Tuesday, 18 August 2015

WHAT'S UP DOC: PORT ISAAC



The ITV series Doc Martin began airing in 2004 and several subsequent seasons followed, its popularity no doubt due in part to the stunning locations on the north Cornish coast used in the filming.  The series was inspired by the comedy film 'Saving Grace' which was also filmed in the area, and followed the trials and tribulations of a London doctor, Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes), who returns to his native Cornwall to take up a position as the GP of a picturesque fishing village.  So far, so charming - however, Ellingham's irascible bedside manner quickly makes for a host of awkward encounters with the locals, although he manages to develop a relationship with the headmistress of the local school, Louisa Glasson.

The community where all this takes place is called Portwenn, but in real life it is Port Isaac on the north coast of Cornwall.  The green slopes surrounding the village are dotted with large cottages, one of which is Fern Cottage on Roscarrock Hill, used as Doc Martin's surgery in the series.  Fans wanting the full Doc Martin experience, not to mention wonderful views over the village and harbour, can rent the cottage as a holiday let.  Meanwhile, the Bay Hotel on The Terrace was used in series 4 to depict Wenn House, home of the Wenn family, the most prominent family in the village.  Port Isaac is a typical and still working Cornish fishing village where the twisting lanes and alleys include one which is delightfully named Squeeze-ee-belly Alley.  As well as Doc Martin, the village's other claim to fame is that it spawned a male singing group called The Fisherman's Friends, who signed a recording contract in 2010.

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Port Isaac. Photo by Tony Atkin, via Wikimedia Commons

As well as Port Isaac a number of other locations in the area have been used in the series.  Port Gaverne, next to Port Isaac, has been used for a number of exterior shots, and the Headlands Hotel, a Victorian hotel high above Port Gaverne, was used in series 3 as Mrs Wilson's Hotel.  The real-life hotel has been closed for a number of years and has been at the centre of a row about the site's future, with the locals up in arms about plans to demolish the building and replace it with a modern development.  Another hotel in a dramatic location, the Camelot Castle Hotel in Tintagel, put in an appearance in Series 1 and again, as the Castle Hotel, in Series 5.  Tintagel is best known for its clifftop castle ruins, home to the Legend of King Arthur.  Doyden Castle in the tiny Port Quin near Port Isaac played the part of  Pentire Castle in the series.  The 'castle', in reality a 19th century castellated folly, is now available as a holiday home.  The foodie town of Padstow, a bit further west, appeared in Series 1 as the harbour where John Slater's boat was moored.  Padstow is commonly referred to as 'Padstein' for the various eating establishments opened up there by former TV chef Rick Stein. 

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Doyden Castle.  Photo by Andy F., via Wikimedia Commons
Away from the coast, a number of inland locations have featured in the show.  Pencarrow House and Gardens between Wadebridge and Bodmin was the scene of Doc Martin and Louisa's first date when they attended a classical music concert.  This estate, which is approached via a mile-long drive through an Iron Age hill fort, is open to visitors from late March to early October.  The parish church at Lanteglos-by-Camelford was where the couple's 'almost wedding' was filmed in Series 3.  The church, dedicated to St Julitta, stands in a small valley south west of Camelford on a site thought to have been occupied by an earlier monastery.  In the series Doc Martin's Aunty Joan lives on a farm called Dannabroad Farm; in real life the farm is called Dinnabroad Farm and is found in the village of St Teath, just inland from the coast near Port Isaac.

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Pencarrow House. Photo by Paul Leonard, via Wikimedia Commons

A full list of locations can be found on the Doc Martin Online website.

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