Indulge in the riverside charm and natural splendor of Calstock, a hidden gem nestled in south east Cornwall. Discover the picturesque village adorned with historic buildings, breathtaking landscapes, and scenic views of the River Tamar.
The Tamar River is navigable for another three miles past Calstock, but most craft turn around once they reach the village. In the past the river would have been busy with boats shipping copper ore downstream and bringing limestone up. One of the last remaining Tamar sailing barges, the Shamrock, is slowly being restored on the quayside at Cotehele, in the hope that she will one day sail down the river again.
The National Trust’s Cotehele estate is a short walk from Calstock and a must visit if you are in the area. As well as extensive grounds running down to the river, the Tudor house will take you back in time with its tapestries and great hall. Visit around Christmas time to view the garland, a huge ‘rope’ of dried flowers that runs from one end of the hall to the other. Made up of up to between 20,000 to 35,000 flowers and each year different, it’s very much part of Christmas in the Tamar Valley.
The river passes orchards that were once prime growing land for fruit including strawberries, apples and cherries. At Halton Quay you can experience the peacefulness of the valley as you stand and watch the river flow past, heading for Pentillie, a mile further on. Public access is only on open days, but you can stay in the castle and explore the grounds, and pretend you own one of the finest parts of Cornwall.
Across the border
With the river marking the boundary between Cornwall and Devon, it would be wrong of Visit Cornwall to presume everybody staying in Calstock won’t at some point stray into Devon. The railway (The Tamar Valley Line) crosses the river 120 feet above the village and heads onto the Bere Peninsula where it stops at two pretty villages, Bere Alston and Bere Ferrers, both wonderful places for country walks.
Upstream from Calstock is the village of Gunnislake. Here 16th century bridge crosses the river, the lowest spot to cross until the Tamar Bridge was built at Saltash in 1961. From the river the road climbs with the remains of Devon Great Consols on the left, a very rich mining area in the 19th century. The copper mined here was shipped out from Morwellham Quay, on the river between Calstock and Gunnislake and now a tourist attraction.
The nearby market town of Tavistock became rich on the mining money and is a pleasant place to visit. It sits beside the River Tavy and in its centre is the covered pannier market, featuring an ever changing wealth of stalls selling everything from hats to cakes. Tavistock is also the gateway to Dartmoor National Park which is only a few miles out of town, and one of the wildest parts of South-west England.
In and around
The village lies within the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is also part of the Cornwall & West Devon World Heritage Site for its mining heritage. Children will enjoy the ship-themed play area down by the river whilst enjoying an ice cream, mum and dad might prefer one of the local café’s or pubs!
Nearby you will discover everything from donkey sanctuaries to world class golf courses. The Kit Hill Country Park offers great walks with fantastic views over much of East Cornwall and into Devon. Calstock has a thriving community of musicians and regular concerts take place in the old Methodist chapel overlooking the river.
The Tamar River forms the boundary between Cornwall and Devon for all but a handful of miles near the north coast, east of Bude. It flows into Plymouth Sound where it is joined by the rivers Tavy, Plym and Lynher.
Plan your trip
Everything you need to know to plan your perfect trip to Calstock
Coming by car, from the end of the M5 at Exeter follow the A38 to Plymouth and then across the Tamar Bridge into Cornwall. Go through the tunnel and climb to a roundabout. Go right here towards Callington on the A388.
All roads to the right lead towards the villages of the Tamar Valley but to reach Calstock it is easiest to continue to Callington and take the A390 towards Gunnislake and Tavistock.
Look out for signs to Calstock on the right and be prepared for narrow lanes!
Parking is available right down on the riverside.
Alternatively you can come via the A30 to Launceston then turn onto the A388 heading south, or you can drive across Dartmoor to Tavistock.
Calstock is served by the No79 bus that runs between Callington and Tavistock. (2022)
National Express stop in Plymouth from where a train can be caught to Calstock.
The Tamar Vally Line runs from Plymouth to Gunnislake, stopping at Calstock.
The Tamar Valley runs between Devon and Cornwall in south west England. The Tamar River being the official boundary for all but three miles in the far north of the county.
Calstock is on the Tamar Valley line which runs out of Plymouth. It stops at Bere Ferres and Bere Alston on the Devon side, before crossing over the river to Calstock on the viaduct that dominates the village. From here it continues to its final destination, Gunnislake.
Yes, and we would recommend it! In fact it's probably the best way to explore the river.
However, be careful of tides and mudflats. The last 19 miles of the river is tidal, from just below Gunnislake down past Calstock and onwards. Make sure you check the tide timetable before heading out. You should also be aware of weather conditions, especially wind when in the wider sections heading down towards Saltash.
Upstream from Gunnislake there are several weirs which have to be shot or avoided by carrying your kayak around. This stretch, up to Horsebridge is classed as Grade 2, meaning there may be waves and eddies caused by rocks that will need to be navigated around.
A popular day out is from Calstock and takes you to Morwhellam Quay and back. Leave Calstock about one and a half to two hours before high tide. This should give you plenty of time to reach the historic port at Morwellham on the rising tide before returning on the ebbing tide.
The Tamar Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) straddles the border between Cornwall and Devon and covers around 75 square miles of the lower Tamar River (below Launceston) and its tributaries. Apart from a few well known areas around the villages of Calstock and Gunnislake, it is often a very quiet area.
Visitors willing to explore country lanes and secluded footpaths will discover a different side of Cornwall than the one they are used to. Away from the beaches and attractions they will find orchards and meadows, industrial heritage and wide waterside vistas.
Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the main resorts, you will find farmhouse B&B's, up-market self-catering and village pubs oozing charm. At the same time, towns like Launceston and Tavistock offer modern shopping centres alongside local produce.
Yes, and it's a lovely walk!
Park down by the river and after buying an ice cream continue downriver passing underneath the railway viaduct. You will pass old Lime Kilns on your right, a reminder of when Calstock was an important port, lime being brought up from Plymouth to spread on the fields as a fertilizer.
At Danescombe a path branches off up a valley where there are several mine buildings dating back to the 1800s.
From Danescombe the path climbs up through the woods, branching right to reach Cotehele House. You can carry on dropping down to Cotehele Quay.
To the house or the quay is about a mile and a half.
Discover your Cornwall
Long sandy beaches, hidden coves, rugged moorland, quaint fishing villages, deep wooded valleys, bustling seaside resorts, industrial heritage, rocky headlands, colourful gardens, idyllic rivers and a bijou city, Cornwall has a bit of everything for those who want to explore.
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