Walk: The Loe, Cornwall
Cornwall’s largest natural lake runs deep with history and legend, but it’s the diversity of the trails that trace the banks of The Loe and the richness of its wildlife that make it such a special place
A 9.6km (6-mile) walk from Penrose Estate around Cornwall's largest natural lake, Loe Pool.
The fishhook-shaped Loe lies at the heart of Penrose Estate, a bucolic, National Trust–managed park perched atop Lizard Peninsula, mainland Britain’s most southerly point.
At its south-west extremity, The Loe is separated from the shipwreck-strewn Celtic Sea by Loe Bar, a sand bar and slither of surf-stroked beach. Aside from this sandy section, the lake-looping path wends through wildlife-rich woods, ducking beneath the boughs of sycamore and plantation trees.
The Loe boasts a unique subspecies of trout, but walkers are more likely to spy one of this endemic fish’s predators, such as heron, and if you’re really lucky, you might spot signs of the local otter population. Bats, owls and deer are often seen too, with these normally nervous animals now accustomed to flyovers by jets and helicopters operating out of Culdrose, a nearby navy airbase.
The lake can be accessed several ways, but this walk starts and finishes at the Stables Café, beside a wonderful walled garden close to historic Penrose House.
Exiting the café, turn right and walk south along the west bank of The Loe into the embrace of Shadywalk Wood.
This wheelchair-friendly waterside track is enjoyed by walkers, cyclists, runners and horseriders, but it rarely feels busy. Discreet woodland gym equipment is dotted along the route, but more appealing perhaps are the benches strategically positioned to provide views across the lake through leaf-framed windows in the trees.
After a gentle incline, the trail meets the South West Coast Path by Bar Lodge. To the right is Porthleven, but our walk turns left to face the coves and contours of the Lizard. Descend to the beach.
Lady of the Lake
Conditions created by Loe Bar make sea swimming unsafe, sadly, but look out for dolphins and scan the sand for the glint of treasure (in 1669, the San Salvador, a Spanish galleon loaded with two tonnes of silver coins, was wrecked nearby). According to Arthurian legend, in a tale told by Tennyson, Sir Bedivere brought Excalibur here after Arthur’s death and threw the famous sword into The Loe, where it was caught by the Lady of the Lake.
Wander across the beach, around the pool, and pick up the path again as it leads through reeds and heads inland.
Running the length of The Loe’s western shoreline is a 3.5km track suitable for most wheelchairs. Park at National Trust Penrose.
Creeks and marsh
The trail, now a rocky root-riven ribbon of single-track, hugs the water’s edge as it curls around Carminowe Creek and wends through Pentire and Degibna Woods.
At the northern end of the lake, the path loops around Loe Marsh, hops across the River Cobber and passes Helston Lodge and a beautiful boathouse before arriving back at the Stables Café, where a Cornish cream tea and ice cream await.
South West Outdoors Festival
On 27–29 September 2019, Penrose will host the South West Outdoor Festival on the shores of The Loe. The event hub and campsite boast unique views across The Loe. Besides live music and guest speakers, the festival will feature guided walks, runs and bike rides around the lake.
Click on the map below for an interactive version of the route.