Family Canoeing in Devon and Cornwall with Tamar Trails

Watersports are something I loved in my 20’s but these days I’m more of a land lover.  However when the opportunity to take the family canoeing in Devon and Cornwall with Tamar Trails came up, it seemed too good a chance to miss.

Canoeing takes place in large stable boats with a single paddle. It’s a far cry from being sealed into a kayak on Lake Windermere and being forced to capsize!  No, this is all about staying dry and keeping your sandwiches out of the puddles in the bottom of the boat ready for the picnic stop.

This really is perfect for all ages and abilities, but don’t expect too much help from the little ones!

Family Canoeing in Devon and Cornwall with Tamar Trails Cotehele Quay

Testing Our Steering Skills

We were given the obligatory safety brief and fitted out with buoyancy aids,  I’m very pleased no-one needed to make use of them!

The first challenge is getting in the canoe – the second was learning to steer.  I gave this task to our eldest – it is actually harder than the instructor made it look.  We were all given the chance to do a few practice loops around the Quay area while everyone got settled into their canoes.

Cotehele Quay

The canoeing trips start at the historic Cotehele Quay.  There is plenty of parking (free for National Trust members) as well as toilets and a tea roomto use before you head off. We took the chance to have a look around Cotehele House before we went canoeing –  a fabulous Tudor mansion just up the hill that is well worth a visit.

Family Canoeing in Devon and Cornwall with Tamar Trails t

Feeling reasonably confident we set off. The trips are run at different times of day to take advantage of the tides. There were three guides with us, on hand to answer any questions about the area as well as to help out anyone struggling. You do need at least one person in each canoe with a reasonable level of fitness.

Family Canoeing in Devon and Cornwall with Tamar Trails River Tamar
The River Tamar is just 20 minutes from Plymouth and forms most of the Devon and Cornwall border. It really is a beautiful place to explore.

The River Tamar and the Tamar Valley are designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and also a World Unesco Heritage Site for it’s mining landscape.  Cornwall is historically very significant for it’s production of cooper, tin, lead and silver. It was once a wealthy area with a great deal of trade taking place along the river.  Remains of the old mine chimneys can be seen near the river, evidence of the region’s past importance.  If  you wanted  to you could paddle up to Morwellham Quay (now a tourist Victorian styled attraction) which operated as a port for over 1000 years.  If it helps think about Poldark!

Money received into the area has allowed the Valley to be developed with walking, cycling and horse riding trails. These are activities you can do independently or with Tamar Trails who offered guided trips and hire bikes.



The trip took us upstream towards Calstock , a riverside village – having not done my homework I was not expecting to see the splendid viaduct across the River. Wow – what a feet of engineering. Built in 1904 it is 37 meters high with 12 arches. The viaduct forms part of a train branch line from Gunnislake to Plymouth.

For me this was the highlight of the trip. So impressive.

Picnic Time

There was chance to stop for a rest and a picnic. The amount of time you get depends on the ability of the group (which dictates how far up stream you paddle) and also the tides. We stopped for about 10 minutes  – enough time for a much needed bar of chocolate!

Family Canoeing in Devon and Cornwall with Tamar Trails Calstock viaduct
Family Canoeing in Devon and Cornwall with Tamar Trails



Take a look at our little video of the trip.

Family Canoeing in Devon and Cornwall with Tamar Trails
Family Canoeing in Devon and Cornwall with Tamar Trails
Family Canoeing in Devon and Cornwall with Tamar Trails f

Timings and Things to Know

We arrived just before 2.30 pm as requested to get kitted up and briefed (times do vary). By the time we were all in the water ready to set off paddling it was 3pm and we arrived back at the Quay at 6.15pm.  We were pretty tired by then and there was definitely some sibling tension with regards to the ability to steer on the way back!  So make sure you allow plenty of time and enough snacks to keep the energy levels up!

We wore old loose clothes and I wore flip flops which weres perfectly suitable. We didn’t get wet apart from a bit of splashing when we moved the paddle from one side to the other. Be prepared though –  accidents can happen!  There was a watertight box for keys and phones, I managed to take my nice camera with me in a rucksack and kept it dry just by being careful.

Overall this was a really lovely trip.  It took us an hour and half to get back home to East Devon (near Honiton) so is quite do-able as a day trip from where we live.

The canoeing experiences run over Easter and throughout June, July, August and September.  You need to book in advance, which you can do by phone or email.  Trips may be cancelled if the weather is bad (ours was delayed by one day).

Thank you to Tamar Trails for inviting us on this trip, I would certainly recommend it.

Family Canoeing in Devon and Cornwall with Tamar Trails family

DISCLAIMER: We were given complimentary tickets for this experience, my review is an honest view of our trip and all opinions and photos are my own.
Tin Box Traveller
Country Kids