It was the Anglo-Saxon King Athelstan who declared that the River Tamar should mark the boundary between Devon and Cornwall. There has been a ferry crossing at Saltash dating back to the Norman conquest but today that same stretch of the Tamar is dominated by two impressive bridges which were built a hundred years apart. During World War Two the Royal Albert Railway Bridge stood alone, the masterpiece of the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It was a lifeline which connected the two counties despite being targeted by numerous air raids by the German Luftwaffe. The Allied forces had special boards constructed to enable vehicles to travel across the bridge if required.
Your tour will begin at the multimillion-pound Tamar Bridge Visitor Centre where you will find out about the construction and history of the two bridges. You will then walk across the cantilever section of the Tamar Road Bridge and look down 100 feet below to Saltash Passage where you will see the slipway where American troops left for the Normandy beaches on D Day in June 1944.
As you cross the Tamar Road Bridge you will get a fantastic view of the Royal Albert Bridge, the only bridge of its kind anywhere in the world. As you pass beneath the enormous pillars of the road bridge you are met by the Cornish Coat of Arms flanked by a fisherman and a miner, don’t worry you won’t need a passport! The impressive Celtic Cross which stands 20 metres high on the Cornish side then comes into view..
Its then a short walk to the Elizabethan house which was lived in by Mary Newman, the first wife of the Devon Explorer and Privateer Sir Francis Drake. Sit in its beautiful Elizabethan garden and have a traditional cream tea before walking the short distance to Waterside on the Cornish bank of the Tamar where you will appreciate the sheer scale of the two bridges at Saltash.
The final part of your tour will be a visit to the Church Town Nature Reserve which offers stunning views of Plymouth, the River Lynher and Trematon Castle. As you walk and take in these views you will hear wartime stories about the people of Saltash who were affected by this conflict being very much in the firing line so close to the Plymouth Naval Base and Devonport Dockyard.
Why not bring History alive by having your very own Isambard Kingdom Brunel to show off his amazing Royal Albert Bridge. Bespoke activities can also be provided for children which can include
sticker trails, quizzes and dressing up opportunities to enhance the experience for children of all ages. This is an optional and comes at no extra cost.
Why not make it a full Day?
Visit the gardens of Trematon Castle which dates back to shortly after the Norman conquest of England. It was constructed to control movement along the River Lynher which connects to St Germans which was an important port during the medieval period.
The castle was incorporated into the Duchy of Cornwall and granted to the Black Prince in 1337 by his father Edward lll. Much of the castle is intact despite being sacked in 1549 during a Cornish rebellion although part of the curtain wall was demolished in the early 1800s to allow the house a view of the river.
In 2012 the grounds were developed to form an attractive garden.