Walking along the Devon side of the Tamar Valley, the river takes you south from the North Tamar lakes near Devon's north coast, along the western border of Dartmoor to Plymouth on the south coast. On the way, you'll cross miles of quiet river valley bordered with gentle rolling fields, open woodland, and in other places, impressive cliffs. It's an exciting place for walkers to explore, whether you are planning a holiday with hiking along the river and up onto Dartmoor, or a more relaxed break with a few shorter walks around the woods.
Dartmoor and Lydford
The Devon side of the Tamar valley runs close to the Dartmoor National Park, where the western edge of the moor falls away into the Tavy valley, and there are so many beautiful walks into West Devon here that it's hard to know where to begin. It's worth making a special effort at some point on your holiday to get over to explore the spectacular Lydford Gorge, where the little river Lyd bores through a deep, tree-lined ravine: the deepest gorge in southwest England.
Tavistock and West Devon's Mining Heritage
A little further south on the Devon slopes of the valley, Tavistock is a busy, pleasant little town (voted England's "Best Market Town" a few years back), bustling with small local shops and cafes. Between Tavistock and the river Tamar, strung along the Eastern shore, are the new Tamar walking trails - 25 kilometers of pathways which explore the heather and moss-filled woodlands that cover the area around which Devon's Great Consols mine once operated.
The mining industry is long gone from Devon now, but it has left behind fascinating overgrown stone buildings, chimneys, spoil heaps and walls. This area, which was once so busy with industry is now a refuge for rare birds, including the nightjar.
The winding paths through the woodlands are not too steep, though they definitely require a good pair of boots and can be muddy. Going South, these trails will lead you down eventually to Morwellham Quay, a mining World Heritage site featuring a historic port, a copper mine (with a mine tour by narrow gauge railway), working Victorian farm, heavy horses and museums of costume and mining.
The Bere Peninsula
It's not possible to walk all the way South right to Plymouth on the Devon side of the river, because the smaller river Tavy comes flowing down from the edge of Dartmoor to join the Tamar, leaving the Bere peninsula isolated between the two rivers. This makes the Bere Alston area wonderful easy walking territory: the walking is flat, (by Devon standards) there is little traffic, as it is not on the way to anywhere, and there are some excellent footpaths to explore. There are wonderful views over the Tamar and Tavy, and the Hamoaze, the stretch of water where the two rivers meet and mingle. Many wild birds can be seen in this area, including some rare migrants.
There is a train connection across the Tavy to Plymouth, so if you decide on a trip to Plymouth from this quiet area, you can catch the train at Bere Alston or Bere Ferrers and you will quickly be in the heart of the city. If you are planning a car-free holiday, the train will take you further up the Tamar too, to explore Calstock on the Cornwall side and terminating at Gunnislake. Alternatively, you can cross the Tavy on foot at Lopwell Dam and continue south along the Tamar Valley Discovery Trail to the pretty village of Tamerton Foliot on the outskirts of Plymouth.
To read about Plymouth, see our page on the Towns of the Tamar Valley.