From spring to early autumn, it is possible to join an official Cornwall Wildlife Trust trip to the magical, unspoilt nature reserve that is Looe Island. Bequeathed to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust in 2004, this is 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 and access by foot is not allowed. The island and its foreshore is managed for the benefit of wildlife and our team are working incredibly hard to keep Looe Island Nature Reserve special. 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.
If you are on the waters around the island, please always keep a good distance from Looe Island including the various rocks to avoid any disturbance to marine birds and mammals.
Disturbance can seriously affect the health and wellbeing of marine wildlife. Be aware that if wildlife reacts to your presence, you are already too close. Similarly, the use of camera drones is considered intrusive and unacceptable. You can find out more on the Cornwall Marine and Coastal Code website.
Please report any incidents of wildlife disturbance to the Disturbance Hotline: 0345 201 2626
When you can visit
The Cornwall Wildlife Trust run trips to Looe Island every year during the warmer months. These trips are popular so remember to book well in advance. Visit the Cornwall Wildlife Trust website for details.
- 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.
- Details of the boat and landing fees for guided walking day trips 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.
What you can expect to see
On a visit to the island, the wardens will provide you with a copy of an informative guide to the round-island 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 200 individual seals have been identified in Looe. Each seal’s 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 Shetland sheep, that help with the conservation by creating and maintaining a mosaic of grassland and scrub, which benefits a wide range of wildlife, including suitable nesting habitat for the great black-backed gull.
- 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. It is now managed to create a more varied woodland that is more attractive to a wider range of wildlife.
- Historic highlights. Legend says that Joseph of Arimathea came here. The island was 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.