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South West coastal path walk

This wonderfully scenic walk takes in some of the country’s most exceptional coastline, as well as some top Cornish villages.

Duration: 4 to 5 hours
Start at Looe station
Highlights: Seals, rock pools and picnics

This walk takes in a holy legend, a sixth-century monastery, shipwrecks and smugglers, all in a classic coastal landscape.

From Looe Station on the banks of the River Looe turn right and follow the river towards the coast. Cross the bridge and continue following the river, which soon meets the sea. Charming whitewashed houses on Marine Drive look out across the rocky beach and over to Looe Island.

Close inshore, Looe Island is a nature reserve and marine conservation area, also known as St George’s Island. At spring low tide it’s possible to walk across; otherwise there are day trips from Looe that let you spot grey seals, sea birds and butterflies and delve into some of Cornwall’s best rock pools.

There are the ruins of a Benedictine chapel on the island and legend says that Joseph of Arimathea came here, although it’s not exactly clear why he did so. Coastguard-turned-smuggler Thomas Fletcher also lived here, but at the time he preferred to be called a ‘free trader’.

Past the island, Marine Drive ends at a gate, where the coastal path climbs a hillside to another gate and on to level, open grassland that stretches ahead with wonderful views of the coastline dipping and weaving into the distance.

The clifftops are a mixture of tussock grass, bays, headlands and the occasional isolated cluster of cottages that together form a picture book English coastal scene.

Where the path narrows, heather, bracken and gorse close in and steps assist on the steepest sections.

A cliff slopes down to Talland Bay, its two small coves and cafés making it a good place to rest. At low tide, a sandy beach appears, as do the remains of a 1922 shipwreck.

A steep walk inland up Bridal Lane will take you to Sclerder Abbey, where Thomas Fletcher is buried. Talland is about halfway to Polperro, from where buses run back to Looe. Alternatively, you can just turn around and enjoy the walk back from a different perspective.

Looe train station