Walk - Looe Bay Holiday Park to Looe
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2019. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From the entrance to Looe Bay Holiday Park turn left onto the pavement and walk alongside the road. When that disappears cross over to the pavement on the far side. Carry on past the side road to Millendreath and the farm shop and garden centre beyond, to the junction on the right-hand bend.
St Martin-by-Looe is named after its church, dedicated to St Martin of Tours and situated across the road from the Holiday Park. St Martin of Tours was a French hermit who was noted for his humility even when he became a bishop. According to a Gaulish legend he tore his cloak in two, giving half to a shivering beggar he encountered in Amiens. Other stories attributed many miracles to him, making him a popular cult figure in medieval times. Many churches were dedicated to him.
The church was built in medieval times, with a font dated to around 1150. The hamlet's early name of 'Lancof' suggests that it was built on a 'lann', or early Christian site, probably from six or seven centuries earlier. Later the settlement was known as 'Pendrumm', meaning 'top of the ridge', and there is still a farm called Pendrym nearby.
Local topographer Thomas Bond (1765-1837) was born in St Martin and is buried in the churchyard. A solicitor by trade and town clerk of East Looe at the end of the eighteenth century, he was the grandson of John Chubb, said to be the first to discover fossils in Cornwall. Thomas inherited his grandfather's curiosity about the world around him. In 1823 he published a detailed description of the area, 'with an account of the Natural and Artificial Curiosities and Pictorial Scenery of the Neighbourhood.'
- Turn left down Barbican Road, staying with it past St Martins Road and then Bodrigan Road.
The whole area was widely settled during prehistoric times, especially on the high ground. There are many scheduled monuments around Looe, some of them dating back to the Bronze Age, as long ago as 3000 BC. It is thought that there was an Iron Age settlement at Great Tree, around the time that the Romans arrived in Britain. There are traces of ancient enclosures around the Barbican which may be from even earlier.
- Where the road forks to the right and becomes Barbican Hill, take the left-hand fork, along Bay View Road.
- At the end continue ahead, past the No Through Road sign. Carry on along the footpath across the field and the open ground beyond, to join the South West Coast Path as it comes into Looe from Millendreath.
- On the Coast Path turn right and follow it down East Cliff and into East Looe.
The borough of East Looe was first documented in 1201. It grew out of the medieval markets and fairs held here between 1154 and 1189, during the reign of Henry II. It was taxed as a borough from 1306 and by 1331 it had 60 burgesses (the medieval version of local councillors). In 1377 its population was 138; by the census of 2001 this had grown to 5280, although of course this is greatly expanded during the tourist season. From 1570 until 1832 East and West Looe together sent four MPs to Westminster. The two boroughs still had separate representatives in the House of Commons as recently as the nineteenth century.
In 1823 Thomas Bond's book described the houses in Looe as being arranged on narrow streets, built of stone with slate roofs with fronts made of heavy oak, richly covered and ornamented in plaster. Most of the houses had cellars a few feet below sea level, and it is thought that boats and general fishing gear was kept in these, with the living quarters above.
There is still a fishing fleet based here. Daily fish auctions take place in the historic Looe Fish Market, rebuilt in 1987 and now bringing technology to a traditional industry.
A live feed on the website gives details of the fish to be auctioned at the next landing, being updated even as they're caught. A “Moby Clock” bidding system enables buyers to bid electronically at the auctions. The system also uses bar codes on each lot, making it possible to trace through the supply chain exactly who caught the fish, when, and where.
From the middle of the nineteenth century Looe was also internationally renowned for its fishing luggers. These square-sailed boats were hand-built, without plans, so that each one was unique, and well over a hundred fishing luggers worked from Looe.
- Returning to East Cliff after you have browsed through the town, carry on ahead along the Coast Path as it climbs above the cliffs and travels high above the bay.
- Coming to the road, turn right down Plaidy Lane. As you descend to Plaidy Beach, look out for fulmars and other birds on the rock to your right. The Coast Path carries on along the road behind Plaidy Beach, turning abruptly right up a steep tarmac path and carrying on through the parking area and along the road beyond. At the left-hand bend follow the Coast Path waymarkers between two houses to drop to the beach at Millendreath.
Although they cannot be seen except at the lowest of tides, there are the remnants of a submarine forest on Millendreath Beach, drowned by rising sea levels after the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago. Fossilised trees show that it consisted of alder, beech, hazel, oak, willow, ash, elm and holly, with bright flags of yellow iris in its marshlands.
There was also once a limekiln here, used to burn coal and limestone together to make lime to use as a fertiliser.
- Crossing behind the beach at Millendreath, turn left onto May Lane and follow it up through Millendreath. Carry on through the woodland, past the turning on the right, to come out in St Martin-by-Looe. Turn right to return to the Holiday Park.
There are numerous restaurants, pubs and tea shops in Looe