Falmouth and the Looe Valley

Falmouth and the Looe Valley

Back in May we had a really lovely time exploring Cornwall as part of our 10-day camping holiday in Devon and Cornwall.

For the first few days we were based in the pretty town of Marazion. Right down at the bottom of Cornwall, in the middle of Mounts Bay, this tiny, pretty town is known for being where the causeway links across from the mainland to St. Michael’s Mount. It was a great base for our time down there and we were able to explore lots of different areas.

Falmouth

One of the days we headed down to Penryn and caught the train into Falmouth (easier to park at Penryn and meant we could use either of the Falmouth stations). Our first stop was Pendennis Castle, on the headland just outside of Falmouth. I’ve actually written about that already as a guest post on the blog Flight & Times, so you can read all about that here.

Once we’d enjoyed our time at the Castle, we walked back into town and explored the town centre. The pretty town looks out over the Fal and its harbour. It was lovely in the sunshine and the town centre was full of wonderful independent shops, including eco-living shops, gift shops, galleries and other independent retailers.

As we’d forgotten any cutlery to eat our lunch, we headed into Trago Mills to try and rectify this. The shop is one of those places you can get ANYTHING. The factory shop is spread over multiple floors and it’s hard to believe this is the smallest of the four Trago Mills stores! It was an experience! But eventually we found some combined spoon/fork/knife implements designed for camping and were able to go and eat our lunch. We headed down to a bench on the harbour and enjoyed lunch looking out over the river.

After lunch it was back to the high street to explore all the independent shops. We bought a couple of gifts from one of the shops and enjoyed looking around others. I especially liked the shop Willow and Stone, it sold all sorts of sustainable items, lots of lovely prints and cards etc from independent artists and also had a large range of books, it was great!

After a while, I insisted we find a café because I was hellbent on finding a proper Cornish crab sandwich. I thought Falmouth was a good bet for this and was surprised when a couple of café’s didn’t have it on the menu. Aidan really wanted a Cornish pasty too, so we found a really nice café called Picnic and ordered one of each and shared. I was not disappointed! The crab sandwich was beautiful and so was the pasty! The café is an independent one and had a large range of eco-living items too. As well as a café it’s also a deli and had a lovely range of products. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to buy them all!

After a while of exploring more shops and dodging the torrential downpours it was time to head back home, but Falmouth was lovely and I would highly recommend visiting and popping into Picnic! (Lack of photos due to intermittent terrible weather and having too much fun).

Looe Valley

We decided from the get-go that our travel day between Cornwall and Devon wouldn’t just be spent going from one site to the other and that we’d go out for the day on our way back up. We settled on the Looe Valley, partly because Aidan wanted to explore the gorgeous little railway branch line, partly because I really wanted to explore the town and also because it was just too far to get to from our base down in Marazion.

The line down to Looe leaves the mainline at Liskeard and prior research (read, watching All The Stations) had shown that this little valley was very pretty with some wonderful railway heritage. With that in mind we decided to pay the few pounds each and get the train into Looe (this also avoided trying to park in the popular town, I would highly recommend doing this!). The weather was stunning and the route towards Looe down-hill, so we decided to walk the first bit of the way and explore a bit of the rural Cornish countryside.

In brief, there are 4 stations between Liskeard and Looe, Coombe Junction Halt, St Keyne Wishing Well Halt, Causeland and Sandplace. All 4 of these stations are request stops. I didn’t even know these were a thing until a couple of years ago! Basically, if you want to catch the train from here, you have to put your arm out and flag the train down like catching the bus! And if you want to get off at them, you have to request to do so with the train Guard/Driver.

Coombe Junction Halt isn’t in use on Sundays so we walked from Liskeard, down the hill and to the station to explore. The line, although part of the regular National Rail Service, has been treated like a Heritage Line and therefore the branding is all as such and the pretty stations are full of information about the local area and the line’s heritage.

Coombe Junction Halt is where the train comes off the line from Looe, on to a semi-circular curve of track that sweeps through the valley, allowing the trains to climb or descend the 146m height difference between the main line and the Looe Valley line.

Having explored this station, we walked for another 20 minutes or so down to the very pretty station of St Keyne Wishing Well Halt where we then made our intent clear as the train approached and hopped on for the rest of the journey to Looe. It was a stunning walk through the countryside and I’m really glad we started out on foot.

St Keyne Wishing Well Halt Station

The views for the rest of the journey were spectacular over river and the valley and Looe Station is about a 10-15 minute walk from the harbour.

When we got into the town, we started our hunt for lunch and came across the Martin’s Dairy Bakery and Ice Cream parlour which had some fantastic looking Cornish pasties in the window. As it was our last opportunity to eat proper Cornish pasties in Cornwall, we bought two and headed down through the town to the seafront to eat them. We found ourselves a spot on the Banjo pier and tucked in, looking out of the beautiful azure waters and people enjoying the beach below.

The Banjo Pier is so named due to its shape. It was designed by Joseph Thomas in 1896 as a way of solving the ongoing problem of the harbour at Looe silting up. He designed the pier’s unique shape to combat this and was so confident it would work, he agreed he would pay back the local town any money they spent to build it, if it didn’t. Joseph Thomas wasn’t left out of pocket! Thomas was also the engineer who designed the curving track that linked the valley line to the mainline at Liskeard. There is a monument to him at the harbour.

After lunch, we continued to admire the clear blue waters of the harbour, used our Refill app to find somewhere to get fresh water as it was really rather warm and then headed back towards the town for some exploring. Our first stop was the RNLI Lifeboat Shed which was open for the public to come in and explore. I have written before about why the RNLI are an important charity to me so it was interesting to look at the boats and tractor up close and find out how this lifeboat station operates. We also saw posters of local concerts that were being put on by the RNLI in the shed too. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make any of them but it was a great idea and hopefully if we are back in the future we’ll be able to see one.

We then spent another half an hour or so wandering around the narrow streets, exploring some lovely independent home furnishing, gift and clothes shops before having to get back for the train. We obviously factored in time to go back to Martin’s Dairy though to get an ice cream! And yes, we did get ice creams with huge dollops of clotted cream on top and it was as glorious as it sounds. We again sat overlooking the top end of the harbour to eat them before walking back to the station.

All in all, it was a lovely way to explore the valley, town and harbour and I would love to come back again with more time. There was an interesting looking town museum too, but unfortunately it wasn’t open, so we’d definitely try to visit there on our return.

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