Walk - Lammana Chapel
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.
- From the entrance to Millpool car park in West Looe, turn left on the road, towards the coast and East Looe, dropping onto the footpath past the amusement arcade to take the steps up to the bridge. Cross the road (but not the river) and carry on ahead along Quay Road, beside the harbour, into Hannafore Road.
On the other side of the river the building just before the banjo pier with the observation tower and slipway is Looe Lifeboat Station. Built in 2003, it houses 2 inshore lifeboats which have rescued more than 290 people. A station was established in Looe in 1866 with the first 10-oared lifeboat being named The Oxfordshire after families in Oxfordshire raised £420. Looe townspeople raised £220 and maintained it for £35 per annum. The Oxfordshire was succeeded by Boys Own No. 1, a gift of the readers of Boys Own Paper.
In 1901 the French government awarded gold medals to Coxswain Edward Tomes and his crew of the Boys Own No. 1 after the rescue of the crew of the French Barque Gypsy. She mistook the lights of Downderry for Plymouth and ran aground on the rocks. The French captain tried to keep the boat afloat by pumping out, but eventually abandoned ship. 14 crew and 3 kittens were taken into the Looe lifeboat. The lifeboat eventually returned to Looe at 1.30am and by morning Gypsy was a total wreck.
Continue along Hannafore Road beyond, which turns into Marine Drive as it curves around the mouth of the river and heads south and then west around the coast. At the end of Marine Drive go through the gate follow the South West Coast Path Acorn signing.
On the hillside to your right are the remains of the Lammana Chapel, a medieval chapel, built on the site of a sixth century Celtic chapel with a monk's cell attached. This replaced a medieval chapel on St George's Island, just offshore. The island was a popular place for pilgrimages in those times; but so many people drowned trying to reach it that the Lammana Chapel was built instead. The island is now owned by Cornwall Wildlife Trust, and can be visited on special tours which rum most days during the summer - see their website for details.
The chapel was Benedictine, belonging to Glastonbury Abbey until sometime before the fourteenth century, when it was recorded as a private chantry chapel belonging to the local Dawnay family. It was demolished in 1549 in Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries.
In 2008 Channel 4's Time Team excavated the island and found evidence of human habitation here from Roman times, as well as pottery from the thirteenth century.
There is a local legend that Phoenician tin trader Joseph of Arimathea landed here with his teenage great-nephew, Jesus Christ, before they travelled up the coast to Glastonbury to found Christianity in Britain. Off the coast near Talland, ahead, is a flat-topped rock known as 'Aesop's Bed'. Local historians believe that the name is a corruption of the Hebrew 'Yesu', or Jesus, although there is no evidence that Christ was left to sun himself on this rock while his uncle went into Looe on business, as the legends claim!
Christianity is known to have reached Cornwall long before St Augustine brought it to Canterbury in the sixth century. A fragment of an amphora (an earthenware storage vessel) from the Eastern Mediterranean was found here, dating from around that time, evidence of trading links between Looe and the Middle East. Merchants from Lebanon and Palestine arrived by sea, trading in tin and cloth, at a time when Cornwall's remote location cut it off from the links with Rome being established in the rest of England.
In addition, there was a wave of Welsh and Irish saints arriving by land as well as sea, and many of them settled along the shoreline, establishing many hermitages and monasteries. The thirteenth-century church at Talland is said to have been built on the site of the fifth-century Celtic hermitage set up by St Tallanus (see the Talland Bay from Polperro Walk).
- From Lammana Chapel continue along the Coast Path to the deep valley by the National Trust's Hendersick sign.
- Carry on ahead, climbing the steps and following the path above the rocks until you come to the next path on the right, heading inland.
- Turn right onto this path, carrying on uphill towards the barn, past the path joining from the left.
This permissive access meadow is a good spot for a picnic and a chance for a rest after all that toiling uphill! Enjoy the sea views, and look out for the rare Dartford warbler, a tiny, shy bird with a rattling call, and the hornet robberfly, a huge predatory fly (but harmless to humans!), recognisable by its yellow abdomen.
- From the barn take the track uphill to the car park and the road.
- Turn right on the road, continuing ahead at Portlooe.
The mutilated medieval cross standing at Portlooe Cross has had a chequered history. It was discovered at East Wayland Farm, where it had been used as a support for mowhay buildings which were being demolished. The Looe Old Cornwall Society fitted it to a new base of Cheesewring granite and restored it to its current location, where it is believed it previously stood.
Records from 1400 suggest that there was a cross on the hillside above Talland church, too, known as 'Tallan Crosse', which may have been a wayside cross marking the path to the original Celtic church. 'Tallan' in Cornish means 'holy place on the brow of a hill'.
- At the T-junction turn right to descend into West Looe via West Looe Hill. Carry on down the road as it turns into Fore Street and then Church Street, and turn left on Quay Road, at the bottom, to return to the Millpool car park.
There are numerous restaurants, pubs and tea shops in Looe.