Route Section 6:

Plymouth to St Austell

Many Cornish poems, legends and songs refer to crossing the River Tamar. The wide, attractive river valley to the west of Plymouth forms the modern council border between Devon and Cornwall – but to many Cornish it’s far more significant. It’s the border between Cornwall… and England.

So drivers should note you are not just entering another holiday area – but a county with a proud independent history and its own language.

Admittedly, at first Cornwall doesn’t feel very different. And as holiday trunk roads go, the A38 and A390 to St Austell aren’t the worst. However we suggest SW660 drivers will enjoy exploring the smaller roads to the south much more. 

The coastal stretch between Looe and Par is particularly special. The tiny undeveloped bays and rocky headlands form an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Negotiating the maze of coastal lanes here needs a bit of planning but they’ll repay it by giving access to a gorgeous untamed stretch of seashore.

Your Route

The Tamar Valley

Devon and Cornwall’s World Heritage Site

The Tamar Valley is part of one of Britain’s least known World Heritage Sites. The clumsy name hasn’t helped advertise the attractions of ‘The Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape’.

Head upstream from Plymouth to find, not just the attractive meandering wooded valley, but fascinating relics of the industrial revolution. The highlight is the restored river port at Morwellham Quay – once the centre of an international trade in arsenic, copper and lead from mines in the valley.

During your trip

Route Highlights

Rame Peninsula

The big C-shape on the map to the southwest of Plymouth is awkward to drive to because it’s one giant dead-end. But it’s worth the detour to this forgotten corner of Cornwall.


Looe is a classic small seaside resort with nautical pubs, cafes and shops in narrow streets either side of a busy harbour at the river mouth. Energetic visitors try coastpath adventures, particularly towards Polperro, and boat trips to Looe Island.


Park at the top of the pedestrianised village and walk down cobbled lanes and alleys. They lead between whitewashed fishing cottages and seafood eateries perched on cliffs around a tiny medieval harbour.


Pastel-painted terraces and narrow winding streets overlook a deep wooded estuary full of bobbing yachts and fishing boats. Between stylish bars, galleries and restaurants you can find a museum, castle and aquarium.

Eden Project

Just a mile inland from St Austell Bay there’s a chance to visit one of the UK’s most popular gardens. The futuristic domes of the Eden Project fill the crater of a former china clay quarry.

St Austell Bay

Cornwall’s biggest town has an unglamorous reputation despite interesting visitor centres at its brewery and china clay quarries. Yet the old Victorian town centre is a relaxing non-touristy place to wander.


Did you know?

Fowey is one of the most mispronounced place names. You’ll immediately betray that you are a ‘grockle’ or ‘emmet’ (local words for outsiders and holidaymakers) if you say ‘fowee’. Locals always say Foy.

Discover somewhere new

This tiny hamlet between Looe and Polperro has a small beach, mostly of shingle, so has escaped tourist development. Its remoteness meant it was big centre for smuggling and its rocks made it the scene of many shipwrecks. At low tide spot the beached remains of a French ship ‘The Margueritte’. Look out for great walks here with a couple of seasonal beach cafes for refreshments after.

Featured Accommodation

Staying in the area

Featured Venues

Local Food & Drink


Have Some Fun

Our Trusted Partners

Our Charity Partner

Get the latest news, as well as seasonal suggestions on the very best routes.