Walk - Looe Bay Holiday Park - Polperro 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 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
To reach Polperro from the Looe Bay Holiday Park you can EITHER walk for 15 minutes towards Looe to the bus stop on Barbican Road and catch the Western Greyhound 573 bus to Polperro (the bus takes about 25 minutes) OR take the Western Greyhound 572 bus from Looe Bay Holiday Park to the Globe Inn on Station Road in East Looe and then catch the Western Greyhound 573 bus to Polperro (this journey takes about 55 minutes altogether). Some buses stop at Crumplehorn (allow 10 minutes extra walking!) at the top of the village, others go down into Polperro.
- From the bus stop at the Crumplehorn car park walk down through Polperro to pick up the South West Coast Path on the north (left-hand) side of the harbour and walk steeply uphill, past the seating area at the viewpoint.
The path to the right at the top visits the lighthouse and is known as Reuben's Walk. This is named after Reuben Oliver, a former harbourmaster in Polperro, who loved to walk up here and carried on doing so even when his sight failed. If you choose to explore this path, a left-hand turn before you reach the lighthouse will bring you back up onto the Coast Path.
The land beside the Coast Path was given over to allotments for the villagers to grow vegetables and flowers, since the steep sides of the valley gave little opportunity to do so in Polperro itself.
- Carry on along the Coast Path to Talland, ignoring the footpath inland to Brent, and the lane on your left just before you reach Talland.
- Arriving at Talland, detour to the left to visit the church, noted for its detached bell-tower and its thirteenth-century bench-ends. Otherwise continue eastwards walking along the Coast Path as it travels around Hendersick Point.
On the shoreline below as you head towards the point there is a curious flat-topped rock known as Aesop's Bed. Far from being named after the Greek fabler, it has been suggested that the rock was once known as 'Yesu's Bed', this being the Hebrew word for Jesus.
As you round Hendersick Point, ahead of you is Looe Island, also known as St George's Island. According to legend, Phoenician tin trader Joseph of Arimathea landed here with his great-nephew, the teenage Jesus, before they travelled up the coast to Glastonbury to found Christianity in Britain. A fragment of an amphora (an earthenware storage vessel) from the Eastern Mediterranean, dating from around that time, shows that there were trading links between Looe and the Middle East then.
Trade between Cornwall and the Mediterranean had already been happening for a long time before that, however. The Pelynt Dagger, found just a few miles from here, shows contact with the Mycaenean Greek world, which existed between 1900 and 1100 BC. When the Greek explorer Pytheas of Massalia visited in 325 BC he found a flourishing tin trade.
Around the fifth and sixth centuries there was a flow of Celtic saints through Cornwall, arriving on its shores from Wales and Ireland. They set up hermitages and monasteries around the coast. One such was supposedly St Tallanus, who is said to have set up a holy altar on the site where the present-day Talland Church now stands. In 1400, according to one historical source, there was a Tallan Cross on the hillside above the church. Celtic crosses were often used to mark holy places, and 'tallan' in Cornish means 'the holy place on the brow of the hill'.
There was another Celtic chapel just outside Looe, and the site is signposted from the Coast Path just before you reach the first houses of West Looe. The ruins visible today are from the medieval Lammana Chapel, which was built on the site of a sixth century monastery and hermitage.
There is another medieval chapel on Looe Island, which was dedicated to St Michael, although this was later corrupted to St George. It was a popular place for pilgrimages; but so many people drowned trying to reach it that the new Benedictine Lammana Chapel was built, sometime around the twelfth century. The island is now owned by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust who run tours out to it throughout spring and summer, and you can find details about these on their website.
- Continue along the South West Coast Path until you go through the gate onto Hannafore Road. Follow the road as it travels above the beach and curves around the harbour.
The rocky beach at Hannafore is a popular place for rockpooling. The rocky reef exposed at low tide consists of beds of flat slate scored through by deep gullies, providing a habitat for many different species. These include sponges, sea-squirts and sea anemones, as well as furrowed crabs, scorpion spider crabs and hairy crabs, and squat lobsters.
As you walk along beside the harbour, note the bronze statue of Nelson, a one-eyed bull seal who was a familiar sight around the harbour for 25 years before he died in 2003.
Looe's banjo pier, on the other side of the river, was designed in the nineteenth century by local engineer and entrepreneur, Joseph Thomas. The pier in place at the time failed to stop the sand from silting up the river, which was why it was built in the first place. Thomas reasoned that adding a round head would solve the problem. It was so successful that banjo piers were adopted elsewhere in the world.
Joseph Thomas was also responsible for the quayside in East Looe, across the water, as well as the rail loop to Liskeard. Other projects of his include Hannafore Road and the Hannafore Estate
- Carry on through West Looe.
In medieval times, East and West Looe were separate towns joined by an estuary bridge, which was the first in Cornwall and in existence by 1411. The two towns even had separate Parliamentary seats until 1832.
Continue to the bridge ahead to cross the river to Station Road. This is where the bus leaves. To get back to Looe Bay Holiday Park take the Western Greyhound 572. The bus journey will take about 15 minutes.
There are numerous restaurants, pubs and tea shops in Polperro and Looe. There is the Smugglers Rest and the beach café at Talland.