Think of Cornwall and most people think of sweeping sandy beaches, hidden coves and quaint fishing villages. This picture postcard image of Cornwall is accurate, but there is a lot more to this southwest English county than this and the twin towns of East and West Looe, separated by a steep-sided valley, are a case in point. With thousands of years of history seeping through the towns’ streets and buildings, prehistoric sites in the surrounding areas and the region’s deep roots with the mining industry to discover, you’ll soon find out why this part of southeast England was declared a World Heritage Site in 2006. Meanwhile, holidaymakers will be pleased to read that Looe itself came second only to Bournemouth in the Best UK Coastal Resort category at the British Travel Awards 2013.
The Origins of Looe
The history of Cornwall, a sprawling county that has coasts on both the Irish Sea and the English Channel, can be traced all the way back to Neolithic times, proof of which can be found in sites such as Trethevy Quoit, the burial chamber which stands almost nine feet tall on Bodmin Moor. Elsewhere in the Cornish countryside you’ll also find Iron Age hill forts and other prehistoric remains, such as Dupath Well, Restormel Castle and King Doniet’s Stone, while will help you delve further into the region’s history.
During the time of the Domesday Book, the site of what is now known as East Looe would have been known as Pendrym and was held by William the Conqueror as part of his own land and Looe soon became a thriving port, exporting tin, granite and arsenic.
Mining has been crucial to industry in the region, beginning with the Bronze Age era right up until the closing of the South Crofty tin mine in Cornwall in 1998, which was the final nail in the coffin for the crumbling industry. It was during the Victorian era though that the town really became known as a holiday destination though, as the popularity of seaside holidays soared. Nearby Talland Bay became known as the playground of Plymouth and Looe benefited from the influx of visitors and throughout the next few decades tourism in the region flourished.
Driving Around Cornwall
By far the most effective way of travelling in Cornwall is by car as many of the sites of interest are in more remote areas and it will also make it easier to visit further away places of interest such as the beautiful Dartmoor National Park, Plymouth, Fowey and Bodmin. Before you set off on your driving holiday, plan your driving route, source local maps (don’t rely on the sporadic road signs, nor satnav, which can be unreliable in these parts) and of course make sure you’ve had your car serviced and have suitable motor cover for anyone in your group who’ll be driving. The more people that are insured to drive the car on your holiday, the more time you’ll each get to enjoy your holiday rather than being stuck behind the wheel the whole time. In 2006 the mining landscape of Cornwall and West Devon was given World Heritage Status and on Bodmin Moor and in the Tamar Valley many of these mining remains can still be seen; you can even still travel on the trains that took the cargo to the seaport on the Looe Valley Line. If you do park up and decide to embark on one of these trains then keep an eye out for the famous Brunel railway bridge that crosses the Tamar at Saltash, which first opened 155 years ago and was considered a great feat of victorian engineering. If you really want to delve into the history of the region then a visit to one of the nearby museums would be insightful, or you can travel a little further a field to Tintagel on the north Cornish coast to investigate the truth behind the myth of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
Aside from the rugged, windswept landscape of the surrounding countryside, and the evocative chimney stacks that tell of a lost mining industry, Looe is a great village to spend a few days. As a still working fishing town you can get delicious seafood straight from the boat, eat in one of the town’s many good restaurants or fill up on a Cornish pasty from one of several traditional local bakers. Meanwhile, beach lovers can swim in safe waters in East Looe or build sandcastles on the sandy beach.
Article provided by Susie Monton