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Looe Island

Introduction

Once part of a monastic settlement Looe Island, also known as St George's Island, is a small island a mile from the mainland town of Looe in Cornwall, United Kingdom.

Most unusually, and perhaps uniquely, the island is not owned by the Crown and is therefore private property, a fact recorded in deeds. According to a previous owner pf the island, this came about in 1873 when the then Prince of Wales (later to become Edward VII) sold the right to settle a gambling debt. Until recently it was owned (and inhabited) by two sisters, Babs and Evelyn Atkins, who made a gift of the island to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

It is an island of outstanding natural beauty, about 22.5 acres (91,000 m²) in area and a mile (1.6 km) in circumference. The highest point is 47 m above sea level. With frost and snow virtually unknown it has an exceptionally mild climate. Daffodils bloom at Christmas and, unlike most small islands, it is partly wooded. A natural sanctuary for sea and woodland birds and one time haunt to smugglers, its history includes a Benedictine chapel built in 1139 of which only a few stones remain visible. Legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea landed here with the child Christ.

Evelyn Atkins wrote two books — We Bought An Island (1976) and its sequel Tales From Our Cornish Island (1986) — about the purchase of the island and what it is like to live there. She died in 1997 at the age of 87 but her sister Babs continued to live on the island until her death in 2004, at the age of 86, leaving the island to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust who will preserve it as a nature reserve.

The island is normally accessible only by boat, but at low spring tides it is possible for the journey to be made by foot across the rocky sea floor. The island is open to day visitors (a landing fee is payable) during the summer. This is a non-profit making venture, the landing fees and other income being devoted to conserving the island's natural beauty and to providing facilities for visitors without commercialising it in any way. Jetty cottage has a liscence for weddings and couples can stay the night in a tipi on the island after their wedding service.