Tamar & Looe – Cornwall
Often called Cornwall’s forgotten corner, the Rame peninsula encompasses a world of cosy villages sheltered by tidal creeks, with views of tall ships sailing into harbour. Its undeveloped coastline is wild and beautiful with panoramic views from the Head, out over the ocean.
Two craggy structures on Rame Head, the picturesque grotto built into the rock, and tiny St Michael’s chapel on the highest point, are wonderful places to watch the sunset. For a truly wild experience, huddle inside on a stormy night, bringing candles to light the interiors, while the sea crashes below.
There are good views west from the chapel to one of the longest stretches of sand in Cornwall, Whitsand Bay. The numerous sheltered coves along its length are very peaceful. Uninhabited St George’s Island in Looe Bay, once the private home of two sisters, is well worth a visit and if you seek solitude, stay overnight in the island’s tipi. Wild flowers bloom early in the gentle microclimate here, and it is a haven for sea and woodland birds.
Undoubtedly the wildest part of this region is around the River Tamar, the natural divide between Devon and Cornwall. Steep gorges and tidal flows are interspersed with ruined quays, and evocative ruins from an industrial age that is long gone. It’s a surprisingly difficult river to access, bounded by stretches of private land, so one of the best options is to go by canoe or kayak.
The exquisite Cotehele Quay, where the Shamrock, a fully restored Tamar barge is moored, is the best launch point and you can eat lunch, take tea or enjoy organic ice cream before you set off. As you approach the banks of Morwellham, look out for Newquay, once a thriving centre for the copper trade but now abandoned and overgrown (also accessible by foot if you don’t have a canoe).
Upstream is the quietest and most beautiful stretch of the river, especially beneath Morwell Rocks, an impressive mini-gorge and home to a noisy pair of breeding peregrines. There are herons and kingfishers, too, and many deer browsing in the woods.
Beyond Gunnislake, the Tamar becomes even wilder, with rapids and pools that are good for swimming but often far from the road. Clitter’s Woods, with its derelict mill workings and ancient trees is a wonderful place to walk. Or jump on your mountain bike and cycle through Blanchdown Wood along miles of deserted trackway down to a remote swimming hole.