Looe is situated on both sides of the River Looe. The two towns are joined together by a bridge across the river. In medieval times East Looe and West Looe were separate towns. East Looe includes the harbour and the main shopping centre. West Looe is quieter but also has shops, restaurants and hotels. They are joined by a seven arched bridge, built in 1853. This replaced a much earlier bridge from the 15th century and there are still buildings of this period in the town. It has been a holiday resort for more than 200 years, and has relayed more heavily on the tourist industry since its pilchard canning factory closed in the sixties.
For those driving to Looe, it is a good idea to park near to the entrance to the town thus avoiding the extremely narrow streets. Perhaps a nicer approach to the town is by rail from Liskeard. The branch line passes through some very pretty countryside as it follows the river towards the coast.
Looe has some of the best New Year celebrations in the UK. Revellers in fancy dress fill the streets, pubs and restaurants. At midnight a spectacular firework display takes place on the banjo pier watched by people on the beach and promenade. There is a good view of this from Hannafore, across the river.
It is worth visiting the harbour quay to watch the fishing boats coming in to unload their catches. The arrival of the small fishing fleet is a busy and colourful scene. Local fish can be found on the menus of many local restaurants. The banjo pier is a popular point from which to see the returning fishing trawlers at high tide. However it can be dangerous in bad weather.
One of Looe’s oldest buildings is the Old Guildhall in East Looe. It dates back to around 1500. It was formerly the town hall, but now houses the Museum. The present town hall is the Victorian Guildhall in Fore Street.
There are plenty of boating and fishing trips setting out from the harbour during the season. This includes the more exotic shark fishing. However, this is for tagging rather than killing the big fish. In addition, there are several beaches very close to the town. In East Looe there is a beach beside the Banjo Pier. In West Looe is Hannafore Beach, from which there is a view across to Looe Island. On a rainy day, there is always the Old Guildhall Museum.
In 1965 Babs and Evelyn Atkins bought Looe Island, which lies about one mile off the coast near Looe. The beautiful island covers an area of 22.5 acres and is one mile in circumference. Its highest point is 150 feet above sea level. The partly wooded island has magnificent views as far as Prawle Point in Devon to the north and the Lizard Peninsula to the south. It has such an exceptionally mild climate that daffodils bloom at Christmas. It is a natural sanctuary for birds. A few stones remain of a Benedictine chapel built here in 1139. The island is accessible by boat and rarely, when there is an unusually low tide, by foot across the rocky sea bed. However, it is unwise to cross this way without a local guide as the tide rushes in very quickly.
The island is open to day visitors in the season. Landing fees and other income from visitors are used to conserve the island’s natural beauty and to provide facilities for visitors. There are no roads, no shops and no cars. Bathing is safe when the weather is good. There are two beaches, a natural rock swimming pool, coves, caves and woodland walks on the island.
Talland Bay is a picturesque spot not far away. It lies between Looe and Polperro and is well worth a visit. The village of Talland is small, comprising of a church, a farm and a few houses and cottages. The local war memorial is in a spectacular position, overlooking the sea from a headland.