How to Spend Three Days in Looe

Snuggled into a secret corner of south-east Cornwall, Looe is a lively little fishing harbour, nestled on the banks of a river that divides the town into two distinct halves. It’s the perfect place to head to for a family holiday, full of great seafood restaurants and indie shops leading through narrow streets to the sun trap of a beach sheltered by the iconic Banjo Pier. At the harbour you’ll find sightseeing trips to Polperro and around Looe Island, or boats going out for mackerel, wreck fishing or sharking. After you’ve relaxed, eaten, drunk and sunbathed to the max, your holiday cottage in Looe is an ideal base from which to explore the local area, where you’ll find even more stunning beaches, coastal walks and fun activities.

Day one: hit the beach

So many beaches, so little time! Whether the sun is shining or not, there are some simply stunning stretches of sand right on your doorstep. Pick up a bucket and spade from one of East Looe’s many little shops – don’t forget to pop into the Original Looe Bakery for breakfast pastries or some Cornish pasties for lunch – and head straight down to East Looe Beach. It’s a traditional flat, sandy affair with a terraced promenade and lovely pier that offers great views of East and West Looe. Lounge around, watch the speedboats whizz by and search for marine treasures in the rock pools. More rock pools can be found at Hannafore Beach, which also offers fantastic views of Looe Island, great walks and climbing adventures. You can also try out the long golden beaches at Whitsand Bay, about eight miles away, where you can rent surfboards and wetsuits and book lessons at Adventure Bay. Have a snack at the cafe there afterwards. Or head to nearby Kingsand Beach and Cawsand Beach, which provide paddleboard hire, ice cream and great views of Plymouth Sound.

You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to eating out in Looe, but we love the Coddy Shack. Whether you fancy fish and chips to take away to the beach or eating some fresh-from-the-sea-that-morning seafood in the restaurant, this friendly shed has got you covered. It also serves up live music and bar snacks in the evening.

Need to walk off lunch? Make the calf-busting climb up the coastal footpath from Looe to the village of Seaton, where you’ll be rewarded with the view over to Looe Island. Keep the kids interested by telling them there is a mysterious labyrinth at the top, said to have magical links to the spirit world. Created by writer and landowner Caroline Petherick, this local landmark is based on an ancient Celtic design and apparently has the ability to connect with the body's seven major chakras.

Come back down to earth and enjoy dinner at The Old Sail Loft, a restaurant housed in a quirky period building on Quay Street featuring fab seafood. Once used as a smugglers’ ‘run’, it now serves lobster thermidor and barbecues on the quay including fish skewers and a ‘banging pulled pork bap’.

Day two: adventures in Looe

Get out on the water to get a real feel for Cornwall. Keen anglers can book a fishing trip out from the harbour and there are loads of pleasure cruises around the bay and river. Try a glass-bottomed boat trip, where the skipper often dresses like a pirate – a great morning out with the kids! You can also disembark on Looe Island, a nature reserve owned by Cornwall Wildlife Trust and carefully managed to keep it as wild and unspoiled as possible. Book a guided walk around the island and learn all about its wildlife.

Pick up a proper Cornish pasty at Sarah’s Pasty Shop for lunch – you can even watch how the bakers crimp the pastry. The family-run shop only uses local ingredients and the pasties are freshly made every day in a huge variety of flavours, from the traditional Cornish skirt, swede and onion to beef and blue, chicken tikka, pork and stuffing, chickpea and lentil… the list goes on. Oh, and there’s a Sarah’s Cake Shop, too – traybakes and treats galore, perfect for keeping everyone going throughout the afternoon.

If the calming nature of a river is more your bag, there is a fabulous swimming adventure, walking alongside a wooded estuary to the Millpool and swimming back down the smooth green river with the outgoing tide. Start at the bottom of the West Looe River and head through Kilminorth Wood, looking out for enticing glimpses of the beautiful estuary. You’ll emerge at the pretty hamlet of Watergate, where you can get in the river and swim back. It’s safe, there are lots of places to get out and a great opportunity to spot kingfishers, herons, egrets and curlews. You’ll finish back at the start, at a small beach just upstream from the Millpool slipway. If you don’t fancy swimming, this is a great place for children to play, catching small fish and crabs from the relative safety of the path that runs along the banks of the Looe river.

Fancy dinner out again? Looe is famous for its fresh fish and you won’t find better than at The Sardine Factory, a stylish and laidback restaurant in a converted sardine factory on the quayside. It serves simple, fresh seafood, from small plates of crispy squid to whole baked market fish with lashings of garlic butter.

Day three: venture further afield

Looe is a fantastic base for exploring the rest of what south-east Cornwall has to offer. The Canteen at Maker is ideal for breakfast or lunch and has pop-up curry, burger and pizza nights on Thursday evenings. It’s just down from nearby Mount Edgecumbe Park – a fabulous day out for all ages. Walk around the formal gardens of this lovely estate or hire segways and bikes to see the sights. There are great views over to Plymouth and you can even catch the Cremyll Ferry over to Royal William Yard for a range of great eateries and bars, all with loads of al fresco seating to soak up the sun. 

Three miles along the coastal path beyond Looe is the picture-postcard fishing village of Polperro, with its unique mix of colour-washed fisherman’s cottages tucked away in a cove. Narrow traffic-free streets wind their way to the small harbour. Here, there are fishing trips, a rich history of smuggling explored in the Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling and Fishing and the marvellous tidal pool at the foot of Chapel Cliff on the small sandy beach.

Then there’s the Monkey Sanctuary, between Looe and Seaton. Started by Leonard Williams back in the 1960s, its mission is to rescue monkeys from the pet trade and eventually return them to their natural habitats. There’s also a play area for children and a vegetarian cafe.

By car, the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan as well as the National Trust properties at Lanhydrock, Cotehele and Antony are all within easy reach. For kids, Porfell Wildlife Park and the Tamar Valley Donkey Park are great value.

For a car-free trip further afield, hop on the train for a ride on the beautiful Looe to Liskeard line, connecting to Bodmin, St Austell (for Charlestown), Truro, St Ives, Falmouth, Penzance and Plymouth for the pretty Tamar Valley line to Calstock. 
Round off your holiday in Looe with dinner and drinks at the Talland Bay Hotel, perched on the cliffs at Porthallow between Looe and Polperro. Famous for its quirky character and popular with A-listers, there is a fabulous restaurant and a gin bar serving the establishment’s own brand of the tipple. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump back to your cosy holiday home in Looe.