Words and research by Lauren Heath
Meet Me Down by the Water
Looe is a town of two parts, East and West Looe, thanks to the river dividing the landscape with the Grade II listed bridge connecting either side.
The river runs down to Looe Bay, where East Looe beach resides, hugged by its unique banjo pier stone wall and offering a sheltered area for swimming. Both of these bodies of water offer something for explorers in addition to the South West Coast Path.
It has recently found its way into many a lounge or TV room via the lovely BBC series Beyond Paradise, which has shown off its cobbled streets, harbourside, and estuary – a lot of what many people love about Cornish villages and towns.
We thought we’d pick out a few things worth dropping anchor there for.
Does the possibility of seeing water-based wildlife fill you with joy? Looe Sea Safari can hopefully fulfill your dolphin desire (and more) if nature plays ball along with plenty of sightseeing. With tours ranging from 20 minutes up to 2 hours and even the option to retreat to your own private island for a special time window on Looe Island Nature Reserve.
Opened in 2018 by award-winning chef proprieter Benjamin Palmer, who made the journey across the border from Devon back to his home town to open his venue overlooking the harbour.
The fish is literally from their doorstep and, along with other local produce curated for their menu, enables them offer innovative and seasonal dishes. Close your eyes and imagine the taste of the sea via their nibbles of pickled mussels with seaweed salt, or chalk stream trout ceviche, avocado & yuzu ponzu salsa. Or a twist on a pub classic with their small plate of smoked haddock scotch egg, curried mayonnaise, gem lettuce, citrus fennel to name a few.
We couldn’t leave this hidden gem off our list; the thousand or so positive TripAdvisor reviews alone speak volumes for this dog-friendly, retro-inspired petite cafe. A calm exterior surprises you with 70’s oranges and browns, and an array of vinyls in view. Inherently dog-friendly, your canine companion is treated to a sumptuous sausage before they can shake their tail, whilst the humans can indulge in Daisy’s baked delights (scones, tea cakes etc), breakfast and lunch which include comforting and simple creations for meat, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diners.
You can’t get more local (apart from the fish) than a distillery making its own array of gin, rum and moonshine. A wave of palate pleasers from chocolate or butterscotch moonshine, spiced or chocolate orange rum using rum made from raw ingredients on site, to their London Dry gin or perhaps the raspberry or kumquat flavour that might take your fancy. If you’re lucky, you can snap up an alfresco seat to enjoy a G&T on site.
Looking for adventure? Well it’s all in the name! With land and water-based offering for beginners up to the experienced visitor, they have an indoor climbing venue in The Old Sardine Factory catering for ages 6 upwards and water-based activities including paddleboarding, kayaking and canoeing for ages 10 and up.
Not that we want you to leave Looe, but why not enjoy a relaxing 30 minute journey, watching the world go by as your view morphs from a meandering estuary with wading birds into whimsical woodland valley and wildlife. All you need to do is leap onto the Looe Valley Line from Looe to the market town of Liskeard and back (or vice versa).
There are quite a few options to keep walkers happy here, from easy family-friendly stomps to the more serious hikers amongst you. A 2.7 miles route with a loop back on yourself around Hannafore Point offers stunning views of Looe and the river, with the option to rock pool at Hannafore for those curious about sea creatures. Moderate walks varying from 3.7 to 5.7 miles include picnic spots in a meadow of flowers with plenty of birdsong opportunities, with a challenging route of 7.3 miles to Talland Bay & the Giant’s Hedge from Looe Station. This circular route gives walkers a glimpse of an ancient boundary wall approximately built 1200 years ago, and an old oak woodland full of wildlife.
Looe gets lively and loud from Friday 15th September through to Sunday 17th September when many a local venue host local bands for this live music festival across the town, with a big main stage in West Looe. With music from midday until just before the pub calls last orders, this weekend event is completely free.