Who wants to learn about local history and sardines before climbing a wall and finishing off with a top notch meal? We do. And we go to The Old Sardine Factory in Looe to do this. Sitting pretty on the riverside in West Looe, this multi-purpose building caters for a wide range of visitors, whether they’re hungry for sensational food and exercise or simply have a thirst for knowledge.
The Old Sardine Factory is a 19th century former, well, sardine factory. It underwent a £1.7 million restoration in 2018 and has offered three main distinct activities in its Grade II listed building ever since. A major part of it is the Looe Harbour Heritage Centre that tells the story of the harbour, as well as the rivers and bridges in Looe. Of course, a principal topic in the exhibitions is the sardine industry that once flourished in the town.
The centre is open between Easter and the end of September every year but check its website as the opening days and times can vary. It is frequently used by families on rainy days as there are some popular craft kits in there for kids, as well as a whole host of educational and heritage events run throughout the summer.
Another big draw to the factory is the climbing wall with its six rope climbs and a low traversing wall. It caters for all levels of ability and is run by Adventure Fit SouthWest. And after all that exercise, the Sardine Factory Restaurant – which boasts a Bib Gourmand, one of the highest awards you can get from Michelin that shows an eatery ‘offers good food at competitive prices’ – is a must. Open between Wednesday and Sunday, it keeps with the fishy theme of the place as it dishes up creations using ingredients from the market over the road. Expect simple, fresh and tasty offerings that use only the best catches of the day from the waters surrounding Looe.
On top of the main three attractions at the old factory is a coffee shop connected to the heritage centre. Of course, it’s unlikely you’ll want to climb, wander the heritage centre, sip some joe and eat local fish all in one day. But, in case you do, the sardine factory has you covered. And your family. And your friends. Hell, bring the whole clan and pack this old building out like a tin of sardines…