England, 2019: Cornwall

Almost ten years ago my husband and I started watching Doc Martin, the British television series about a London surgeon who develops a fear of blood and is forced to retire from surgery and become a country doctor in a small fishing village in Cornwall called Port Wenn. We were immediately taken not only by the story and the eccentric characters and humor, but also by the gorgeous scenery—the rocky cliffs surrounded everywhere by deep blue water.

We decided that someday we would have to visit Cornwall and specifically Port Isaac, the real name for the village where Doc Martin is filmed.  Since then I have watched and re-watched Doc Martin enough times that I know most of the dialogue by heart. It has been a wonderful way to escape and have a laugh and enjoy a good love story and a great diversion while riding my exercise bike.  So my interest in visiting Port Isaac only intensified over the years, and last year we started making plans for our visit.

We arrived on Tuesday, May 21, after landing at Heathrow that morning. We took a bus to Reading, a bustling small city where we had a quick breakfast and a short walk before boarding the Great Western Railway train to Bodmin Parkway.

I had made arrangements with Lyn, a taxi driver, to meet us at the station, and she was there waiting for us when we arrived.  She gave me a warm hug when we met—a wonderful welcome to England. On our half-hour drive to our hotel, she entertained us with stories of her family, her dog, and life in Cornwall as we tried to adjust to being on the left side of the increasingly narrow roads she maneuvered. It was quite an adventure.

I cannot say enough good things about our hotel, the Longcross, a small hotel about a mile outside of Port Isaac. It is an elegant older building with lots of Victorian details but with all the modern amenities—wifi, flat screen tvs, and comfortable and spacious rooms. From our room we could see miles of open farmland, the bright blue sea in the distance, and magnificent sunsets.

The view from our room

Outside the hotel was a lovely English garden with arched walkways and a pond and an array of flowers and trees.

But what really made the Longcross my favorite hotel of all time was the service and the food. When we arrived, we met with Jamie, the general manager, and with Julia, who runs the dining room and whose husband Andy is the chef and runs the kitchen. We explained our long list of dietary restrictions (especially mine)—no meat, no shellfish, no dairy, no onions. Julia quickly said that there was no problem—she would create a menu just for us for each night that we were there using a different fresh fish each night depending on what was available in the market. And she and Andy created dinners for us that were just incredible—beautifully presented and made from all fresh ingredients. I still cannot believe how accommodating and gracious the staff at the Longcross was.

I didn’t take pictures of the food, but here are some of the menus Julia typed up for us.

Of course, we didn’t go to Cornwall just to eat! We went for the scenery and for the opportunity to see some filming of the next season of Doc Martin. Each morning we walked the mile or so into the village, passing cows and fields and those iconic Cornish hedges while trying not to get killed as cars sped by, passing each other on the narrow and winding one-land roads.

We were fortunate to see two days of filming while we were in Port Isaac and to see many of the places in the village that were familiar locations from the series. Here are just some of the Doc Martin-related photographs we took while in Port Isaac.

Of course, being such a big fan, I was excited to see some of the stars and to watch the filming process itself. It was quite interesting to see how much time and how many people it takes to film what may end up as just a few seconds of a scene in the finished program. Being an introvert, I wasn’t one of those who could run up to get selfies with the actors or to get an autograph, but I did enjoy seeing how Martin Clunes and Caroline Catz went in and out of character as they waited for the crew to set up each shot for the scenes being filmed.

We did have a chance to shake hands with Ian McNeice, who was collecting for the local lifeboat station on the afternoon we arrived, and we also met and spoke at length with a woman who was an extra during the first day of filming. She also gave us some insights into how the program is created.

But most of our time was spent walking—doing a walking tour of the village, walking on the coastal path to neighboring Port Gaverne, walking up and down the very steep hills, and walking to Port Quin, another neighboring harbor.  We were told that at one time Port Quin was a place where fishermen lived, but after all the men were killed at sea, their families left, and now all that is left are some cottages that are available to rent.

Port Gaverne

All the photographs below were taken in Port Isaac or walking along the coast to Port Gaverne.

I loved every minute we spent in and near Port Isaac. But we also wanted to see more of Cornwall, so one day we took a driving tour with Kez of Cornwall Tours. He was a delightful young man who was a native of Cornwall and very proud of the region.  He took us to Truro, the largest city in Cornwall that we wanted to see in honor of Truro, Massachusetts, where I had been coming since I was a young girl many years ago. England’s Truro is nothing like the one on Cape Cod (which is more like Port Isaac than England’s Truro), but it is a nice little city with a beautiful cathedral and some lovely winding streets and the Cornwall history museum, where we learned about the mining history of Cornwall from ancient times into the 20th century.

Truro Cathedral

Kez then drove us to St. Agnes, an old tin mining community, and on to several beautiful beaches in Perranporth, Newquay, Saint Eval, and Booby’s Bay. As a surfer, Kez was an expert on the Cornwall beaches. It was a three-day weekend in England, so the beach areas were fairly crowded and people were surfing even though the temperature was at best in the low sixties.

St Agnes

Perranporth

Newquay

Newquay

After seeing several beaches and having a quick lunch in the picturesque town of Padstow, we headed to Bodmin Moor. I’d never seen a moor before and was curious after reading about them in English novels such as Wuthering Heights. Kez took us there, where we saw the wide open highlands, a stone circle from pre-historic times, cows and calves, and Temple Church, a medieval church that was so well hidden that it may be the only one that has stained glass windows that survived Henry VIII’s orders to destroy all the decorative elements in the Catholic churches as part of the English Reformation in the 16th century.

Temple Church

Temple Church

Our last stop with Kez was Tintagel where legend says King Arthur’s castle once stood. Work is now being done on the bridge that connects the small island where there was once a castle to the mainland, so you cannot get to the ruins, but the views were nevertheless well worth the drive to this location.

Tintagel

Thus ended our last day in Cornwall. With one last excellent meal at the Longcross, one last sunset, one last breakfast the next morning, and lots of goodbye hugs, we were off to the Cotswolds on May 26.

50 thoughts on “England, 2019: Cornwall

  1. I am so pleased to know that Doc Martin will return for another season. It is one of my favorite shows. I had thought it ended with season eight and I would have to make do with re-runs. It seems that the Brotman Blog produces surprising information.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, initially it was supposed to end with season 5! Now they are saying this is the last season, but there are murmurs about that there may even be a tenth season. Glad to know we share an affection for the show!

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  2. Wow we live in England about 80 miles from Port Isaac and recently visited there again and will be back next month but so nice to read and see it through someone else . Love the pictures and how you were treated by the locals .
    We met some really nice visitors to England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 when we were there .
    Hope you are able to return again one day x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading and for your comments. We found that everywhere we went in England, the people were friendly and helpful and polite. And funny! We do love that dry English wit.

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  3. I have been watching and following Doc Martin too ~ love the show! What an amazing blog post Amy, you have totally outdone yourself with this one. If you ever are considering another career, I say travel writer/photographer. Thank you for taking me along on this adventure, I felt like I was there.
    Sharon

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sharon! But I think my budget won’t allow for enough traveling to support a regular blog, so I will have to rely on genealogy in between!! 🙂 And I am glad you’re a Doc Martin fan also.

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      • oh no – you don’t pay for travel; I meant you get paid by a travel magazine to travel and blog and write about places for them 🙂 wouldn’t that be a sweet dream job!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I have a friend from high school who does that for a living. But I am too much of an introvert and a homebody to travel for a living. Plus that would take the fun out of it!

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  4. Wow! What a wealth of fascinating images and experiences about Cornwall you are sharing with us today! I have not seen any British TV series here in Canada. I will have to look up Doc Martin to see if it is on Netflix. Have a great day, Amy!

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  5. Hi Amy, this the third time I’ve tried this…I don’t know why my 2nd try didn’t work…nevermind.
    Just to say that I thoroughly enjoyed your blog post about your visit to Port Isaac and Cornwall. My wife Fiona and I were there for a long weekend a few weeks ago, but unfortunately we missed the filming of Doc Martin as we’re both big fans. We love visiting PI and Cornwall in general. We also love visiting the Japanese Garden in St Mawgan near Newquay Airport. We think Padstow is lovely as well. I wonder if you noticed the Rick Stein Chef School and restaurant. Rick Stein is a quite a well known fish chef and appears on British television occasionally.
    We live in Hastings in East Sussex where the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066, which might be of historical interest for a future visit to England. Thanks again for sharing your experience and wonderful photos of Port Isaac and the filming of Doc Martin…
    Kindest regards Jeff

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jeff, for persisting with posting your comment. I am sorry it was so difficult, and I am not sure why.

      Our guide referred to Padstow as “Padstein” because of Rick Stein’s prominence in the town. (I’d never heard of him before, to be honest.)

      Even this American knows the Battle of Hastings and William the Conqueror and 1066—though if you asked me anything requiring in depth knowledge, I’d be stumped. I am fascinated by English history and always amazed at how many more centuries of history you all have to learn unlike our measly 250 years.

      Thanks again for reading and for your kind comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Amy, what wonderful photo’s showing the finest of Cornwall’s scenery. You certainly used every minute of your time there to advantage. Great to have a recommendation of The Longcross too. So pleased you got to see Doc Martin being filmed, I shall watch an episode and think of you! He really is a treasure
    and amazing how popular this show is . When we travel past Bodmin Moor which I find quite eerie I think of “Jamaica Inn” and it’s tale of smuggling, child cruelty and wrecking..by Daphne du Maurier. Thank you so much for sharing these photo’s with us through your blog. Enjoyed it immensely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Shirley. We were planning to see Jamaica Inn, but ran out of time. (Poor Kez, we sure made him drive around.) I’ve read Rebecca, but not Jamaica Inn. Another one to add to my reading list.

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  7. Looking at a map, I believe the closest we were to Alvescot was Westwell and Burford, so just north of there. Definitely beautiful country. I will be blogging about that part of our trip next, so stay tuned!

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  8. Beautiful post and pictures! Love Doc Martin. Am going to Ireland in the fall and now feeling inspired to see if I can plan something similar in Avoca, home of the Ballykissangel series. I think the next trip will be to England and include Port Issac!
    Best,
    Kat

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, and glad you enjoyed it. We have several friends who just returned from Ireland and loved it! I hope you have a wonderful time.

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  9. Glad you enjoyed your trip. My local railway station, Watford Junction, is the hub for the Harry Potter tour at the nearby Warner Brothers studios. I saw Ian McNeice there some little while ago. Perhaps he has some connection to Harry Potter?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a wonderful trip. Wow, and I love that they were so accommodating about the dietary restrictions. What a relief to have that worry taken away. As you know, we go through that with travel, although celiac is a different thing because such a tiny amount contaminates and makes someone sick and most people don’t realize that. But I know you have a lot of restrictions on what you eat. You two must have enjoyed yourselves immensely. And it’s good to get away from the computer once in awhile! Welcome back, Amy.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Amy! It’s beautiful and how fortunate you were able to observe filming (how did you figure out the crew’s shooting schedule?).

    Am I correct that you didn’t rent a car and were able to navigate fine with local taxis and bus/train? I’m bookmarking this post for when I plan my own ancestor research trip to Cornwall.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Michael. As for the filming, we were just lucky. They don’t post a schedule because things change and weather changes and so on.

      We did not have a car, and we walked every day the mile or so back and forth to Port Isaac. We had pre-arranged a taxi at the train station, and the driving tour was also arranged before we left the US. It is, of course, possible to rent a car and most people did, but we decided that navigating those roads would be just too stressful. Walking them was hard enough!

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      • Yes the timing was a shame. We had a great time, even if the boys spent hours on their devices during the day! We decided not to make a big deal out of it as it gave Paul and I some time together which was nice.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Glad you had fun! It looked like a gorgeous place. And it is a damn shame how addicted kids are to their screens. Same with my grandsons.

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      • Yes, it was disappointing how much they hid away on their devices when we were at the villa, and then when we were out and about always looking for free wifi to connect to. When I was a kid I’d have my nose in a book, but at least I’d be reading it outside and put it down to go out with my parents! Although my mum did remind me about when I was 13 on a trip in America when we went to the Grand Canyon and I looked suitably unimpressed – but I was going through my teenage “must not let my parents see I have emotions” stage! Inside I was all “WOW!!!!” But at least the kids did do a few things with us but I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t fully participate, but hey we gave them the options and it’s their choice what they do!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Your story reminded me of when I was 13 or 14 and my family went to climb the dunes near the beach, and I refused to get out of the car. They teased me about that for years.

        I think that fighting too hard about “screen time” can just backfire and make kids more determined to use their devices. Reasonable limits seem more likely to succeed. Our grandsons can’t use them while eating and have time limits before bedtime. Most of the time they are at school or at activities so it’s only when they’re home that the iPads pop out.

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      • With my ex husband’s son he had time limits on his devices and didn’t know the password to his own tablet so if he wanted to use it one of us would have to put the password in for him which worked really well. No idea what the rules are now for him though! As for Paul’s boys, it is hard as their Mum has never wanted to set limits on their screen time, however with the youngest a while ago he was struggling in school due to being so tired so he was told he wasn’t allowed to use any devices for the hour before bed time which seemed to work, but sadly that rule has been relaxed now and it is hard to put limits on them solely at our house if their Mum doesn’t want to do the same. However when they are at home during a normal school week then they will be pretty busy until they get home, and they have to get their homework done first before they do other stuff and I know they go out more at home because their friends are close by etc. We live about half an hour from their Mum’s house so they don’t have their friends near so they do kind of become a bit like little hermits and only seem to do other stuff if we take them out places. They will always ask how far away it is and whether they can take their devices though! I don’t think it will really change, technology is such a part of their lives now that taking it away is difficult, but I do wish they could do more other activities like reading books etc. They are at such a loss when the wifi doesn’t work!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Our parents complained that we watched too much tv or listened to too much rock and roll. Every generation has to adjust to the changes that new technology brings to their children.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: The Magic of Color | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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