Into the Map: Looe, Cornwall
Tucked away on the south east coast of Cornwall, you’ll find the fishing town of Looe. It might be familiar to you already. For so many, myself included, it brings memories of childhood holidays, paddling in the sea and taking boat rides across to Polperro, which is featured in both versions of my illustrated Cornwall map print. It's been featured in many TV programmes, from cooking shows to the likes of Countryfile and more recently, it is known as Shipton Abbott in the BBC’s Beyond Paradise (although they are calling it Devon, but we won’t go into that).
When I first designed my Cornwall map print, I wanted to include as many of the places that mean the most to me as I could. But of course, nowhere means quite as much to me than the town where I live.
From Banjo Pier to Looe Island to Kilminorth Woods, there’s so much to this tiny slice of Cornwall and of course, lots of stories.
Let’s start here (even though it’s not on my map) because this is possibly one of the oldest tales. Today, Looe Island is a nature reserve, but in the past, it has been known as St George’s Island and St Michael’s Island. And this is where it gets interesting. According to local legend (and we all know they’re the best kind), Joseph of Arimathea visited here with his nephew child Jesus in tow (yes, as in Christ- that guy) while trading for tin in pre-Roman Britain. Some even say Jesus and his uncle popped across to Looe beach to feast with the locals one evening.
Another fun Looe Island anecdote is that during World War II, it was briefly renamed H.M.S St. George after a probable parachute mine was dropped on it, having been mistaken for an allied ship. Island, ship, what’s the difference?
Popular with dog walkers, this woodlands follows the estuary and is a great place to spot little egrets and herons. I’m forever trying to get close enough to take a decent photo, but I’ve not yet managed to succeed. I need to get myself a zoom lens.
One of the oldest woodlands in England (if you accept Cornwall as being a part of England, but again, I won’t go into that), it’s probably not surprising that some say these woods are very haunted. Legend has it that witches once used these woods and perhaps are still there today. Some report a feeling of being watched and foul smells, while others have described unexplained blue lights that seem to hover mid-air.
The White Hare
Sticking to the theme of ghosts is the tale of the White Hare. You can find this tale on my illustrated animals of folklore print.
Said to haunt the road between Talland Bay and the Jolly Sailor pub, should you see the White Hare, it is not just considered a warning of bad weather, but an ill omen. As the story goes, a girl named Sarah was madly in love with a boy named Simon who, having promised to marry her, then turned his attention to another girl named Sally, a barmaid at the Jolly Sailor. Consumed with grief, Sarah killed herself and thus took on the form of the ghostly White Hare. Unable to let go of her heartbreak even in death, the White Hare would follow her former love to and from the Jolly Sailor. Not long after, Simon died of an unknown illness and so the curse was born. If you encounter the White Hare, be warned, you could befall terrible misfortune, especially if you are a man, including death.
But the White Hare doesn’t always bring bad luck. She is said to also be a warning of a storm to fisherman and if you see the hare darting through the boats in the harbour, think twice before heading out to sea.
I love folklore and while these are my favourite stories, there are so many more surrounding this beautiful fishing town.
You can find my illustrated Cornwall map prints and my Cornwall Alphabet print in my shop by clicking here. They make a wonderful gift for any lover of Cornwall, whether it be for a visitor or a local.
What's your favourite folklore tale?