You might not expect to see a statue of Nelson in Looe in Cornwall, but there is one. Mike and Jill Hampshire tell us why.
On the west quay at Looe in Cornwall there is a bronze statue of Nelson. No, not our maritime hero, but a one-eyed grey seal that adopted this delightful, bustling fishing port as his home for many years until his death in 2003. The locals were moved to commemorate his passing by erecting a fine, life-size statue overlooking the harbour.
Nelson showed good judgement in settling in Looe. We only had four days to explore the town and its surrounds, but we quickly came to share his desire to stay.
Our short break was at the family-run Barclay House (‘Rooms, Restaurant, Cottages’), an imposing white-washed Victorian villa perched high above the East Looe river, opposite a densely wooded bank with extensive views down river towards the town and port, or up river towards magnificent countryside.
On arrival the staff immediately created a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere and within minutes had produced a lovely cream tea served to us on the terrace.
Each day started with an excellent unhurried breakfast. The generous Cornish breakfast choice is complemented by the additional ‘chef’s special’ – one morning this was turbot served with an hollandaise sauce, the next a spring onion and chorizo omelette and on another - pancakes with hokey-pokey ice-cream.
Difficult choices indeed. Especially as we had to leave room for the traditional Cornish lunch snack of pasties. Every other shop in Looe seems to have a display of these tempting offerings. Eventually, after much discussion, we decided that Sarah’s Pasty Shop in Buller Street took a lot of beating. It is embarrassing to report that I settled for a vegetarian pasty (much muttering from traditional pasty lovers), but I have to say it was delicious. And rather thoughtfully Robbie’s Ice Cream shop is just a few yards away from Sarah’s and so we were able to join the folk sitting on the edge of the quay munching and licking, mesmerised by the glittering sunlight on the water and absorbing the holiday atmosphere – but don’t feed the seagulls!
Our few days were not spent solely eating – honestly
We had a thoroughly enjoyable day visiting the impressive National Trust property and gardens of Lanhydrock near Bodmin followed by a quick drive down to explore Fowey. Another day we caught an early bus to the charming little port of Polperro and then walked along the achingly beautiful coastal path back to Looe. Our final day started with a glass bottom boat trip round nearby Looe Island followed by a delightful train ride to Liskeard on the single track branch line. This runs through thick woodlands with the bubbling East Looe river accompanying the line much of the way.
The train regularly stops for ungated road crossings and almost hidden station stops. At one point near Liskard it stops yet again to allow the driver to swop ends and reverse the train up the steep incline to Liskeard. It was amusing to watch the driver quickly picking his way along the train, stepping delicately over buckets and spades, escaped crabs, fishing rods, dog’s tails and excited children - all on their way home from a day at the seaside. The ride must have left magical memories for the children later in their lives.
And our memories?
Well that coastal path from Polperro to Looe was quite breathtaking. We visited the area in late May so the path and the Cornish lanes were lined with an array of colours from the spring flowers. Add the fresh green leaves of spring and the brilliant blue of the sea and sky – what a mix! There are some steep climbs on the coastal walk but the need to take frequent photographs provides an excuse to catch one’s breath.
Plus there was the enjoyment of tasting the locally produced cider and apples juices and the range of tasty Cornish cheese. And we absolutely must not forget the succulent rump of lamb served when dining at Barclay House following the mouth-watering amuse bouche of pollack with five spice seasoning; the vast fish pie at The Plough; and the tender scallops and crispy fried sea bass at Trawlers on the Quay.
Regrettably Nelson missed out on the train ride, the glass bottom boat trip and the magnificent coastal cliff walk, but at least he shared the tasty fresh fish dishes; no wonder he stayed in Looe!
Mike and Jill Hampshire stayed at the Barclay House on a three-night Taste of Looe Valley Gourmet DBB break whereby guests dine for one evening in its 2 Rosette AA bright and elegant restaurant; one evening in a country pub - The Plough at Duloe; and the last evening at Trawlers on the Quay in West Looe. Taxis are laid on to transport guests, so the evening dining becomes a leisurely, relaxed experience with no worries about drinking and driving. Both The Plough and Trawlers on The Quay are under the same ownership as the family-run Barclay House.
When booking see if either room 4 or 7 is available for one of the best views in town! Or as an alternative, Barclay House has nine modern five star Gold self-catering properties equipped to a very high specification, one offering easy level access.
www.barclayhouse.co.uk. Tel: (0) 1503 262929