Tamar Valley AONB

Tamar Valley AONB, Cornwall and Devon, England
Tamar Valley AONB © http://www.landscapesforlife.org.uk

Tamar Valley – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is located in the counties of Cornwall and Devon in south west England. The area was first designated a AONB back in 1995, the area covers over just 200 square kilometres; making it one of the newer and more compact AONBs. The Tamar Valley is well known for the valleys of Tamar, Tavy and Lynher, water landscapes, woodlands, tranquillity, wildlife habitats and heritage.

The local population of approx 27,000 live in local villages and towns located across the AONB such as Gunnislake, Calstock and Dunterton. The area covered under the AONB designation covers an area starting from close to Launceston in the north to Yelverton in the east to Callington in the west to Plymouth in the south. The area is of national importance for nature conservation and includes of Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI), Scheduled Monuments and County Wildlife Sites.

The key features and special qualities of the Tamar Valley AONB include the water landscapes, range of wildlife habitats, landscapes of high visual quality and enduring artistic appeal, cultural heritage and historical sites and settlements. The area is important for wildlife and habitats with a number of protected sites. The key features combined with the tranquillity and largely unspoilt nature of the site and open and extensive views makes the area special.

The main industries in the AONB include farming, agriculture and tourism. The area is a popular place for visitors and attracts visitors for day trips, short breaks, holidays and for a number of recreational activities. There are a number of scenic historic villages and towns located in the AONB, including Gunnislake and Calstock. Main settlements located close by include Launceston, Saltash and the City of Plymouth.

The area is popular for outdoor activities wildlife watching, horse riding, walking and cycling with a range of routes and trails to explore. Visitors can enjoy the natural environment and scenic landscapes that are among the finest in England.

Quick Facts

Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty:

Year of Designation: 1995

Population: 27,000 (approx)

Size in square kilometres: 190

Highest Elevation: Kit Hill (333 Metres)
Scheduled Monuments: 27

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI): 7
County Wildlife Sites: 41
Main Settlements close by: Plymouth, Tavistock, Launceston and Saltash

Located in: Cornwall and Devon.


The Tamar Valley AONB is located along the Devon and Cornwall border in south east England. The AONB includes the lower reaches and tributaries of three rivers ; Tamar, Tavy and Lynher. The AONB is just under 200 square kilometres in size made up of rivers, estuaries and countryside. The AONB is known for its woodland which covers 20% of the total area whilst 16.5% of the AONB is located inside the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site.

The location of the Tamar Valley in the south west of England provides visitors with a scenic haven away from the traffic and congestion of built up southern England, visitors can discover some inspiring views, attractive market towns and enjoy the natural environment.

The AONB is known for the valleys of Tamar, Tavy and Lynher, unspoiled water landscape evidence of an English lowland river system, the landscapes on both micro and panoramic levels are exceptional and incorporate a number of lanes, high hedged banks and small fields. The AONB is located close on the Devon and Cornwall border; the area is a popular day trip and short breaks destination.

The AONB includes a number of settlements, the AONB area itself does not include any major towns or cities falling within the AONB boundary, local settlements include as Gunnislake, Calstock and Dunterton; visitors can discover a number of charming, historic market towns and villages.

The Tamar Valley AONB has a rich history and packs in various landscapes for a compact area; the area is of national importance for its landscape, ecology and geology. Local towns located close to the AONB border include the City of Plymouth, Launceston, Saltash and Tavistock. The local towns provide convenient places from which visitors can tour the Tamar Valley AONB and surrounding areas in Devon and Cornwall.

The Area of Outstanding Beauty area enjoys a similar level of protection given to National Parks meaning commercial development in the AONB area has been limited in order to help protect and maintain the special qualities of the area. The area offers plenty for visitors to enjoy, the proximity of the Tamar Valley to nearby Dartmoor National Park to the east and Bodmin Moor part of Cornwall AONB to the west means time permitting visitors could explore all three in a trip to south west England.

The location in the south west of England means the AONB is easily assessable from across the south west and south east England, the Midlands, East of England and Wales. From Newcastle, Durham and much of north east England the area is 6.5 to 7.5 hours by car, from Leeds it is 5.5 hours by car, from Birmingham and much of the Midlands it is 3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours 30 minutes. From Liverpool and Manchester it is approx 5 hours to 5 hours 30 minutes.

From Cambridge and much of the East of England it is 5 to 6 hours by car. From South Wales it is 4 hours to 4 hours 30 minutes by. From London and much of southern England it is 4 to 5 hours 30 minutes drive by car.

Tourist Information Centres and information points are located at various locations close by to the Tamar Valley AONB. There are centres located in Launceston and Looe close by to the Tamar Valley AONB, the main tourist information centre for the Tamar Valley is the Tamar Valley Centre located in Drakewalls close to Gunnislake. The tourist information centres can provide visitors with useful information, help, advice and tips on the AONB area and the surrounding areas.

Each of the tourist information centres has knowledgeable staff with valuable local knowledge with information on local attractions, places of interest, things to see and do, along with local advice and tips. A visit to the tourist information centres provides a good first port of call for visitors helping to better plan and organise trips in and around the local area. At the centres visitors can find out about local events, public transport options and accommodation facilities.

Local Accommodation includes a range of hotels including historic and contemporary, B & B’s, Guest Houses, Self Catering houses, holiday homes and cottages. Local accommodation is available in Gunnislake, Calstock and Dunterton. Towns located in the area including Launceston, Saltash, Tavistock and the City of Plymouth, provide good access to local facilities and accommodation from which to explore the AONB and the surrounding local areas in Surrey and southern England.

The Tamar Valley AONB is a place where visitors can enjoy landscapes with inspiring natural scenery in a compact area and panoramic views where it is possible to get away from it all. There are a number of small dispersed settlements in the AONB, many of the towns and villages in the AONB have preserved their history, traditions and heritage and visitors can explore a number of local attractions and places of interest.

Local Towns and Villages include Launceston located north of the AONB area next to the River Tamar, 15 miles to the north of Gunnislake in Cornwall. Launceston is a popular market town that has been referred to as 'the gateway to Cornwall' known for its regular markets and interesting independent shops along with a choice of cafes and restaurants.

Local attractions include Launceston Castle dates back to over 1,000 years, the Norman castle has a motte-and-bailey design. Located on a large natural mound the imposing castle dominates the local landscape. Visitors can go to the top of the tower at the castle to see and enjoy some breathtaking views over the historic market town and the surrounding countryside. Visitors can see the displays at the castle that explore 1,000 years of history at the castle.

Other attractions in the town include the Church of St Mary Magdalene; the Tudor church dates back to the 16th century and is famous for its impressive carvings in granite. The Lawrence House Museum dates back to the 18th century, the elegant Georgian house is under the guardianship of the National Trust. It is currently used as both a civic centre and the local museum; local history is chronicled over three floors in the building. Highlights include the Victorian kitchen and a range of costumes dating from back to the 18th century up to the 1960s.

The Charles Causley Festival is an annual music, poetry and performing arts festival that takes place in June each year. The festival celebrates the finest in the fields of literature and the performing arts taking place in the historic town centre of Launceston. Activities include guided town walks, book signings, music and readings appealing to a range of ages and tastes.

Tavistock is a historic market town located 5 miles to the west of Gunnislake in Devon. Historically the town was once a booming mining town; the River Tavy flows through the town; the town is still an active market town hosting regular markets on Fridays with other specialist markets also found specialising in crafts and antiques. The town includes a number of independent shops including a number of food shops.

Local attractions include Buckland Abbey, located a few miles south of Tavistock; the historic building is managed by the National Trust and is well known for its association with Sir Francis Drake who was born in Tavistock. Highlights inside the abbey include The Drake Chamber, Drake's Drum, the dining room and the chapel. The rooms include a number of artefacts and historical features and treasures. There are number of displays and exhibitions in the museum to see. The gardens provide a fine place to enjoy a relaxing stroll, gardens include the Abbey garden and Elizabethan garden.

Other attractions include the Devon Great Consols mine located a few miles away, now part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site. Historically the mine was once one of the largest copper mines in the world; producing close to half of the world's arsenic.

The town hosts the annual Goose Fair that dates back to the 12th century. Held on the second Wednesday of October each year, the fair attracts market traders from across the UK selling their goods and has evolved to become a social event. Visitors can see the various stalls, enjoy some of the rides and entertainment and experience a range of food and drinks.

Saltash is located 13 miles south of Gunnislake at the southern edge of the AONB. It is the largest town on the Cornish side of the Tamar Valley and is located on the west bank of the River Tamar. Historically the town became a main crossing point on the lower Tamar. The town is also known as the 'gateway to Cornwall', the town is a popular place for yacht and dinghy racing, including at the Saltash Town Regatta that is held in the summer.

Saltash includes a thriving town centre where visitors will find a number of shops with a range of facilities and amenities including local accommodation. There are a choice of pubs, cafes and restaurants serving a choice of cuisines. Local attractions include the Royal Albert Bridge dating back to the 19th century; Isambard Kingdom Brunel design is regarded as a masterpiece of design and engineering, visitors can enjoy some splendid views from the pedestrian walkway of the Tamar Road Bridge.

Plymouth is located 20 miles to the south of Gunnislake next to the southern boundary of the AONB area. The city of Plymouth is he only city located in the area and is located between the River Tamar to the west and the River Plym to the east. east of Guildford in Surrey. A historic market town, Dorking is located next to the AONB and is surrounded by the scenic wooded Tamar Valley. The city is know for its lively nightlife and is home to one of the largest universities in the UK, the University of Plymouth.

Local attractions include the National Marine Aquarium, the Plymouth Gin Distillery home of the well known Plymouth Gin and the Mayflower Steps close to the area where the Pilgrim Fathers left England in 1620 for the New World. Plymouth Hoe is an open area that overlooks the harbour of Plymouth Sound, the area is popular for sunbathing and picnics. Shopping facilities include the Drake Circus Shopping Centre. Cultural venues include the Theatre Royal, one of the largest regional theatres in the UK.

The city includes a range of shops, outlets, facilities and local amenities along with local accommodation making it a popular place for visitors to base themselves from exploring both the AONB area and the surrounding areas in Cornwall.

Morwellham Quay is located a few miles to the south of Gunnislake within the AONB area and is also part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site. Located in the heart of the Tamar Valley; the location offers a scenic setting with farmland and cliffs. Visitors can experience the open air museum that takes visitors back to the 1860s; allowing them to explore the copper mine and discover the Riverside Railway.

The Victorian Farm and nature reserve offers the best in the tranquil English countryside, whilst the museum includes the restored 19th century village, the quays and docks. History is brought back to life at Morwellham Quay offering a interesting and educational day out for the whole family.

Cotehele House is located a few miles to the south of Gunnislake in the AONB. The historic house is the ancestral home of the Edgcumbe family. The Tudor hose is located above he River Tamar and is well known for its impressive collections f old oak furniture, tapestries and arms and armour. Visitors can tour the house and see the impressive collections in the rooms. The gardens include the Valley Garden which includes the stewpond and dovecote whilst the Upper Garden is the place to go for tranquillity.

The gardens offer something for visitors all year round with early spring flowers, herbaceous borders in the summer to orchards in the autumn and snow drops in the winter making it a great place to visit year round. Other attractions include the quay where visitors can see the Discovery Centre and the Mill that dates back to the 19th century; the working water mill still produces flour every Thursday and Sunday.

Kit Hill Country Park is a 400 acre park located a few miles from Gunnislake in Cornwall. The country park offers visitors a great place to enjoy a wide range of activities including picnics, kite flying and wildlife watching. The site has been influenced by over 5,000 years of human settlement and has been used for agriculture and its minerals and stones. The hill is home to a wide array of fauna and flora. The park is located between Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor and is on of the defining and most recognisable landscapes in East Cornwall.

There is a walking trail with a way-marked trail a d a horse trail for visitors to try. The hill is home to a wide range of mammals, birds and reptiles including skylarks, stonechats and tree pipits with birds of prey evident including kestrel and buzzards. The park offers a scenic getting and the best of the great outdoors for visitors to enjoy in a scenic and serene environment.

Walking offers visitors the most cost effective and environmentally friendly ways to discover the AONB and the surrounding areas, there are a number of popular walks in the area for visitors to try. The Tamar Valley AONB includes a choice of landscapes and terrain, offering shorter and longer walks for walkers of all abilities. The area includes some of the most scenic and assessable countryside in southern England.

Walks include the Discovery Trail, a 35 mile trail from Plymouth to Launceston going through some of the finest scenery in the AONB including woodland, river quays and local villages. The route is varied and supports local villages along the way offering a great way to see the local area.

Cycling provides both a cost effective and environmentally friendly way to explore the Tamar Valley AONB. There are a number of quiet country lanes, bridleways, tracks and more challenging terrain making the area suitable for cyclists of all abilities. There are a number of cycle routes in the area these include; the Tamar Trails Centre includes 25km of trails where visitors can explore the heart of the Tamar Valley.

Visitors to the Tamar Valley AONB in the south west of England will find a quiet, scenic area that retains its historic character and charm. Visitors can explore a number of historic villages, market towns in and around the AONB. A visit to the Tamar Valley AONB offers visitors some of England's most scenic countryside and water landscapes whilst enjoying the natural environment.

How to Get There

The Tamar Valley AONB is accessible by both car and public transport.

By Car:

The village of Gunnislake in Cornwall Guildford is located in the AONB area; providing a convenient located from which to explore the area with a choice of accommodation, facilities and local amenities. Located approx 240 miles from central London. From London take the A4 then the M4 up to junction 20 and exit on to the M5 towards Bristol (West). Then continue on the M5 up to the junction of the A30 and exit on to the A30 towards Bodmin. Then take the A386 towards Tavistock and then exit on to the A390 that goes to Gunnislake. The approx journey time is 4 hours 15 minutes 5 hours depending on traffic and time of day.

By Train:

From London Paddington station there are regular services to Plymouth train station and from Plymouth there are regular services to Gunnislake train station. The journey time is approx 4 hours 30 minutes to 5 hours, depending on service, connections and time of day. Services from Plymouth to Gunnislake are on the Tamar Valley Line for more information please see Tamar Valley Line

By Bus/Coach:

There are regular coaches available from London Victoria Coach station to Plymouth. The approx journey time is 5 hours depending on connections, time of day and traffic. From Plymouth there are train services available to Gunnislake station in the AONB. Coach services to Plymouth are provided by National Express

Contact Details

Tamar Valley AONB
Tamar Valley Centre
Cemetery Road
Near Gunnislake
PL18 9FE

Telephone: +44 (0)1372 220653

Website: Tamar Valley AONB


For Local Search and Directions see: Tamar Valley (AONB) Map

Tips & Other Considerations

The weather and climate can be unpredictable, there can be elements of all four seasons in one day. Ensure you check the weather forecast before you travel and have the correct clothing and footwear including comfortable walking shoes, fleece, raincoat and umbrella.

Follow travel advice and remain alert, vigilant and aware of your belongings at all times especially your wallet/purse and valuables and ensure they are hidden away from public view. If you have a bag try to use a shoulder bag with a good quality, strong strap, that is put across your shoulder not on your shoulder making it more difficult for anyone to take your bag.

If you are travelling by car to the Tamar Valley AONB in the south west of England ensure you are well prepared with maps and Sat Nav to aid your journey, particularly if you are not familiar with the local area and roads. Use the journey planner for door to door directions. Check traffic updates before you travel.

If you are looking for car parking in and around the AONB, ensure you fully understand the rules, regulations & charges for car parks and street parking. The rules & regulations can be complex & confusing if you are unclear, it is wise not to park there.

If you are travelling by public transport, check for service updates prior to beginning your journey for any delays, disruption or cancellations to services that may impact on your journey. Ensure you have the service timetables for the trains, trams, buses and coaches. Remember when the last services are and ensure you make it to the train/bus/coach stops well in time to avoid missing the service.

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