Computational fluid dynamics is used to study the impact of the support structure of a tidal turbine on performance and the downstream wake characteristics. A high-fidelity computational model of a dual rotor, contra-rotating tidal turbine in a large channel domain is presented, with turbulence modelled using large eddy simulation. Actuator lines represent the turbine blades, permitting the analysis of transient flow features and turbine diagnostics. The following four cases are considered: the flow in an unexploited, empty channel; flow in a channel containing the rotors; flow in a channel containing the support structure; and flow in a channel with both rotors and support structure. The results indicate that the support structure contributes significantly to the behaviour of the turbine and to turbulence levels downstream, even when the rotors are upstream. This implies that inclusion of the turbine structure, or some parametrisation thereof, is a prerequisite for the realistic prediction of turbine performance and reliability, particularly for array layouts where wake effects become significant.