Two towns split by a river and joined by a bridge
Looe Town Council
Popular with tourists for years, and located about twenty miles west of Plymouth. Looe still retains its importance as a major Cornish fishing port, with a sizeable fleet and busy fish market. The town is reached along the A387 which carries on another four miles to Polperro. The population of the town was 5,300 at the 2011 census.
Shutta, on the steep hillside over East Looe, is known to have been inhabited by the 12th century. Between 1154 and 1189 a charter was granted by Henry II to Sir Henry Bodrugan for the town of East Looe. Important in the middle ages and during the French wars, Looe continued to be busy in the 19th century, shipping stone and copper from the quarries and mines in the north. The towns ship-building industry provided some twenty ships for the siege of Calais in 1347. The church of St. Mary in East Looe was re-built in 1805. With the building of the Liskeard and Looe Union Canal linking Looe to Liskeard in 1828, and the development of booming copper mines in the Caradon area from 1837, Looe's fortunes began to pick up again. The canal was used first to transport lime from Wales for use in Cornish farming, and later to carry copper and granite between the railhead at Liskeard (from where rail links reached to the Cheesewring on Bodmin Moor) and the port at Looe. In 1856 the large quay of East Looe was built to handle the demands of the shipping trade, and in 1860, with the canal unable to keep up with demand, a railway was built linking Looe to Moorswater near Liskeard, along the towpath of the canal, which was used less and less until, by 1910, traffic ceased entirely. The railway was later linked to Liskeard proper, and as the mining boom came to an end, it began carrying passengers in 1879.
Both East and West Looe flank the Looe River estuary which has its source on Bodmin Moor. The river dissects the landscape in and around Looe into deep wooded valleys, grassy hillsides and quiet stream filled gullies. Large tracts of ancient woodland remain on the river banks as you journey upstream and there are superb walks to be had in Kilminorth Woods which can be found at the end of the Millpool car park.
An early wooden bridge over the Looe River was in place by 1411 this burned down and was replaced by the first stone bridge, completed in 1436 and featuring a chapel dedicated to St. Anne in the middle. Across the seven-arched Victorian bridge opened in 1853 lies West Looe, with its 16th century The Jolly Sailor Inn and St. Nicholas church which was in existence as early as 1336, later served as a council chamber but returned to church use and restored in 1852.
In 1866, a lifeboat station had been established on East Looe beach, and in 1878 a new Town Hall was built, the present-day Guildhall. Around this time recommendations were made that the two towns be merged under one governing body, and despite much protest the Looe Urban District Council was formed in 1898 to govern the whole of Looe.
Looe remains a fishing town, and several fish dealers operate from the docks of East Looe. With its fleet of small fishing boats returning their catches to port daily, Looe has a reputation for producing excellent fresh fish. The town is also a centre for shark fishing, and is the home of the Shark Angling Club of Great Britain.
These days you can enjoy a guided tour around East Looe's maze of narrow streets and courtyards, visit the 16th century Old Guildhall Museum, relive Looe's maritime past, or just while away the hours on the sandy beach separated from the river mouth by the Banjo Pier. In Fore Street one of Looe's many charming examples of domestic architecture of past centuries can be found. One house, now a cafe was for many years the residence of Thomas Bond (1765-1837), the historian of Looe and for nearly forty years Town Clerk of both East Looe and West Looe. It contains a fine panelled room and a fireplace dated 1652.
At Hannafore on the west side of Looe you can explore the rock pools on the beach, and look across to St. George's, or Looe Island just half a mile away, where smugglers used to unload their illicit goods, and which has 12th century monastic cells, and belonged once to the Abbot of Glastonbury. Today the island has been popularised by the Atkins sisters who live there, in their books "We Bought an Island" and "Tales from our Cornish Island". There are boat trips to the island in the summer season, as well as along the coast. For the more adventurous there are shark fishing trips. A railway journey on the Looe Valley Line will take you to the ancient stone circle at Duloe; the holy well at St. Keyne; and Paul Corin's Music Machines, before continuing on to Liskeard. One mile north of East Looe on the B3253, is the location of the parish church of St. Martin which was until 1845 the parish church of East Looe.
Travelling east along the coast, you can see Amazon woolly monkeys in the protected breeding colony of the Monkey Sanctuary. At the end of long, winding, wooded valleys are the beaches of Millendreath and Seaton, and beyond Downderry the road runs along the cliffs through the village of Crafthole, standing high above the tiny harbour of Portwrinkle, a former fishing hamlet.
To the east lies the stunning four mile stretch of sand and surfing beaches at Whitsand Bay, popular with beach goers and shore fishermen. Guarding the entrance to Plymouth Sound is Rame Head, with its superb views, 400 foot cliffs and 14th century chapel, where a beacon blazed at the time of the Armada. Look out for the many stone fortresses known as Palmerston Follies, a legacy of an 19th century defence initiative.
Operating from a new boathouse built in 2003, on the east side of the river at Looe, the lifeboat station has two inshore lifeboats.
Looe still has a railway station served by a branch line from Liskeard which used to be the track of The Liskeard and Looe Railway built to carry the copper ore down form the mines on Bodmin Moor, which in turn replaced an earlier canal.
For many years Looe had a popular & much-loved regular visitor to its harbour - a seal called Nelson (because he had lost one eye in an injury or accident). Sadly Nelson has gone to the great ocean in the sky but now he is fittingly commemorated by a handsome life-size statue in the harbour which was formally unveiled in 2008 by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the famous sailor.
Looe Golf Club was designed by six times open champion, Harry Vardon. The panoramic views from the course are stunning; to the east are the peaks of Dartmoor and the Tamar estuary, to the south, Looe Island and the channel, to the west and north, glorious countryside and Cornish moors.
The town's Tourist Information Centre is at The Guildhall, Fore Street, PL13 1AA.
Leon Ockenden, (1978-) Actor who grew up in Looe.
Thomas Bond, (1765-1837) Historian of Looe and for nearly 40 years Town Clerk of both East Looe and West Looe.
Sir Jonathan Trelawny, (1650-1721) The hero of the Cornwall's National Anthem - "Song of the Western Men" was born at Pelynt near Looe.
Edwin Raymond "Ray" Bowden, (1909-1998) Footballer Ray was born in Looe.
New Year's Day Swim - January.
West Looe May Fayre - May.
The Annual Lugger Regatta (in odd-numbered years) - June.
The Biennial Festival of the Sea (in even-numbered years) - June.
The Great Cornish Raft Race - June.
The Looe Food Festival - End June.
Looe Carnival - End July.
The Looe Music Festival - September.
The Morval Vintage Steam Rally - End August.
The Looe Literary Festival - November.
The Festival of Lights - December.
The Pier Cafe
The Kitchenside Bakery
The Fishermans Arms
The Barbican Inn
Ye Old Salutation Inn
The Bullers Arms
The Jolly Sailor Inn
The Harbour Moon
The Globe Inn
Downderry Liskeard Polperro Rame Head Magnificent Music Machines Cornwall's Beaches
Looe Museum The Coastal Footpath The Monkey Sanctuary Cornish Orchards Pelynt Looe Island
Looe River Seaton Valley Country Park Cornish Lifeboat Stations Trelawny Manor Looe Valley Vineyard