Walk - Killigarth 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 reception car park at Killigarth Manor Holiday Park turn right and follow the Claremont Falls road uphill, continuing ahead when Carey Park joins from the left, to where Bridals Lane leads off to the right.
- Turn right and walk down Bridals Lane, curving right with it after the houses, to Talland Bay.
- Bearing left on Bridals Lane above the beach at Talland, carry on along it, past the car park, to the road beyond. Turn right here, dropping onto the path beside the road above the beach for part of the way, and then turn right and bear right through the car parking area to pick up the South West Coast Path.
- Climb the steps above Aesop's Bed and follow the Coast Path acorns to the National Trust path at Hendersick.
Aesop's Bed is the flat-topped rock on the beach below. It has been suggested that it is not named after the Greek fabler, but that the name is a corruption of the Hebrew 'Yesu', or Jesus. Locals say that the teenage Jesus came to Britain with his uncle, Phoenician tin trader Joseph of Arimathea, and that they landed at Looe.
In the original Cornish, Hendersick was 'Hendresygh', which means 'waterless home farm'. The settlement was first recorded in 1306, and archaeologists have found traces of fields and an orchard from medieval times, but although the farmhouse is built in the traditional style, it is much more recent.
- Carry on along the Coast Path, past the path to Hendersick, towards Looe.
As you approach the first houses at Looe, the remains of the Lamanna Chapel are on the hillside to your left, opposite Looe Island. This was a medieval chapel, built on the site of a sixth century Celtic chapel, and there was a monk's cell attached. The chapel was Benedictine and belonged to Glastonbury Abbey until sometime before the fourteenth century, by which time it was a private chantry chapel belonging to the local Dawnay family. In 1549 it fell foul of Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries.
There was a medieval chapel on the island, built before this one, which was a popular place for pilgrimages; but so many people drowned trying to reach it that this one was built instead.
Tin was being mined and streamed in Cornwall long before the engine houses and chimneys of the nineteenth century boom industry, and it is very likely that Joseph of Arimathea did indeed come here to do business with the locals. A fragment of an amphora (an earthenware storage vessel) from the Eastern Mediterranean, found on the island and dating from around that time, shows that there were certainly trading links between Looe and the Middle East. Maybe the tale that he left Jesus playing on the island before picking him up and continuing their journey to Glastonbury was invented by the monks of Glastonbury Abbey themselves, however, since they also owned the island and may have been keen to capitalise on the lively pilgrim tradition!
From the early 1960s, sisters Babs and Evelyn Atkins owned Looe Island. Evelyn wrote two bestselling books about it: "We Bought an Island" and "Tales from our Cornish Island". When Babs died in 2004, she left the island to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust. It is a natural sanctuary for sea and woodland birds, and because of its unusually mild climate daffodils bloom here at Christmas.
- Going through the gate by the houses, stay with the Coast Path along Hannafore Road as it curves around the rocks and along the harbour to West Looe.
Looe's banjo pier, on the other side of the river, was designed in the nineteenth century by local engineer 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, and Thomas reasoned that adding a round head would solve the problem. It was so successful that banjo piers were adopted around 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 (ahead) and the Hannafore Estate.
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.
In medieval times, East and West Looe were separate towns, and the two towns even had separate Parliamentary seats until 1832. They were joined by an estuary bridge, which was in existence by 1411 and was the first in Cornwall. Seventeenth century traveller Celia Fiennes wrote about a bridge with 14 arches in 1685, although in 1853 a new one was built about a hundred yards upriver.
As well as being a prominent fishing town, from 1850 Looe was 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.
There is still a fishing fleet based here, and 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, and 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 to trace through the supply chain exactly who caught the fish, when, and where.
- The bus back to Killigarth (a request stop) leaves from the fire station in West Looe, or from the River Croft Hotel on Shutta Road in East Looe.
If you are feeling energetic and wish to walk back, turn up Church Street, by the fire station, and carry on up the hill, continuing ahead past Portlooe Cross and then forking left to take the road to Talland. From here, either retrace your steps up Bridals Lane or continue straight ahead at the far end of the beach, instead of turning right, to walk along the lane heading directly uphill, turning right after the first caravans to return to Killigarth, a short distance beyond.
There are numerous restaurants, pubs and tea shops in Looe as well as the Smugglers Rest and the beach café at Talland.