A short boat ride across Looe Bay brings you to the VMCA’s magical, beautiful, unspoilt nature reserve that is Looe Island – bequeathed to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust in 2004 – Cornwall’s only marine nature reserve. With a variety of habitats including woodland, maritime grassland, sand, shingle and rocky reef, it provides a protected environment for its wildlife and is a perfect quiet haven to visit.
How to get to the island
Visits can only be made on official organised trips. This is to help manage wildlife disturbance. Craft such as boats, jet skis, kayaks/canoes and paddle boards etc. as well as snorkelers/divers and swimmers are therefore asked to respect the ‘NO LANDING sign.
When you can visit
In daylight hours and in fair weather, appointed local boatmen run the trips in small boats that can access the island 2-3 hours either side of high tide, As there is no scheduled boat service, you can check the island notice board on Buller’s Quay if you are in Looe for information on crossing times for the day. Alternatively, visit the Cornwall Wildlife Trust website.
- Sensible footwear is essential – the landing stage and paths can be slippery and uneven.
- Warm & Shower proof clothing – in layers. Remember, the weather can change quickly!
- Refreshments – bring a packed lunch and a drink (there are no refreshment facilities on the island).
- A reusable bag to bring all your rubbish off the island.
- Money to pay a fee to the boatman plus a landing fee on the island. Current charges can be found on the Cornwall Wildlife Trust website.
- As this is a nature reserve, dogs are not allowed.
- There are compost toilets on the island.
Where to get the boat
Boats usually leave from the slipway at the RNLI Station in East Looe for the 15-20 minute crossing.
What you can expect to see
In the 2 hours you have on the island, the wardens will provide useful information including free guides that feature a marked trail. You must remain on the designated paths to prevent wildlife disturbance and because the cliff edges are hazardous.
- Seals: Most visitors will see grey seals hauled out on the rocks at the back of the island or swimming close into shore depending on the tide state. Cornwall is home to the majority of the world’s grey seal population, and so far, over 35 individual seals have been identified in Looe. Each seals markings are unique which, to the trained eye enables them to be identified.
- Birds: The nature reserve is home to many nesting birds such as cormorants, shags, and oystercatchers. Looe island also has the largest breeding colony in Cornwall of the great black-backed gull.
- Sheep: The island is also home to a small flock of Hebridean sheep, that help with the conservation by creating and maintaining grass land structures.
- Butterflies and Wildlife Meadows: Across the island small wildflower meadows are being created. These areas, combined with the mix of grassland, scrub and woods have allowed numerous moths and butterflies to flourish. Most frequently spotted are speckled wood, meadow brown and red admiral although it is also possible to see beautiful silver-washed fritillaries or the day flying hummingbird hawkmoth feeding on plants such as red valerian.
- The mainly sycamore woodland provides important shelter from the prevailing winds.
- Historic highlights. Legend says that Joseph of Arimathea came here. The island is the site of a Benedictine chapel. The location has never been confirmed of a secret cave where smuggled contraband was hidden. If you find it, let us know!
Much more information is available on the Cornwall Wildlife Website.