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Favourite Places – Looe

Many visitors to Cornwall avoid visiting the town of Looe as it is busy & difficult to park – but with a little local knowledge you can have a great day.
Many visitors to Cornwall avoid visiting the harbour town of Looe as it is very busy and difficult to park – but I find that with a little local knowledge you can have a wonderful day. Here are a few tips from a local resident for getting there, parking, dining and shopping in this lovely Cornish gem.

Driving the scenic route

Driving to for me is definitely part of the pleasure of the visit. The scenic road from Trerulefoot roundabout (A374) quickly becomes the A387 and winds through some of Cornwall’s loveliest rural countryside, passing before following the tidal River Looe down a valley known for its bluebells, primroses and birdlife. It follows the railway line for the final few miles until it arrives at the railway station, just steps from the shops and beach in East Looe.

The railway station is the key to getting to Looe without the hassle and expense of parking or standing in a traffic jam. You can park very easily at Liskeard railway station and then catch a local train to Looe along the scenic Looe Valley Line. Whenever I have family to stay we always do this and they love watching the scenery pass just yards from the window. Trains run hourly and the journey takes around 30 minutes, stopping at St Keyne, Causeland and Sandplace.

If you prefer to drive, after reaching East Looe drive over the arched bridge to West Looe where there is usually plenty of parking along the harbourside. If you drive a little further up the hill to Hannafore there is even more parking. You can then stroll the 15-20 minute walk back around the harbour, over the bridge and into the town itself.

Picture-postcard views

Looe is very pretty with its whitewashed houses and cottages tiered up the surrounding wooded riverbanks. Boats bob prettily at anchor at high tide, and lie listlessly on one side at low tide. Many of the stone buildings date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The town is very much a local place of business, with some holiday apartments, but unlike , it has a bustling life all year round.

As well as clothing, antiques and gifts shops, the town has a Market Hall, a Tourist Information Centre and plenty of interesting pubs, cafés, ice cream shops and restaurants. Don’t miss the lovely Old Guildhall building on Higher Market Street now housing .

This 15th century listed building is worth a visit to see its many original features including the cannon on the doorstep! Once the town gaol, it still has the original cells and a beautiful Royal Coat of Arms painted above the raised Magistrates Bench. The upper floor is laid out as the old Mayoral offices with an 18th century fireplace and many exhibits of fair trading which I find fascinating, such as weights and measures. The lower floor is an Aladdin’s cave of historic artifacts including bones from an extinct mastodon (like a mammoth), and pieces from the boat building and fishing industries which the town has survived on. Admission is currently a bargain at £1.80.

You can get a really nice lunch in Looe for a very competitive price by looking at the daily specials, or buy a hot pasty or fish and chips and sit overlooking the beach and harbour to enjoy them. Don’t even be tempted to feed the seagulls any left overs – they quickly learn to scavenge and can be vicious. If you want a nice old pub with atmosphere, try the , my favourite, towards the far end of Fore Street. It’s not posh and it’s not expensive, but I always enjoy my meals there.

Gaze across the sea to Looe Island

After browsing the shops, walk out along the Banjo Pier and watch the small fishing vessels returning home at high tide. In the distance is Looe Island, a story in its own right. The small sandy beach is popular with small kids who just want to paddle and dig. From the harbour I like to watch boxes of fish being unloaded and weighed in the Fish Market building, or take a mackerel fishing trip, which is great fun for all ages and lasts from one hour to a half day at sea.

If you don’t catch enough fish for supper, try dining at the which has an excellent fish menu, or take an outdoor table at at Hannafore and enjoy the wonderful sea views. It also does an excellent Sunday lunch from its mobile carving station – unmissable! I’ll probably be dining myself at one place or the other!

Looe really is worth a visit for a culinary treat. Have you eaten out in Looe? There are so many places to choose from – do let us know your particular favourite.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

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