Tamar Valley & Tavistock Visitor Highlights
Nature and industry entwined
Set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the Tamar Valley encompasses a breathtaking landscape that is as diverse as it is historically important.
Stretching from the high granite ridge and exposed moors of Kit Hill in Cornwall to the lush, deep wooded valleys of the meandering Tamar River – and the farming lands of the Devon plateau beyond – the Area spans the border between Cornwall and Devon. In today’s tranquillity, it’s hard to imagine the noise from over 100 mines that operated at the height of its mining boom.
Tin, copper, silver-lead, and arsenic were all mined here. In places, engine houses and associated buildings are well preserved; elsewhere you’ll glimpse an occasional chimney or fragment of walling emerging through the trees.
Tavistock itself is unlike any other town within the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. The dramatic remodelling of much of the medieval town by the 7th Duke of Bedford during the mid-19th century was achieved with profits from his mines, whilst a substantial proportion of the mining workforce was housed in model cottages built within the town, at the mines and across his estate.
There is also an exceptional mineral transport network here: you’ll find an unparalleled group of industrial mineral river quays (e.g. Morwellham), a mine railway, (which served Devon Great Consols), a mineral railway (East Cornwall Mineral Railway) and a mineral canal (Tavistock Canal). The Area also has numerous mine quays, mule tracks and mine roads, many of which have now been opened up as multi-use trails for visitors.
Click here to watch a video about Tavistock and the Bedford Cottages.
- Walking or cycling the newly-opened trails around Devon Great Consols, one of the largest and most important copper and arsenic works in the Site that is now enveloped in an extensive conifer plantation
- Exploring the shops, cafés, elegant houses and villas, public buildings and museum in the attractive, thriving market town of Tavistock —extensively re-modelled in the 19th century by the 7th Duke of Bedford, using the enormous profits made from his interests in Devon Great Consols copper mine
- Riding the train on the Tamar Valley Line – the southern section of the former East Cornwall Minerals Railway. This runs through the Tamar Valley’s breathtaking scenery, over the stunning Tavy and Calstock viaducts, and through some of the key mining sites and communities
- Gazing out across the magnificent panoramas from the top of Kit Hill. Look northwards across the sweeping landscape of north Cornwall and north Devon; southwards across rich farmland to the waters of Plymouth Haven shining in the distance; or westwards towards Caradon Hill and Bodmin Moor crowning the horizon
- Discovering the magical house, gardens, woodlands, and riverside walks and quays of Cotehele, the historic seat of the Edgcumbe family
Did you know?
The big boom
The 7th Duke of Bedford reputedly earned over £2 million (equivalent to £165 million today) from the Tamar Valley mining boom.
Did you know?
Devon Great Consols and Gawton mines were supplying half of the world’s arsenic by the end of the 19th century.