Select Page

Family Canoeing with Tamar Trails

Family Canoeing with Tamar Trails

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

About The Author


Whether you are on holiday, recently moved to the region or like me live here and realise that there are great places a just few miles away that seem to have passed you by, then I hope you enjoy reading this.


  1. Lucy Mackcracken

    Fantastic photos of you all having fun, and I love the beautiful viaduct. Thanks for introducing a new idea of things to do with children, definitely helped give me confidence that water sports can be suitable for little ones #countrykids

  2. Coombe Mill

    What a great activity, I bet mine would jump on the opportunity to do this as they loved it when we went in France. You all look like you had a fantastic time moseying down the river discovering the views from a new perspective. It’s great that no one fell in and you all made it back to the quay reasonably dry, I bet the kids all want to go again!

    Thanks for linking up with me on #CountryKids.

    • mm

      It really was lovely and a great place to explore.

  3. Anne

    This looks so much fun. My kids have been canoeing on a lake but they didn’t have to go very far and they had an instructor with them. They’ve always wanted to go back.


  4. Debra Skittrall

    Fantastic afternoon having never canoed before felt ill to start off with as was concerned I wasn’t going to be able to do this. With instructions from our guides and godson’s I survived and want to go again was hard work but well worth it and good fun.

    • mm

      It was good fun and yes hard work! Lovely to met you.

  5. Elizabeth (Wander mum)

    What a fun activity to do as a family. It’s definitely something I’d like to do when the kids are a bit older do great to read about your experience! Well done on keeping your camera dry too. #countrykids

  6. Cheryl TimeToCraft

    This is definitely on our to-do list. Lovely area as well. #CountryKids

  7. Zenbabytravel

    This looks lovely, pinning for next year when hopefully our youngest cheeky monkey will be grown up & reasonable enough. Thanks for sharing Clare! #countrykids

    • mm

      Thank you for stopping by!

  8. Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love)

    That looks and sounds like so much fun. The viaduct is beautiful. It’s good to know that this is an activity that all ages can enjoy too 🙂 #countrykids

  9. Annette, Four Acorns / Quatre graines de chêne

    Fabulous outing! Feeling ever so slightly envious as canoeing is something I’ve wanted to do as a family for a long time,but it seems my little one,aged 4, is still too young for it.

    • Sara

      Says age 3+. We’re taking our 4yo soon.

  10. Emma-EttieandMe

    This looks amazing and SO MUCH FUN!! definitely adding it to my bucket list of things to do! We canoed down the Dordogne and it was fabulous! Happy to see its just as much fun in England!x

    • mm

      It really was great but surprisingly tiring! Thank you for looking.

  11. Sarah Stockley

    It looks fab. I love passing this area on the train before when we’ve been headed to Cornwall. I tried this when I was 12 and my steering was terrible. What a great expereince. Sarah #ExplorerKids

  12. Pippa Vincent

    Glad to have found your review Clare, just looking into a family canoeing trip for my husband’s birthday next weekend! x


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

About Clare

Clare Flipflops or WelliesHi! I am Clare and I live in glorious East Devon with my family. I love finding new places to explore in the West Country as well as further afield. I hope you enjoy reading and taking inspiration from my blog.

For News & Top Tips

Go Ape Haldon Forest

Canoeing with Tamar Trails

OS Maps

august, 2019

27jul(jul 27)10:00 am03aug(aug 3)10:00 pmLyme Regis Lifeboat WeekA Week of Family Fun

28jul(jul 28)11:00 am04aug(aug 4)4:00 pmEast Devon Heath WeekFamily Activities

01aug8:00 am6:00 pmHoniton ShowFarming, Food, Crafts and more

02aug(aug 2)12:00 pm09(aug 9)10:00 pmSidmouth Folk Festival 2018Music, dance and song

03aug(aug 3)10:00 am10(aug 10)8:00 pmLyme Regis Carnival and RegattaFun Events All Week

04aug11:00 am4:00 amMunchkins Miniature Shetland Rescue CentreOpen Day and Fun Dog Show

09aug(aug 9)10:00 am17(aug 17)5:00 pmOtter Vale Art ExhibitionOttery St Mary

14aug2:00 pm5:00 pmSouthleigh Country FayreTraditional Country Fair

17aug(aug 17)10:00 am26(aug 26)6:00 pmArt Exhibition in Budleigh SaltertonLocal artists

17aug12:00 pm5:00 pmDalwood FairTraditional Village Fete

22aug8:30 am6:00 pmThe Melplash ShowA one day agricultural show

23aug(aug 23)5:00 pm25(aug 25)3:00 pmSidmouth Regatta and AirshowAir and Sea Displays

24aug(aug 24)9:00 am25(aug 25)5:00 amHoniton Hill RallySteam and Tractors Galore

24aug2:00 pm7:30 pmBeer BitesFood Festival By the Sea

26aug2:00 pm4:30 pmHawkchurch Village FeteTraditional Village Fair

29aug01sepBournemouth Air FestivalFree Family Event

30aug01sepLyme Folk WeekendMusic in Lyme Regis

31aug5:30 pm9:00 pmCanonteign Falls Open Air Theatre

Recent Tweets

Trips 100

Trips100 - Travel Blogs




Follow Me on BlogLovin


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This