Looe, Cornwall (review published 2011)

Nelson the one-eyed grey seal was a familiar sight in Looe harbour for more than 20 years.
He was fed by the local fishermen and his company enjoyed by townsfolk and visitors alike, becoming something of a tourist attraction.
Sadly, Nelson died in 2003 but five years later he made a miraculous return – in the form of a life-size bronze statue on rocks at the harbour’s entrance.
Locals wanted a lasting tribute to this grand old man of the sea and raised £24,000, while renowned sculptor Suzie Marsh donated her talents for free.
In life, a young Nelson would swim up and down the south Cornish coast before making Looe Island his home and Looe harbour his dining room.
He was clearly a seal of impeccable taste because the town is a gem.
Statue of Nelson the seal
Which leads me to think that had Nelson lived on the land instead of in the sea he would surely have moved into perfectly positioned Church House, which can be booked through Toad Hall Cottages.
The 16th century former tavern, which is a stop on the Looe Town Trail, has retained its original arches and beams and is literally within a stone’s throw of:
  • A family-friendly, broad, sandy beach – one of south Cornwall’s best – with facilities, safe swimming, perfect sandcastle-building conditions and its distinctive Banjo pier.
  • Glass-bottomed boats that go in search of seals and dolphins and other boats offering river trips and fishing trips, whether for a few mackerel or to land a shark (Looe is home to the Shark Angling Club Of Great Britain).
  • A maze of narrow streets where you can find great pubs and restaurants serving fresh fish (the town’s fleet of small fishing boats returns its catch to port daily) and shops selling a wide variety pasties (half price at one shop after 5pm – try the banana and chocolate, yum!).
  • The Old Guildhall, Museum and Gaol, which recalls Looe’s rich history and boasts an Elizabethan magistrates’ court with cells below.
The town is divided by its river into East Looe and West Looe, connected by a single, seven-arched Victorian bridge.
Church House, our base for a week, is in bustling East Looe. Sleeping four, both bedrooms are en suite, the kitchen-diner is well equipped and up the spiral steps is a huge lounge with a (very) widescreen TV.
Despite being at the hub of everything, the cottage was surprisingly quiet.
Of course, there is a small price to pay for living among the narrow streets of an historic fishing port – none of the houses have parking spaces.
There’s room next to the cottage to load and unload and the family’s ‘designated driver’ can pick up and drop off as many times as necessary.
But vehicles must stay overnight in a public car park just across the bridge, a ten-minute walk away, costing just under £30 for the week.
If that doesn’t appeal, you can stay a little out of town or catch the train to Looe – good bus and rail links mean you can still enjoy some day trips.
Or you can just get about on foot. There are woodland and coastal walks to enjoy, with a particularly spectacular one to Polperro.
Perhaps as you stroll along the clifftops you’ll be lucky enough to spot one of Nelson’s old friends.
Church House, Looe
Getting There
Toad Hall Cottages, an independent company that started almost 30 years ago, has grown to become one of the leading providers of holiday cottages in Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset, with more than 500 properties in coastal, waterside and rural locations. They range from cosy retreats for couples to luxury houses sleeping up to 18 and groups of adjacent cottages accommodating as many as 70 people when booked together. A particularly wide choice of holiday homes is available beside the sea and in the wooded creeks and estuaries of the South Hams, between Dartmouth and Plymouth in south Devon, and in and around the picture-postcard fishing villages of Looe and Polperro in south Cornwall. Half the properties welcome dogs and all provide guests with discounts of up to 25 per cent on local tourist attractions. The company’s 2011 portfolio includes 70 properties appearing for the first time. To browse the collection, visit www.toadhallcottages.co.uk. The website allows visitors to narrow down their choice of holiday cottages by requesting only details of those with such amenities as an enclosed garden, WiFi/Broadband, proximity to a pub or golf course or with an open fire. Or call Toad Hall Cottages on 01548 853089. Weekly rental for Church House costs from £372 per week in winter (November to April, excluding Christmas and New Year), rising to £810 in July and August and Christmas. All Toad Hall’s 2011 prices are being held for next year.
For more information on Cornwall’s attractions, click on www.visitcornwall.co.uk

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