Old Guildhall Museum & Gaol

Nestled in the heart of the picturesque fishing town of Looe, Cornwall, the Old Guildhall Museum & Gaol offers a unique glimpse into the rich history and heritage of this charming coastal community.

Housed in a building that dates back to the 15th century, this fascinating museum and former gaol provide visitors with an opportunity to step back in time and explore the intriguing past of Looe and its inhabitants.

Discovering the Old Guildhall Museum & Gaol

The museum is located on Higher Market Street, within an atmospheric building that has served various purposes throughout its history, including a town hall, gaol, and magistrate’s court.

Today, it stands as a testament to Looe’s colourful past, with exhibits and artefacts that span several centuries.

Highlights of the Old Guildhall Museum & Gaol

Maritime History: Looe’s maritime heritage is a significant focus of the museum, with displays on fishing, boat building, and smuggling, offering insights into the town’s longstanding relationship with the sea.

Local Life: The museum also explores everyday life in historical Looe, showcasing artefacts related to local trades, customs, and traditions, painting a vivid picture of the community’s evolution.

The Gaol: One of the museum’s most intriguing features is the preserved gaol cells, where visitors can experience the austere conditions faced by prisoners in centuries past.

Historic Records: For those interested in genealogy or local history, the museum houses an extensive collection of records, photographs, and documents detailing the town’s lineage and notable figures.

Planning Your Visit

Getting There

Looe is well-connected by road and public transport.

The museum is located in the town centre, within easy walking distance of the main car parks and Looe railway station.

For those navigating by foot, it’s a delightful stroll through the town’s narrow, winding streets, lined with traditional Cornish buildings.

Opening Times and Admission

The Old Guildhall Museum & Gaol is typically open from Easter to October, with hours varying throughout the season.

Admission is usually very affordable, offering great value for a family outing.

As opening times and fees may change, it’s advisable to check the museum’s official website or contact them directly before your visit.


The museum is small and intimate, with limited facilities on-site.

Public toilets and a range of cafes, restaurants, and shops are located nearby in the town centre.

Maximising Your Experience

Take Your Time: The museum’s collections are rich in detail. Allow yourself plenty of time to explore the exhibits and read the informative displays to fully appreciate Looe’s history.

Ask Questions: The museum is staffed by knowledgeable volunteers who are passionate about Looe’s heritage. Don’t hesitate to ask them questions for deeper insights into the exhibits.

Explore Looe: Complement your visit to the museum with a walk around Looe to see some of the historic sites and buildings featured in the exhibits.

Tips for Your Visit

Accessibility: Due to the historic nature of the building, accessibility may be limited for those with mobility issues. Check in advance for specific access information.

Photography: While photography may be permitted, it’s always best to ask for permission first, especially if you’re planning to use flash.

Support the Museum: Consider purchasing a souvenir from the museum’s small selection of gifts as a way to remember your visit and support the museum’s preservation efforts.

Nearby Attractions

Looe Beach: Just a short walk from the museum, Looe Beach is perfect for relaxing after your visit.

Looe Island: Accessible by boat from the main beach, this nature reserve is a haven for wildlife and offers beautiful views back towards the town.

The South West Coast Path: Looe serves as an excellent starting point for walks along this stunning national trail, offering breathtaking coastal scenery.


A visit to the Old Guildhall Museum & Gaol is an essential experience for anyone interested in uncovering the layers of history that make Looe such a captivating place.

Whether you’re drawn by the lure of seafaring tales, intrigued by the prospect of stepping into a historical gaol cell, or simply curious about the lives of the people who have called Looe home, the museum offers a rich, educational, and engaging outing for holidaymakers of all ages.