The Heritage Coast continues to bring delight in this, the last section of coast path in Cornwall. The path ends at Rame Head, after which walkers must turn inland to take the ferry from Cremyll across the River Tamar into Devon.
Soon after leaving Polperro you arrive at Talland Bay, formerly a notorious landing-spot for smugglers and now known as Plymouth’s playground, dotted with second homes belonging to fair weather friends from the city. Richard and Judy are among those who own a holiday home in the village, which amounts to little more than a church, dramatically situated on a high cliff top, a handful of houses and a couple of shingle beaches.
As you continue around the headland to Portnalder Bay
look out for the fascinating Looe Island
. Hovering just a mile out to sea, Looe Island was until very recently inhabited by the two sisters who owned it, Babs and Evelyn Atkins
. When they died they left it to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust
who will preserve the island as a nature reserve. Also known as St George’s Island
, these 22.5 partly wooded acres are home to an exceptionally mild climate and form a natural sanctuary for sea and woodland birds. The island, which is normally accessible only by boat, is open to day visitors, but if you want to stay the night you must get married there, in the licensed Jetty Cottage
. Newly weds are allowed to spend wedding night in a tepee in the woods. There is a 12th century Benedictine chapel on the island and legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea stayed here with the child Christ.
Looe itself is a coastal town and fishing port spread along both banks of the River Looe, whose lower stretches form the Looe Estuary. It is possible to reach the other side of the river by heading a short way into town and crossing via a seven span bridge.
On along Looe Bay to Seaton Village, where there is a large beach and a local pub. Just after Seaton comes the linear coastal village of Downderry. The long shingle beach is part nudist and offers fabulous views of Looe Island to the west and Rame Head to the east. There is a pub, restaurant and café in Downderry.
On to Portwrinkle
, a small coastal village at the west end of a long stretch of beach known as Whitsand Bay
. Once a traditional fishing village the 17th century walls of former pilchard cellars can still be seen, although they have now been incorporated into houses.
Whitsand Bay stretches all the way from Portwrinkle to Rame Head, although due to a fast rising tide and a military firing range you must go inland a little to pass behind Tregantle Farm before rejoining the coast. The path now runs the length of the bay, over dramatically high, sheer cliffs that look down onto long stretches of empty sand.
Whitsand Bay ends at Rame Head. A former Iron Age Promontory Fort, Earl Ordulf
, uncle to King Ethelred
, gave Rame Head to Tavistock Abbey
in 981. A chapel, only accessible by means of a steep footpath, was built in the 14th century, probably on the site of a much earlier Celtic hermitage. Today, Dartmoor ponies and deer graze alongside sheep and cattle on this spectacularly unspoilt headland, which features in the sea shanty 'Spanish Ladies'. Rame Head is a fitting end to a glorious walk.