The historical Cornish town of Saltash is an exquisite blend of 'now and then'. The modern Saltash as we see today, has an absorbing history in its every corner. Situated right on the edge of Cornwall, this Cornish town is known as The Gateway Of Cornwall.
Saltash faces Plymouth across the River Tamar, separated by the Royal Albert Bridge. It is connected by road as well as train. Tourists driving down from Plymouth will have to take the Tamar Bridge but travellers arriving by train will get a chance to embark upon the historical Royal Albert Bridge. The Union Inn with its Union Jack facade is a difficult thing to miss when you cross the Royal Albert Bridge.
The first attempt to link Cornwall with the rest of UK by rail was in 1846. It was decided that a rail bridge be constructed to replace the ferry. Isambard Kingdom Brunel, an engineer with tremendous repute, was assigned the challenging task to design the historic Royal Albert Bridge. The 2,187 feet (0.67 kilometres) Royal Albert Bridge that spans river Tamar, supports the Cornish Main Line railway. Conceived in 1848, the plan to construct the bridge was put into implementation in 1854. After a test run on 11th April 1859, the bridge was officially declared open on 2nd May 1859 by His Royal Highness Prince Albert. Sadly, Isambard Kingdom Brunel couldn't attend the opening due to ill health. He died a year later. Now … Then …. And forever, The Royal Albert Bridge will continue to amaze us with its history, heritage and engineering brilliance.
The villages of Trematon and Burraton are the earliest settlements of this region. About half a mile from Trematon village, The Trematon Castle is a prominent feature of Saltash. The huge castle overlooking Plymouth spreads over nine acres. It is believed that just after the Norman conquest, Robert Count of Mortain built this fabulous castle on the ruins of an earlier Roman fort. Trematon Castle is noted for its history and engineering. The hilltop castle's oval stone keep is 10 feet (ca. 3 metres) thick and 30 feet (ca. 9 metres) high, with an internal diameter of around 21 metres. The rectangular Gatehouse, built in 1270 for the 'Black Prince' Edward, Prince of Wales, adds charm to the historic structure.
A part of the original castle was brought down to make way for a Georgian house that stands within the internal courtyard of the castle. The 1808 Georgian house consists of 4 reception halls, 6 bedrooms and servant quarters.
Trematon Castle, which has remained the property of the Earls and Dukes of Cornwall since 1270, has an interesting story to reveal. In 1580, Sir Francis Drake returned to Plymouth from his circumnavigation expedition. He anchored his ship laden with gold, silver and precious gems, behind St Nicholas Island until orders from Queen Elizabeth's Court came out to stack the treasure at Trematon Castle. Later the treasure, a result of piracy from Spanish ships along the west coast of America, was transferred to the Tower of London.
There is an undeniable link between the history of Saltash and its river. The Tamar River has been in thick of things and played a substantial part during England's mining and industrial boom. During suitable tides, the river is navigable up to the Tamar valley of Calstock and Cotehele. This route was followed in the 19th century to ship copper ore from Gunnislake and other parts of the Tamar valley region. Today, the historic riverside is decked up with cafés, pubs and restaurants. It is also an open air performance space for street entertainers. Canoeing trips on the river Tamar are very popular tourist activity.
Even though there is no concrete evidence, it is assumed that the cottage belonged to Sir Francis Drake's first wife, Mary Newman. Dating back to 1480, Mary Newman’s Cottage is the oldest building in Saltash. The beautiful cottage, looking down on river Tamar, is now a place of interest for tourists. The garden adjacent to the cottage with rose, lavender, lily and others flowers, make this place lovable. It is an ideal place to relax and rejuvenate yourself. The interiors of the cottage, furnitures and costumes give us an in depth knowledge of how things were during those days.
Other places of interest in and around Saltash are the ancient Norman churches of St. Nicholas and St. Faith. The 15th century St. Stephen Church, a mile from the town centre, is also worth visiting for its history. Saltash Museum and Local History, inaugurated in 2000, has an interesting collection of historical documents, paintings, and photographs. The centre explicitly displays the historical essence of Saltash.
Lord of Trematon was the founder of Saltash market. Back then, due to its strategic location, this 12th century market was of immense importance. Now the historic market has transformed itself into a high-flying shopping street.
Today’s Saltash is a happening tourist destination. Over the years glittering malls and pubs, hotels and resorts have set their foot on Saltash but somehow, behind the bright lights and glitz Saltash still manages to hold on to its rich historical heritage.