Looe is one of southeast Cornwall's tourist hotspots. The two settlements of West and East Looe, situated at the mouth of the East Looe River, were quite separate until a bridge linked them from 1436 onwards. Looe has a long history of fishing and shipbuilding, and is still a thriving deep-sea fishing port with a daily fish market. Evidence of East Looe's past wealth can be seen in its medieval layout of narrow lanes and alleyways, and substantial buildings such as the Old Guildhall (now a museum) and Gaol, Looe's former courthouse, dating from 1500, and the timber-framed Golden Guinea Restaurant in Fore Street, where a £10,000 hoard of gold guineas was once found in a cupboard. West Looe is much quieter, and overlooks St George's Island, a notorious haunt of smugglers in the 18th century, and today a marine nature reserve.
The East and West Looe valleys
This walk leaves the hustle and bustle of Looe behind and begins with a short, stress-free train ride to the serenity of Causeland Station Halt in the valley of the East Looe River. The delightful Looe Valley Line runs for 8.75 miles (14km) upriver to end its journey at the ancient market town of Liskeard, one of Cornwall's four stannary towns (a centre for the assaying of tin). Once the train has gone, enjoy the tranquillity of this tiny 'one-horse' stop. With its electronic information point it may not be entirely Betjemanesque, but it is close. The walk starts with a climb to the little ridge-top village of Duloe. Its name derives from Dhu-Loo, meaning 'Black Looe'; Du-Loo, meaning 'God's River'; and Due-Loo, meaning 'Two Loos', reflecting its position between the valleys of the East and West Looe rivers.
The village is famed for its Bronze Age stone circle (the smallest in Cornwall), passed on this walk. This haunting ceremonial site is composed of eight quartzite stones, each one representing a main point of the compass.The circle was originally bisected by a Cornish hedge, which was removed in 1858, and the stones re-erected three years later. Take the opportunity of checking your directional instincts – and your compass. From Duloe's Church of St Cuby, with its 13th-century tower the walk drops steeply into the valley of the West Looe River, which is followed all the way back to Millpool car park. Note that stretches of this are little walked and, at time, very muddy. The final part threads through lovely Kilminorth Woods, ancient oak woods that were once 'coppiced' and are now a nature reserve.
On leaving the station, turn immediately left along a quiet lane to a junction with another lane opposite Badham Farm Holiday Cottages. Turn right and brace yourself for a stiff climb for the next 0.25 miles (400m). The effort is worth it; you gain height and the rest of the route is generally downhill all the way.
In 0.75 miles (1.2km), just before the crest, go left over a stone stile, then head diagonally across a field towards the opposite left-hand corner and a row of houses. (If the field is under crops and no right-of-way apparent, go round the field-edge.) Go over a stile in the field corner, bear left to squeeze around the back of garages and bear left to the main road. There are public toilets immediately to the right.
Go left along the pavement to pass The Plough at Duloe, preferably in time for lunch. Continue along the main road and in about 275yds (251m) you'll reach a signpost indicating the way to the Duloe Stone Circle. Once back on the main road, walk the few paces to Duloe's Church of St Cuby, accessed via the cemetery.
From the south door of the church bear left past the tower to leave the churchyard by the top gateway into the lane (the village war memorial is to the left). Turn right and follow the lane, past the school, for 0.75 miles (1.2km). Just before the tarmac ends keep ahead past a junction on the right and descend steeply into the wooded valley of the West Looe River. Go left at a T-junction.
Just before reaching the river, go left over a stile by a gate. Do not follow the track directly ahead; instead bear right opposite a gate and follow a faint, grassy path that becomes a broad track above the river. Follow the riverside way for the next 0.75 miles (1.2km). Be aware that stretches of the path are indistinct, and some areas extremely wet underfoot. Eventually reach a narrow lane at Sowden's Bridge.
Turn right here, then cross the bridge and follow the lane, ignoring two side junctions but going left at a final three-way junction, signed 'Kilminorth and Watergate'. Note the huge limekiln in trees to the right of the lane.
In 0.75 miles (1.2km), turn left by pretty cottages into Kilminorth Woods. There is a choice of onward routes: either a riverside footpath, or the Giant's Hedge footpath that first climbs steeply, then follows the line of the vegetated Giant's Hedge, probably a 6th-century boundary dyke that marked out the territory of a local chieftain. Both are well-signposted and lead pleasantly back to West Looe. The riverside walk can be submerged by the river at one point as the tide rises. An alternative short signed detour will guide you safely onwards if the tide is in.
Good woodland, riverside paths, tracks and quiet lanes. Can be very muddy on riverside sections, several stiles
Fields, riverbank and woodland
Dogs on lead in fields and Kilminorth Woods
OS Explorer 107 St Austell & Liskeard
Millpool Car Park, West Looe, across river bridge from East Looe. Looe Station 0.5 miles (800m) from Millpool car park, reached by crossing river bridge then walking north along A387 (small car park at Looe Station fills up quickly)
Duloe, Millpool car park
The Looe Valley Line, Liskeard–Looe. Request halts at Coombe, St Keyne, Causeland and Sandplace. Tell the conductor your destination for request stop halts; 8–9 trains daily; not all trains stop at Causeland so check in advance
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Discover Cornwall and Isles of Scilly
Cornwall has just about everything – wild moorland landscapes, glorious river valley scenery, picturesque villages and miles of breathtaking coastline. With more than 80 surfing spots, there are plenty of sporting enthusiasts who also make their way here to enjoy wave-surfing, kite surfing and blokarting.
In recent years, new or restored visitor attractions have attracted even more visitors to the region; the Eden Project is famous for its giant geodesic domes housing exotic plants from different parts of the globe, while nearby the Lost Gardens of Heligan has impressive kitchen gardens and a wildlife hide.