Walk - Rame Head Chapel

2.0 miles (3.1 km)

Rame Head car park - PL10 1LH Rame Head car park

Easy - On a good coastal path and quiet lanes, with some short stretches of up and down.

A high headland with a bird's-eye view of the coast for a long way in both directions, Rame Head has long been a lookout point. Celtic warriors built a rampart across the neck of the headland to defend it from possible attack, and medieval monks kept a light burning here to warn sailors of the rocks after St German established their chapel in the Dark Ages. This is a short loop around the headland, which is a great place for bird-spotting, especially in autumn, when hobbies, merlins, peregrines, hen and marsh harriers and short-eared owls have all been seen passing through. On a day with good visibility you should be able to see Eddystone lighthouse.

Part of this walk starting from the car park is classed as Easy Access. The climb up to Rame Head Chapel is steep but able to be accomplished by those of, at least, a moderate fitness. Pushchairs and wheel chairs have plenty of space in which to safely explore the headland.

To check that this walk is suitable for you click here where you can find additional mapping and photographs showing gradients, path surfaces, and other detailed information.

There are a range of wonderful places to lay your head near the Coast Path for a well-earned sleep. From large and luxurious hotels, to small and personable B&B's, as well as self-catering options and campsites. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

Coombe House, Cawsand

Coombe House B&B - Beautifully renovated farmhouse with stunning sea views and ample carparking.  Just 15 minutes from the Coast Path and 5 minutes from Kingsand/Cawsand offering 4 pubs for dinner. Spacious and immaculate. Highly recommended on Trip Advisor.

The Edgcumbe Arms, Cremyll

The Edgcumbe Arms is situated on the Coast Path where Cornwall meets Devon. We have 4 recently refurbished B&B rooms and are open all day for food & drinks.

Rusty Anchor, Plymouth

A classic Victorian townhouse adjacent to Plymouth's bustling harbour. This elegant six bedroomed property has been modernised to provide a chic, eclectic look whilst maintaining much of its originality. Locally sourced organic food. Accommodation is flexible, from long term stays, special offers, weekend deals etc.  Small short haired dogs welcome.

Edgcumbe Guest House, Plymouth

Highly recommended guest house offering quality accommodation and fabulous breakfasts using top quality produce. Long established, clean and extremely comfortable, family run.  Perfect base for your walking holiday.  Ideally located a few yards from the sea front.  En suite rooms, free wifi, digital tvs, hairdryers, generous beverage trays. Special diets catered for.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the entrance to the Rame Head car park take the footpath on the opposite side of the car park, heading along the right-hand hedge and following it around the corner to the right. Going through into the right-hand field, cross it diagonally to come out on the road. Turn left on the road and follow it to the church.

In the reign of the Emperor Valentinian in the fourth century AD - according to a legend retold by Robert Hunt at the start of the twentieth century - the people along the shores of the Tamar had been taught by the local monks that all men were doomed from birth to a life of sin and misery. St German was sent to preach to them about free will and the value of good works. He built a church here, and a poor house, and he performed a number of miracles. He had many followers, but he also had his enemies, and one day a rowdy rabble burst in on his Sunday service and drove him out.

According to the text, 'St German went, a sad man, to the cliffs at the Rame Head, and there alone he wept in agony at the failure of his labours. So intense was the soul-suffering of this holy man that the rocks wept with him. From that day the tears of the cliffs have continued to fall, and the Well of St German attests to this day of the saint's agony.'

Today's Church of Saint Germanus in Rame was first consecrated in 1259, being built on the site of an earlier Norman church, possibly from around AD 981, when Earl Ordulf, owner of vast estates in the West Country and uncle of King Ethelred, gave Rame to Tavistock Abbey (which he had founded). The tower, spire and chancel date from the thirteenth century, but the nave and aisles were added later, and the whole church was restored in 1848 and again in 1886.

Sometime around 1890, Rame Church Battery was built as part of Plymouth's southern defences, along with the Penlee and Pier Cellars Batteries (see the Kingsand Cawsand & Penlee Point Walk). It was disarmed after the First World War, and in the Second World War it was used as a radar station. It was demolished in the 1970s.

  1. From the church gate turn right and then fork right, turning right at the T-junction, and walk a short distance along the military road to the gap in the right-hand hedge just ahead. Follow the path down the right-hand hedge, crossing another path at the end of the field to the South West Coast Path just beyond it.

The military road was also built in the 1890s and connects the various forts and batteries around the peninsula (see the Kingsand Cawsand & Penlee Point Walk).

  1. Turn right on the Coast Path and follow it as it travels high on the heathland towards the headland chapel. Carry on past the path by the bench near the mast to continue along the Coast Path to the end of the headland, climbing the steps on the mound to reach the chapel at its summit.

People have lived here since prehistoric times, and there is a Neolithic (Late Stone Age) chambered tomb on the hillside to the northwest of Rame. A greenstone axe from the same period was found on the beach at Cawsand, and other flint tools have been found elsewhere on the peninsula. In the Iron Age, around 2000 years ago, there was a cliff castle, or promontory fort, on the mound ahead, and the remains of the rampart protecting its landward flank can still be seen across the neck of the headland.

The chapel on the mound was licensed for Mass in 1397, and is probably built on the site of St German's original hermitage, although it was later dedicated to St Michael the Archangel, patron of high places. In its earliest days a lamp was probably kept alight in the chapel to warn sailors of the rocks below. In 1588 the first sighting of the Spanish Armada was from this chapel. In the Second World War there were various buildings around the chapel, including a small military camp, gun platforms, and Chain Home Low radar installations with a Ground Controlled Interception hut and a bunker thought to have been part of an anti-submarine acoustic listening network.

  1. Returning down the long flight of steps from the chapel, this time take the left fork to follow the Coast Path up the opposite hillside. When the Coast Path bears left towards Polhawn and Whitsand Bay, bear right to carry on uphill, back to the car park.

Rame Head Observatory, a coastguard lookout until it closed in 1988, is now manned by volunteers from the National Coastwatch Institute. The NCI was established on Cornwall's Lizard Point in 1994, when two sailors drowned there within sight of the newly-closed Coastguard lookout at Bass Point (see the Lizard Point Walk). Originally there was a Lloyds register lookout on the site, and part of its octagonal outline can still be seen at the southern corner of the current building.

On a clear day you will be able to see, the most famous lighthouse in the British Isles - the Eddystone, built on a small and very dangerous rock 13 miles south west of Plymouth. There have been four separate lighthouses built here. The original steel Winstanley’s tower, was completed in 1698, the first lighthouse to be built on a small rock in the open sea.

 In June 1697, England was at war with France. Whilst building the tower a French privateer carried Winstanley off to France. When Louis XIV heard he ordered his immediately release saying that "France was at war with England not with humanity". In 1709 the John Rudyerd replaced it with the wooden Rudyerd’s Tower. It burnt down in 1755 poisoning the 94 year old keeper who swallowed a lump of molten lead as it dripped from the roof.

John Smeaton, a Yorkshireman, built the next tower, out of granite, inventing quick drying cement in the process. 120 years later, in the 1870's, cracks appeared in the rock. The top half of the tower was dismantled and re-erected on Plymouth Hoe as a monument to the builder. The present tower built in 1882 used larger stones, dovetailed on all sides and to the courses above and below. In 1982 the lighthouse was the first to be converted to automatic operation. A helipad was built above the lantern to allow the work to be carried out.

The tower is 49 metres high, 41 metres above the sea at high water. Its white light flashes twice every 10 seconds and can be seen for 17 nautical miles. The fog signal blasts once every 30 seconds.

Public transport

From Plymouth there are regular ferries to Cawsand (Rame is about a mile's walk from here: from Cawsand Square walk up St Andrew's Place, carrying on along Forder Lane and then Rame Lane, and start the walk at Rame Church). There are also regular buses to Kingsand (walk to Cawsand Square and follow the directions above). For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stop symbols, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.

Parking

Rame Head, Penlee Point, Cawsand, Kingsand

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