Beautiful Tavistock is well known by many visitors for its historic charm and stunning scenery bordering the River Tavy. However, not quite so well known are some of the walk routes that can take you from the Town Centre into the surrounding glorious Devon countryside.
This walk is a simple ‘out and back’ route which runs alongside the canal from just west of the A386 (near ‘Drake’s roundabout’) to Shillamill Viaduct before returning the way you came. You can find this point on OS Explorer Map 108, grid ref: SX 476,739.
For visitors to the Town, parking in the public car parks at the Wharf or Bedford car parks is recommended.
The viaduct is approximately one and three quarter miles from Drake’s statue so, depending on where you park, plan on a 3.5 to 4 mile walk in all.
- From the Wharf & Bedford parking, exit the car parks to join the path running alongside the River Tavy. Turn right and start heading West through the parks.
- As you pass the play parks on your right, and refreshment cabin on your left, take the diagonal tarmac path that leads away from the Tavy and heads towards the far corner of the parkland.
- You will see an underpass which leads underneath the A386 (Plymouth Road), continue along the path so you are on the West side of the A386. This is the start point and grid reference (above).
- Continue up the short slope and you will see the canal on your right. Look for an opening so you can join the tarmac path, right alongside the canal, and then simply keep walking away from the Town (with the canal on your right) until you reach the viaduct.
- Upon reaching the viaduct re-trace your steps back the way you came.
For much of the route, the track is a hard level surface however, it can narrow in places and there are some gates to open and close. Also, the route extends underneath the canopy of mature trees so there will be some leaf (and branch) litter from time to time. Nothing major to worry about but by virtue of this and the distance suitable walking footwear is recommended.
The canal can be steep sided in places with plenty of wildlife including Mare’s tail obscuring the depth of the water, keep an eye on little ones and dogs on leads if they can’t resist taking a dip or are drawn to the water’s edge!
Allow plenty of time to fully enjoy and appreciate this route, this means paying for sufficient time in the pay and display car parks if you are using them to take the time pressure off.
Why Walk Here?
This is a great walk for summer with cooling breezes and shade courtesy of the trees. You will notice the bustle and buzz of the town and traffic give way to bird song and sounds of nature.
It’s really relaxing if you can take your time to soak up the environment including ducks with their young, fish leaping out of the water to feed on surface insects and spectacularly coloured dragon and damsel flies courting on the wing all around the water course.
The route is level with the land to your left dropping away to indicate why there was a need for a viaduct. Plus, there are benches along the way to rest and nature spot as well as some prose and verse to enjoy!
The Grade 2 listed viaduct was built in 1889, spans 700 feet to a maximum height of 100 feet courtesy of 12 arches (Williams, 1973 ; Historic England, 2019). It’s an impressive sight and testament to the workmanship of those who built it 130 years ago.
Time it right (with markets, food events and opening hours) and there will be plenty of independent local refreshments and produce with which to reward yourself when you return to ‘Tavvy’.