Visit Looe: Places to stay, things to do

Blow away the winter cobwebs with a visit to this picture postcard village on the southern Cornish coast. Nick Peers wonders if it's too early to buy ice cream.


© Copyright David Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Why go there

Looe is quite simply beautiful. It straddles both sides of the mouth of the river from which it takes its name, east and west connected via a single bridge. First mentioned in 1201, Looe was originally two separate towns, and the first bridge was completed in 1411 (the current incarnation dates from 1853).
The east side is the busier, with the harbour, main shopping centre and sandier beach, but the west side is where you’ll likely stay and eat – as it’s low season, though, you won’t be bothered by crowds and will be able to take in the town at a leisurely pace. 
The South West Coastal Park is nearby should you fancy drinking in the spectacular coastal scenery – Polperro is a brisk five miles walk to the west, or take the train from Looe to Liskeard to see the Looe Valley in all its splendour.
St George’s Island, situated just off the coast on the western side of town, is now a reserve run by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust. Sadly, boat trips won’t begin again until April 2010, so you’ll have to admire the view from the mainland. 
Where to stay
The Old Bridge House is perfectly placed on the west side of the river, just a few metres from the bridge. Prices start at just £35 per person per night, and include full Cornish breakfast (locally sourced). 
Where to eat
Enjoy the best sea food (or Cornish steak) in style in one of the oldest buildings in East Looe. The Old Sail Loft Restaurant isn’t particularly cheap – starters cost in the region of £5.50-£7.50, and mains start from around £17 – but it’s locally sourced and comes recommended by many.
Local secret
St George’s Island has a rich history, associated with smuggling, ghost stories and a Benedectine chapel dating back to the 12th century. Local legend has it that Christ himself landed here as a child while travelling with Joseph of Arimethea. In 1965 it was purchased by two sisters, one of whom used to live on the island alone while the other worked on the mainland during the week. Both were keen to preserve the island’s natural beauty and bequeathed the island to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust.