Drakes Trail takes its name from numerous connections with the famous Elizabethan seafarer Sir Francis Drake. As well as the long-established southern half (previously known as the Plym Valley Trail), the more recently opened northern half includes iconic features such as Gem Bridge which replaces an older viaduct, and Grenofen Tunnel. But the trails aren’t just about Drake – they take you through wooded river valleys and across open moorland, up close to fascinating history and wildlife.
At the southern end of the route is the historic Plymouth Hoe and Barbican, with the famous Mayflower Steps, which then reaches the NT’s Saltram House, featured in the film Sense and Sensibility. After Coypool, where you can enjoy the sights of the steam railway workings, there is a gradual uphill stretch along the line of the former railway to Plympton. However, you are rewarded with superb viaducts and tunnels of trees with glimpses of Dartmoor as you head northwards. In nesting season there is a good chance of seeing the Peregrine Falcons.
Although Shaugh Tunnel is dimly light from dawn to dusk, the curve of the tunnel prevents daylight entering from either end when you are in the middle. The ‘bat friendly’ lights allow you to see your way without disturbing the colony of roosting bats.
Although the route still follows the former railway track, from Clearbrook northwards, there are a number of on-road and hillier sections. But the rewards of superb moorland countryside and the breathtaking Gem Bridge Viaduct are well worth the extra effort.
Podcasts are available to download for further stories and information about the area – see www.drakestrail.co.uk for more information. There are also a number of hidden geocache boxes hidden along the Trail – www.geocaching.com