is provided. You can either then proudly take your catch home for supper, or they’ll cook it for you in the café – visit

Train enthusiasts

The scenic Tamar Valley Line runs between Plymouth and Gunnislake. Linking the city, river, and beautiful countryside of the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the 15 mile journey takes you over the spectacular Calstock Viaduct, giving unmissable photo-opportunities. Trains run seven days a week, all year round. All trains call at Bere Ferrers where you can alight for cream tea in a converted railway carriage- the Tamar Belle Dining Carriage and Heritage Centre

If you prefer beer to tea, try the Tamar Valley Rail Ale Trail Let the train take you on a scenic tour of real ales through the Tamar Valley, calling at a total of 20 speciality pubs. Trains run every day, all year round.

Historic Houses & Gardens

Cotehele House and Estate owned by the National Trust, and is open throughout the year. In fact the winter has becomes as much of a highlight now as the summer, thanks to the wonderful garland of dried flowers so lovingly home-grown and assembled into huge swag, each Christmas, across the high ceiling of their magnificent Tudor Great Hall.

This magical Tudor house is decorated with numerous tapestries, oak furniture, pewter, arms and suits of armour, and is definitely one of the Must Sees of the area. To enrich your visit, you can choose between multiple methods of transport – by car, train, on foot, ferry, bus or cycle –all scenic, but some more strenuous.

Their gardens are glorious at every time of the year, and there is a working water mill where you can enjoy Baking Days, buy freshly milled flour, and visit their art gallery, restaurants and well stocked shop. Their Mother Orchard is an inspiration for anyone thinking of planting one or more apple trees.

Another National Trust property is Antony House and Gardens an imposing 18th Century mansion set in beautiful landscaped gardens with views to the River Lynher. Find out about the family who became caught up in the extraordinary events of the English Civil War. Their history is bound up in this beautiful house, which is still lived in today by the Carew Pole family.

Inside, see the outstanding collection of portraits, including works by Sir Joshua Reynolds and a famous painting of Charles I during his trial, plus beautiful period furniture, textiles and tapestries. Outside, walk to Jupiter Point for magnificent countryside and river views. Explore the landscaped gardens, which include a formal garden with topiary, modern sculptures and the extensive National Collection of Daylilies. The Woodland Garden, owned and run by the Carew Pole Garden Trust, has outstanding rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and camellias.

Antony was used by director Tim Burton, as a film location for his blockbuster, Alice in Wonderland.

Buckland Abbey another historic gem in the Tamar Valley. Originally built by Cistercian monks 700 years ago, and successfully farmed for years, the abbey was spared during the Dissolution of the monasteries, and much survives intact today, including the vast Great Barn which has remained unchanged all this time, and is the largest of its type in the UK.

Buckland Abbey was once home to Sir Francis Drake, one of our famous Elizabethan seafarers. The legendary Drake’s Drum takes pride of place in the museum alongside other treasure, including a newly discovered Rembrandt.

You can walk for hours in the glorious meadows, orchards and woodlands, and enjoy far-reaching views of the Tavy Valley. The way-marked trails are a riot of colour throughout the seasons, with a spectacular carpet of bluebells in spring.

At the Cider House, herbaceous borders provide seasonal interest and a secret ‘wild’ garden is a wonderful place for quiet contemplation (or a game of hide and seek).

These are just a few ideas for possible days out in the Tamar Valley, but you’ll find plenty more, plus a map of the area, and places to eat on There are also pages on local arts and crafts, history and heritage, gardens and nurseries, walking, fishing and locally grown produce. You can even search their site for dog friendly destinations to visit, and places to stay.