Friday, 27 May 2016


This working fishing village became familiar to TV viewers as the home of Doc Martin in the ITV series of the same name.  The village was named Portwenn in the series, and the irascible doctor’s surgery was housed in one of the many large cottages gracing the slopes above the village.  There are walking tours available for fans of the series.  Meanwhile, on the big screen, several films have included scenes shot in Port Isaac, including Saving Grace and Oscar and Lucinda.  The village is also home to the well-known male singing group Fisherman’s Friends, who sing sea shanties.  Fish enthusiasts can buy the catch fresh from next to the slipway, or there are fishing trips available for mackerel, cod and other fish.  The pier of the harbour where the fish are landed was built during the reign of Henry VIII, and once served as a handling port for cargoes such as coal, limestone and salt.  The narrow alleys weaving through the picturesque village centre include one appropriately named Squeeze-ee-belly Alley.  The village is flanked by another small community called Port Gaverne, and Port Quin, which also featured in Doc Martin, is a short distance to the west.  Not surprisingly, this picturesque spot is popular with second home owners, a fact which has caused many local people, particularly the elderly, to lament the fact that this has changed the character of the village beyond recognition.  

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Map of the area.

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Photo by Tony Atkin, via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, 21 May 2016


Trebarwith Strand was a favourite landing place for smugglers bound for Jamaica Inn, bringing brandy and other contraband.  They may have made use of the caves backing the long stretch of white sand which makes this spot so popular with present-day visitors.  The beach is backed by cliffs, from where slate was once quarried, and there are waterfalls tumbling down towards the sea.  On the horizon is a large lump of rock known as Gull Rock.  The beach is popular with bodyboarders and surfers, and there is gear available to hire as well as a surf school.  Anyone entering the water here should heed the signs warning of potential danger, including the danger of being swept off the rocks by the powerful waves prevalent on this stretch of coast.  There is car parking and a pub with accommodation for anyone wanting to stay overnight, with the chance to experience the wonderful sunset.  Up above the beach is the Trebarwith Valley, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with bluebell woods and a nature trail.  It made the news in 2014 with reports that Prince Charles was selling the valley, complete with an engine house and a waterfall, for £40,000.

Map of the area. 

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Wednesday, 11 May 2016


The main draw at Tintagel has always been the romantically sited castle ruins perched on a promontory, or 'island', surrounded by the angry North Cornwall seas.  The castle is famous for its links to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, celebrated by the 12th century Geoffrey of Monmouth in ‘The History of the Kings of England', and later by Lord Tennyson in his work ‘Idylls of the King’ in the 19th century.  There is no evidence that King Arthur actually ever lived there, however there is no doubting the historic significance of the site, which reputedly goes back to the Romans.  In fact, fragments of Mediterranean amphorae have been discovered at the site, suggesting early imports of wine and olive oil. 

According to recent news reports, English Heritage, which runs the site, has incited the wrath of the locals, who have accused them of the ‘Disneyfication’ of the castle.  The embellishments placed on the site by EH which led to these complaints consist of the bronze statue of a king clutching a sword and a carving of Merlin’s face in a rockface.  While not exactly on the scale of the touristic vandalism visited on Land’s  End (see my first blog post), some people consider this a step too far in such a beautiful and historic spot. 

As for the village itself, most of the cafes, inns, shops and other visitor attractions are strung out along the stretch of road leading from the Visitor Centre to a car park proclaiming itself the nearest to the castle.  Those heading down from here on foot make their way down a minor road through a valley before facing some taxing steps to get up to the castle, while there is a land rover available for the visually impaired and the disabled for access to the exhibition and shop.  All the clambering up and down the steps giving access to the ruins will no doubt work up an appetite for the pasties, fudge and other Cornish delicacies on offer back in the village.  As well as EH, the National Trust gets a look in with the 14th century Tintagel Old Post Office, a quaint stone house with a slate roof by the side of Fore Street.  The house was originally built in the style of a medieval manor house serving as a farmhouse, but in the 1870s it assumed its role as the village post office.

Map of the area. 

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Tintagel Castle. Photo by Alan Simkins, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, 1 May 2016


In early 2004 Boscastle reached our TV screens with the launch of A Seaside Parish, a series documenting the everyday life of this coastal village, with the lady vicar the star of the show.  The village was portrayed as a close-knit community which, with its scenic location set among the dramatic cliffs of North Cornwall, appeared an idyllic place to live.  Then in August the same year, while the series was still being filmed, all hell let loose with the onset of the great 2004 floods.  Suddenly it was a very different Boscastle filling our screens, with people clinging desperately to roofs waiting to be rescued, cars being carried helplessly down the valley towards the sea and people’s homes, gardens, businesses and lives being ripped apart by the merciless flood waters.  The series gave a sensitive portrayal of the heartrending aftermath of this disaster, which bore an uncanny resemblance to the 1952 Lynmouth flood.

Today this terrible event is firmly in the past, though undoubtedly not forgotten.  Boscastle’s harbour was once a busy commercial port, with coal and timber coming in and slate and china clay going out.  Though this activity has now disappeared, the harbour continues to provide a much-needed shelter for boats on this wild stretch of coastline.  The lively nature of the sea beyond the harbour can be seen in the plumes of spray coming out of a blowhole in the outer harbour.  The village itself has a range of accommodation, including a hotel, the ‘Wellie’, (Wellington) which featured regularly in A Seaside Parish, a small number of shops and eateries, and a Museum of Witchcraft.  I remember visiting the latter as a child and being fascinated by the exhibits.  The museum’s website warns that children of a sensitive disposition may find some of the exhibits ‘controversial’, but I seem to have come out of the experience unscathed!

There is a lovely walk from Boscastle leading up to the Valency Valley and St Juliot’s Church, where Thomas Hardy met Emma, his future wife, while he was working on the church as an architect.  Hardy’s novel ‘A Pair of Blue Eyes’ was set in the area. 

Map of the area. 

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Photo by JUweL, via Wikimedia  Commons