Nanny Pat’s adventures: a rainy day trip to Looe

Three children waiting patiently for a train at the train station.

A wet Friday in August, three grandchildren to look after, where shall we go today? There is no doubt about it, on a wet day in the height of the busy season, traffic is heavy on the roads and the indoor attractions are bursting at the seams, so the challenge was on!

As my lot rarely travel on the train these days, a rail journey is quite an adventure. I love the little branch lines which head off to the coastal towns of Looe, Newquay, Falmouth and St Ives – they evoke a nostalgia in me of my school days, seaside postcards and the Famous Five!


We hadn’t visited Looe recently so I chose it for our destination. Parking is easy at St Austell station and only £3.50 for the day. Excitement was running high as we boarded the mainline train for the first leg of our journey to Liskeard. A short walk along the platform found us on the branch line to Looe, where the train was ready and waiting for us to get on. This little train follows the valley of the East Looe river and was originally constructed to convey lime from Looe to farmland further inland. It was extended later in the 19th century to transport ore from inland mines to the sea.

Passenger traffic took over as people sought holidays at the seaside and the line then linked up with the mainline as it does today. The gradient is steep and a little quirk of this line is that the train has to reverse and change lines at Coombe in order to proceed down the valley. Another unusual thing about this line is that the train slows down at the mini stations along the way – and passengers hail the train as you would a bus. If the driver doesn’t see anyone waiting to get on, he just speeds up and continues on his way.

There are some lovely circular walks based around the branch lines if you would like to explore further. The short video below will give you a taste of what the journey is like.

The journey down to Looe is full of beautiful views out of the train window. Heavily wooded valleys teaming with wildlife open up to glorious estuary views as the river meets the sea. The children had their noses pressed to the window – as it was low tide, the river was full of wading birds such as little egrets, grey herons, oystercatchers and curlews.

The rain had eased to drizzle when arrived at Looe, so we made the short walk into town, via the quay and fresh fish shops which Looe is famous for, then onwards to the famous Banjo Pier and beach. It wasn’t really nice enough to do more than a quick walk along the beach, so we headed back to the ancient Golden Guinea cafe in the centre of town.

After lunch, a few steps along the street brought us to Paint a Pot. I had been tipped off about this place by some Bosinver guests so had booked us a slot at 2pm. We had a big painting table to ourselves and the children chose an item to decorate. Options varied from plates, mugs, vases and jugs to money boxes and figurines. You are given the raw item, a colour chart and a set of brushes and paints. The friendly staff offer useful tips and instructions to help you produce a personal work of art.

We did a plate and two mugs between us and spent a happy hour and a half being creative. You can pop back after two days to collect your masterpieces or have them posted to you, approximate cost £10 per child.

The day flew by and it was soon time to return to the station for our trip home. The children all agreed it had been a splendid day out and they couldn’t wait to receive their pots in the post.

My grandchildren are 3, 5 and 8 years old and having them on my own can be a bit of a challenge but this day was manageable and fun for all of us.

Days out in Cornwall without a car

Exploring Cornwall without a car is easier than you might think – and the journey can be half the fun! For more family days out using public transport, take a look at our handy guide to days out without a car.

Do you have any suggestions for rainy day activities with the kids in Cornwall? Leave us a message below, post on our Facebook page or tweet @Bosinver – we’d love to hear from you.

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