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Exploring the Cotehele estate

The Quay on the Tamar River at dawn, at Cotehele, near Saltash, Cornwall
The quay on the Tamar River at dawn | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Open from dawn to dusk, the Cotehele estate boasts 526 hectares (1,300 acres) of woodland and fields where you can find all sorts of flora and fauna. Look out for the historic chapel in the woods, the resident bats and the views from the 18th-century Prospect Tower. Plus, the grounds are home to Cotehele Quay, which was once a bustling Victorian wharf.

Chapel in the Wood

You'll find the Chapel in the Wood overlooking the river at the bottom of the Valley Garden. It marks the spot where Sir Richard Edgcumbe, the 15th-century courtier, made a narrow escape from King Richard III’s men in 1483.

Prospect Tower

It’s believed that the Prospect Tower was erected to commemorate King George III’s visit to Cotehele in 1789. No one knows its intended purpose, but it’s possible that the tower was built simply as an eye-catching structure that could also act as a signalling tower when needed.

View from the Terrace at Cotehele, near Saltash, Cornwall, over the Valley Garden and to the viaduct
View from the terrace at Cotehele | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Cotehele Mill

From Cotehele Quay you can walk about half a mile along Morden Stream to find Cotehele Mill. The path goes through the woodland, where the leaves turn and fall with the seasons, and where the ground is mostly level and wide enough for pushchairs, wheelchairs and the whole family.

For a quiet stroll, take the turning from the mill up towards the weir where you can listen to the water flowing.

Cotehele weir update

Until recently the mill was powered by water that flowed from a nearby weir. However, the weir was washed away by flooding so Cotehele is unable to mill flour at the moment.

Spotting bats

The UK is reportedly home to 17 species of bat and eight of those have been found in recent surveys on the Cotehele estate. They tend to roost in hollowed trees, the eaves of holiday cottages and limekilns on Cotehele Quay. Colonies of lesser horeshoe bats also roost in some of the house’s chimneys.

Other species that have been recorded at Cotehele include pipistelle, noctule, natter’s and daubenton’s. Daubenton’s are also known as ‘water bats’ and can be seen catching insects from the water’s surface.

Bats throughout the seasons

Bats hibernate over the winter, which helps them save energy at a time when it’s cold and there’s less food available. Spring, however, is a busy time for the small flying mammals. They come out of hibernation around March and April, both hungry and active.

They busy themselves hunting for insects and, by May, the females are roosting in maternity colonies, preparing to have their pups.

Where and when to spot bats

Spring is the best time to spot bats, particularly while they’re out hunting in the early evening. As the days get longer into the summer they’ll emerge later at night.

The best place to spot bats is down on Cotehele Quay in the evening, where you can watch them swooping overhead and feeding on the river. Each species can be identified from their unique high frequency, which they emit while flying. A bat detector can help you know which bat is which from the sound it makes.

Explore Cotehele Quay

The Cotehele Quay on the banks of the River Tamar was once a busy working quay where goods were shipped to and from Plymouth. Today it's a historic site for all to enjoy.

A starting point for adventure

It’s also a starting point to explore the many miles of footpaths around the wider Cotehele estate and where the Victorian Tamar sailing barge, Shamrock, can be seen.

As well as footpaths and the historic sailing barge, Cotehele Quay also has the Tamar river, which offers its own exciting activities.

Water sports at Cotehele Quay

Canoe, kayak and paddleboard owners can launch from the slipways on Cotehele Quay. For small vessels, such as canoes, kayaks and paddleboards, we ask for a donation of £2 per vessel is payable for use of the slipway. This can be paid by coins at the car park machine.

Be sure to park at the quay car park, use the pay and display machine, and carry the equipment from there. If the quay is busy and there's nowhere to park in the quay car park please turn around and try again at a quieter time.

Misty morning light in November at the quay at Cotehele, Cornwall
Misty morning light at the quay at Cotehele, Cornwall | © National Trust Images/Tamsin Holmes

Cotehele’s woodland

The Cotehele estate includes 111 hectares (274 acres) of mixed woodland, which is home to oak, ash, sweet chestnut, sycamore and beech trees, with an understory of hazel and holly.

Cotehele’s woodland grows on the steep sloped valley sides along the River Tamar and are extremely varied in character. There are ancient woodland sites, like Bohetherick, to old mining and gardening areas that have only been reverted to woodland in the last six or seven decades, like the Danescombe Valley.

Visitors exploring the garden in spring at Cotehele, Cornwall

Discover more at Cotehele

Find out when Cotehele is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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Dogs are welcome to join you at Cotehele. There are miles of paths and loads of space where they can stretch their legs and bowls of clean water once they’re thirsty. Cotehele is a two pawprint rated place.

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