Travel: Cornish hideaway is the best medicine

Just what the doctor ordered: St Ives harbour, Cornwall. Photo: Jim Wilson.
Just what the doctor ordered: St Ives harbour, Cornwall. Photo: Jim Wilson.
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THE doctor wasn’t in. We didn’t expect him to be really, writes Jim Wilson.

They film episodes of Doc Martin in high summer, when the sunshine sets off the tiny Cornish village of Port Isaac.

This was autumn, a grey showery day and Martin Clunes et al were long gone.

But the real star of the show was still there – a beautiful Cornish fishing village.

And it makes for a fascinating peek into TV’s make-believe world.

The doctor’s house is there of course – but with a bit of a fence round it and ‘Private’ signs to discourage gawpers.

The village school is there – but, off-screen, the old school room is really now a hotel.

Bert Large’s restaurant is no such thing – just a house on the hillside with a fine terrace, tarted up with tables and chairs for the cameras.

The chemists shop? Well that’s really a jam-packed sweet shop. It’s the only interior they actually film in in the village.

And Port Isaac’s main drag, the bit they film in, is tiny – just a lane down one side of the valley, a harbour and beach, and a path up the other side of the valley so I suspect they have to be a bit clever with camera angles to make it look different every week.

We were back in Cornwall after a 15-year gap – after a series of holidays there when our kids were small.

Back then, pre-Doc Martin, Port Isaac was just an undiscovered dot on the map but it was good to visit somewhere new as well as catch up on a few old haunts – like St Ives.

Our base for the holiday was Hawke’s Point, a new-build of 15 luxury apartments overlooking the Atlantic at Carbis Bay, next door to St Ives.

And what an apartment it was: an ultra-modern kitchen, two bedrooms (one en-suite), bathroom and a splendid long lounge with patio doors that frame a spectacular view of the sea and St Ives harbour – the sort of view that attracts millionaires.

All the apartments include ‘little luxuries’ like Bose sound systems, tv and dvd player with Wii and wi-fi in the lounge, a juicer and big toaster and china crockery with all the usual white goods and utensils in the kitchen and towelling robes and first-class toiletries in the bathrooms – and the penthouses even have brass telescopes so you can enjoy the seascapes.

And with Carbis Bay railway station just two minutes walk away we didn’t touch the car for the first few days of the holiday.

The Carbis Bay – St Ives rail journey, all one stop and two or three minutes of it, costs the princely sum of £1. It was a no-brainer. St Ives is such a big draw and this way you don’t have to try to negotiate its tiny winding streets in the car and you can have a drink or two with your evening meal before catching the last train back.

And with trains from Sheffield serving Cornwall and the south-west we have talked about going back and leaving the car at home altogether!

Port Isaac might be off-limits doing that but you can get to a lot of other destinations by train, including our old haunts of Newquay and Porth.

I’d be looking forward to a proper Cornish cream tea all the way down there.

In truth I don’t much care for the Doc Martin TV series, with its supporting cast of too-daft-to-laugh-at cartoon characters, but Cornwall, well that’s another thing.

I’m a big, big fan.

Five days in Cornwall?

Well, that’s just what the doctor ordered...


Hawke’s Point, The Sands, Porthrepta Road, Carbis Bay, Cornwall TR26 2FG. Tel: 01726 884072. Website: Email:

To stay for five days from September 17, 2012, (what we did this year) in the same apartment as us (Garden 7 – sleeps four) would be £930. A week, Friday-Friday would be £1,200 and a Friday-Monday weekend £750. Other apartments and penthouses at Hawke’s Point range from £700 to £1,800 for the same week.

HOLIDAY TIPS: Whit not try...

1 Break the journey. Cornwall is a long way by car so think about a break half way – such as a couple of nights in the Cotswolds (see below)

2 Let the train take the strain. Use the local trains. You can’t get much else for £1 these days – apart from a couple of copies of your favourite newspaper.

3 Try eating early. Some of the best St Ives harbour-front restaurants do ‘early-bird’ menus at 5 or 6pm – with considerable savings on eating at 8 or 9pm.