Rame Peninsula

A peninsula, by definition, is a piece of land bordered by water on every side but one. Cornwall then is itself a peninsula, made up of many smaller ones, in a sense. The Rame Peninsula, however, is somewhat distinctive. To get onto this piece of land one must leave the beaten track and double back towards the Tamar. It is far from inaccessible but since it’s not on the way to anywhere else, it’s not the sort of place one might end up accidentally. And that, perhaps, is the reason it’s regarded as the “forgotten corner”. It’s not forgotten – it’s just often overlooked. Anyway you can’t forget somewhere if you haven’t heard of it yet. But “overlooked corner” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

As far as the postman is concerned, the whole area is confusingly named Maker-with-Rame, rather than the more geographical “Rame Peninsula”. Since Maker and Rame are both individual villages in their own right, this makes the addresses of places a bit of a minefield.

The estuary of the River Lynher (also known as the St Germans) cuts off the Rame Peninsula from the main road and railway routes. The Tamar and Plymouth Sound separate it from the Devon city of Plymouth. Here you will find an area of outstanding natural beauty (indeed, it is an official AONB) with secluded beaches, magnificent scenery and lovely walks including the South West Coast Path. Fishing villages with a history of smuggling and wrecking are unspoilt by time. Colourful cottages cling to the cliffs, with narrow streets and wobbly walls.

Kingsand and Cawsand, while seemingly one conurbation, are two separate villages. The reason for this is that until 1844 Kingsand was in Devon – the boundary between Devon and Cornwall separated the two. On the old county boundary, there is a house called “Devon Corn” which has a sign to that effect. The villages both retain much of their historical character despite their new-found popularity with tourists.

With its villages, forts, crumbling cliffs, an 11th-century monk’s chapel and stunning views of the Plymouth Breakwater and the glorious sandy beaches of Whitsand Bay, Rame is really unsurpassed as a Cornish destination.

The old chapel at Rame Head, Cornwall by Joe B - CC BY-SA 3.0

The old chapel at Rame Head, Cornwall by Joe B – CC BY-SA 3.0

Getting there

By road, the Rame Peninsula is easy enough to get to from Cornwall – the A374 goes there from the main A38 trunk road. The same is true from the England side, but one should head to the Torpoint Ferry in Plymouth (it runs continuously) and cross to Cornwall that way.

Buses

Kingsand is connected to Plymouth by the Rame bus link. The Rame bus runs from Cremyll and goes over to Plymouth on the Torpoint Ferry.

Trains

The train station at St Germans has an approximately hourly service to and from Plymouth, which is on the main Paddington to Penzance line.

Ferries

In summer, the Cawsand Ferry runs a passenger service between Cawsand Beach and the Mayflower Steps in Plymouth for visitors to the Barbican. Walkers can reach the peninsula by walking through Mount Edgcumbe Country Park from the Cremyll Ferry at any time of year.

Main Places

The town of St Germans has an ancient and imposing church, a beautiful viaduct, and perhaps most importantly for some visitors a railway station.

Torpoint is the place where a chain ferry runs continuously 24/7, taking cars across the estuary to the city, Plymouth.

Looe, just off the peninsula to the west, is a vibrant fishing town with all the shops and hostelries for which one could hope.

Sheviock is a tiny but beautiful village with stone cottages and a 13th-century church in a pleasant wooded valley.

Crafthole is a relatively unknown village with a good pub, the Finnygook Inn, and the former village pump a reminder of the times pre-1930s when villagers would have had to go there for all their water. The shops here can cater for most needs.

Antony is a medieval village best known for Antony House, but it also has a shop, a pub and a garage.

St John has an ancient church and some low tide mud-flats that are home to tens of thousands of birds.

Millbrook is a good sized town with a large, dammed creek that is good for birdwatching.

Freathy is a stunning coastal settlement with a lovely beach.

Rame itself is small but of historic interest with the site of the old Pound House

Maker is a village of great historical interest but best known now for its bohemian residents and visitors and the Maker Music Festival.

Portwrinkle is a tiny fishing village known for its beaches and has 17th-century pilchard cellars and a small harbour.

Downderry is a large village on a nice beach with rockpools.

Polbathic is a minuscule place but with a good pub – The Halfway House.

History

The name of Rame Head comes from Ram’s Head (in Cornish Penn an Hordh). The village of Rame is mentioned in the Domesday Book from 1086 and the church of St Germanus in the village dates from 1259. The headland was a cliff fort in the Iron Age and many groundworks and remnants of antiquity remain. More recent coastal forts such as Polhawn (1867), Picklecombe (1848) and Tregantle (1865) were built to protect the important naval anchorage of Plymouth Sound. The St Michael’s chapel on Rame Head dates from 1397 and is believed to be on the site of an 11th-century one and much earlier Celtic habitations. Nearly five miles (7.6km) of coastline here has been declared a part of the UK’s Heritage Coast.

Climate

Like the rest of Cornwall, the Rame Peninsula enjoys warm summers and mild winters. Rame, in particular, has exposed headlands that face the prevailing south-westerly winds, but the climate of this corner of Cornwall generally pleasant and it’s for this reason that so many plants flower early and such outstanding gardens are there for the visiting. For more a more detailed description of the weather in Cornwall, why not have a look at our dedicated page, here?

Old stuff

Antony House

Antony House is the ancestral home of the Carew Pole family which has lived there for hundreds of years. This early 18th-century mansion holds beautiful collections of paintings, furniture and textiles. The grounds were landscaped by Repton and sweep down towards the Lynher estuary. Formal gardens include topiary, a knot garden, modern sculpture and the National Collection of Day Lilies. The Woodland Garden contains rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and camellias. Antony was a location chosen by Disney as the set for the 2010 movie Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton.

Mayflower Steps

One of Plymouth’s popular tourist attractions is the Mayflower Steps. These are near the site in the Barbican area from which on 6 September 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers are said to have sailed on the Mayflower to settle in North America.

Magical Mystery Tour and Beatles. Photo: Getty Images/David Redfern

Magical Mystery Tour and Beatles. Photo: Getty Images/David Redfern

Smeaton’s Tower

This former lighthouse stands on Plymouth Hoe, a memorial to its designer John Smeaton. The interesting thing about it was that it wasn’t a Plymouth lighthouse at all. It stood on the Eddystone Rocks, a dangerous reef nine miles (14km) south of Rame Head. It was the third Eddystone lighthouse and was used from 1759 until 1877, and then dismantled and rebuilt in Plymouth. It featured in one of the most famous photos of the Beatles, taken by David Redfern. The tower is open to the public all the year round.

Photo: Mount Edgcumbe

Photo: Mount Edgcumbe

Mount Edgcumbe

Mount Edgcumbe House is the stunning former home of the Earls of Mount Edgcumbe, first constructed in the 1500s and extensively restored after the second World War. It’s set in Grade 1 listed Cornish gardens within over eight hundred acres of Country Park on the Rame Peninsula.

As well as the ancient chapel on Rame Head, fans of Christian architecture may also enjoy the 13th century St Mary’s Church in Sheviock or the St John village church of the same name which was built in 1150.

Rame Head

Rame Head

Other Special Things to Do and Visit:

Rame Head

With grazing miniature ponies and deer as well as sheep and cattle, Rame Head promontory is both pleasant and striking with a lofty and panoramic view over the sea. It belongs to the Mount Edgcumbe estate and is part of the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of rare and endangered plants that grow there as well as the interesting geology of the area (including signs of early Permian volcanicity).

Rame Head is good for birdwatching in the spring and autumn, with many migrant birds including gannets, divers and skuas. Harriers and other birds of prey hunt here, and swallows swarm in large numbers too.

Plymouth Hoe/Plymouth Sound

Plymouth Hoe is the historic heart of the city of Plymouth, commanding breathtaking views across Plymouth’s Sound, which is one of the most perfect natural harbours in the world. It is written that Sir Francis Drake was playing bowls here before famously sailing out to defeat the Armada. Behind is the 17th century Citadel fortress, still barracks to the 29 Commando Unit.

Theatre Royal

Plymouth’s Theatre Royal is one of Britain’s larger and more professional theatres and hosts exciting stage productions of all kinds.

Royal William Yard

An interesting place to go if you visit Plymouth. The Grade 1 listed former Royal Naval victualling buildings are alive with cafes, bars, restaurants, a museum and art galleries.

Cremyll Ferry

A beautiful historic foot ferry carries passengers across the Tamar between the Rame Peninsula and Devonport, affording fantastic views Mount Edgcumbe, he Royal William Yard and Plymouth Sound.

South West Coast Path

The coastal path crosses the border on the Cremyll Ferry, then wends its way through the 800 acre Mount Edgcumbe estate and continues past Penlee Point to Kingsand and Cawsand. It’s a fairly easy 3.4 miler (5.5km) but has one steep bit, uphill in this direction. Onward to Whitsand Bay is easy until Rame Head but involves some steeper inclines from there onwards. It’s about five miles (8.4km) and takes in the historic 11-14th-century chapel, said to be where the Spanish Armada was first observed in 1588, and the Napoleonic Polhawn Fort. If you’d like to read more about the South West Coast Path and how it works, you can take a look at our detailed page on the subject, here!

Nightlife

The small villages of the Rame Peninsula do not offer consistent nightlife beyond the excellent selection of pubs but never forget that you are only a short distance from Plymouth. A veritable drinking metropolis is just a few miles away by taxi!

Eating and drinking out

The Gin Distillery in Plymouth is both historic (home of Plymouth Gin since 1793) and contains a fine dining restaurant and an awesome cocktail bar. Random Arms & Energy Room is a unique (hippy) bar and music venue in Millbrook that’s well worth a look for interest’s sake, and if it’s not your cup of tea you can head to Kingsand’s Rising Sun, which is pretty much everyone’s! The Old Boatstore Café in Kingsand is highly rated, and contains a bizarre museum of celebrity leftovers! Also worth a look are the Devonport Inn, Kingsand, the Cross Keys in Cawsand, the Halfway House at Polbathic and The View at Treninnow. The Shop in The Square, Cawsand sells “Cornish pasties, fish & chips, fresh pizzas, home baked baguettes, baked potatoes, Cornish cream teas, and Kelly’s Cornish ice cream.”

What’s On

Nearby Looe is the place for events, with the Festival Of The Sea, May Fayre and much more. The recently revived tradition of the Black Prince Flower Boat Procession takes place in the villages of Millbrook, Kingsand and Cawsand.

Beaches

Kingsand Beach is a mix of sand and shingle which is located on The Cleave. Girt Beach is mainly shingle but with some sand and can be found on Market Street. Cawsand Beach is mainly sand and is along The Bound. There are no facilities on these beaches, but the villages are just a few metres away, offering a choice of cafe’s, pubs and restaurants. A good swimming beach known as Sandways lies a short walk from these three across the rocks towards Fort Picklecombe.

At nearby Portwrinkle, there are three conjoined beaches called Hoodny Cove, Britain Cove, and Finygook. The harbour is a safe place in which to splash about. The views out across Whitsand Bay are beautiful, and it’s not uncommon to spot dolphins and seals in these waters. Whitsand Bay beach itself is one of the best stretches of sand in south Cornwall. When combined with the other adjacent beaches it’s four miles long from Portwrinkle to Rame Head. The bay is notorious for strong cross-currents. It can be reached by paths which wind down steep cliffs – it’s a difficult walk. Along some stretches of the beach, large rocks create little sheltered alcoves. Large rock pools form at low tide. This is an interesting destination for divers, who like to explore the wrecks of the SS James Egan Layne and the scuttled HMS Scylla which forms Britain’s first artificial reef. At Downderry, the wreck of the Gypsy, sister ship to the Cutty Sark, lies just offshore under a kelp bed and what remains of her can be observed just by snorkelling.

Dog Friendly

Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach at Cawsand, but they are welcome all the year round at Kingsand Beach just next door! As they are at Hoodny Cove, Britain Cove and Whitsand Bay, but Finygook has a seasonal ban from Easter to October 1st. Dogs are allowed all year at Downderry Beach.

Child Friendly

Both Kingsand and Cawsand beaches are sandy and have quite calm waters, so they are pretty child-friendly. There are decent facilities within a short walking distance, but one should note that there is no lifeguard cover at either of these beaches. Portwrinkle and Whitsand are popular with families but beware of the currents.

Surfing

Whitsand Bay occasionally offers good surf, but it’s usually small and most serious surfers prefer to head further afield to the breaks of west Cornwall or the north coast just an hour away.

Cottages

We have self- catering holiday cottages in the surrounding area. If you want to find Rame cottages that are suitable for accommodating your party you can do so using the filter on the left-hand side of our search page here.