Rame Head

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Rame Head from the sea
Rame Head from the land

Rame Head is headland on the south coast of Cornwall, a prominent seamark on the English Channel. It is part of the Rame Peninsula in the very southeast of the county, at the opening of Plymouth Sound, which divides Cornwall from Devon proper. The village of Rame is to the north-west of the headland.

In the Cornish language, it is known as Penn an Hordh.

History and antiquities

The site was used for a promontory hill fort in the Iron Age. The headland has a prominent chapel, dedicated to St Michael, accessible by a steep footpath. The chapel was first licensed for saying mass in 1397 and is probably on the site of a much earlier, Dark Age hermitage. It remains as an intact shell. Earl Ordulf, who was the owner of vast estates in the West Country and was the uncle of King Ethelred II, gave Rame to Tavistock Abbey (which Ordulf had founded) in 981.

Wildlife and conservation

Around the head, Dartmoor ponies are kept to graze. This area is also frequented by deer, sheep and cattle which can often be viewed from the sea. Due to its exceptionally high and panoramic vantage point, there is a volunteer National Coastwatch Institution lookout on the top of the headland (next to the car park).

The headland forms part of Rame Head & Whitsand Bay SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), noted for its geological as well as biological interest. The SSSI contains 2 species on the IUCN "Red Data Book" of rare and endangered plant species; early meadow-grass (poa infirma) and slender bird's-foot-trefoil (from the lotus genus).[1]


The headland is prominent to sailors and fishermen leaving Plymouth through Plymouth Sound. It is often the last piece of land they see leaving Britain, and the first they see when returning home; Rame Head thus appears in the sea shanty "Spanish Ladies":

The first land we sighted was call-ed the Dodman,
Next Rame Head off Plymouth, Start, Portland and Wight;
We sailed by Beachy, by Fairlight and Dover,
Until we brought to by the South Foreland light.

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