Cornwall on the Big (and small) Screen

Historic St. Mawes Castle
Historic St. Mawes Castle

Cornwall on the Big (and small) Screen

Cornwall is one of the UK’s most dramatic, visually breath-taking and romantic counties – and so it’s no wonder that this beautiful place has served as the setting for novels, films and TV series over the years. Cornwall is regularly used as the backdrop for films or TV programmes that aren’t even set there – as it provides the perfect backdrop for anyone looking for a rugged, dramatic landscape. 

But here we take a look at some films and TV series actually set in this unique coastal county, including some of the locations you can visit when on a walking holiday in Cornwall with Walkers' Britain.

 

Ladies in Lavender

Directed and co-written by Charles Dance, and starring Dames Maggie Smith and Judy Dench, 2004’s Ladies in Lavender’s credits read like a who’s who of British film royalty. 

Set in 1930’s Cornwall, the film tells the story of aging sisters Ursula and Janet, whose peaceful lives are turned upside down when they find a nearly-drowned Polish man lying on the beach, and decide to nurse him back to health. 

Locations in which the film was shot include St Ives, the Lizard Peninsular and Prussia and Keneggy Coves near Porthleven, all of which can be visited on our Marazion to Mevagissey Walk.

 

Poldark

Poldark was originally a popular British TV series in the mid-1970s, but it’s the recent remake that launched in 2015 that has made the series a global hit. It stars Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark, who returns home to Cornwall from fighting in the American Revolutionary War. It follows his trials and tribulations as he tries to forge a new life back in Cornwall.

The stunning Cornish coastline is a major aspect of the show’s visual impact. Filming locations include St Just, Land’s End, Charlestown, Helston, Lizard Point and Porthcothan. Many of these locations are visited on our walks along the South West Coast Path – so if you’re a fan of the show you can really immerse yourself into Poldark’s world.

 

Jamaica Inn

The 1939 film based on Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel of pirates, rogues and smugglers, is the definitive, and most famous version, although there have been more recent remakes for both film and TV. 

This classic film was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starred Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara. The setting for the story, Jamaica Inn itself, is still very much around and open to visitors – built in 1750 as a coaching inn for travellers crossing Bodmin Moor. 

 

Rebecca

Another 1939 adaptation of a classic Daphne du Maurier novel, again directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and this time starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. The only problem with this entry on our list, is that, although set in Cornwall, the film was actually shot entirely in California! At least the 1997 remake starring Charles Dance (him again) and Diana Rigg was partly shot in Cornwall.

Rebecca tells the story of Max de Winter, who brings his new wife to live with him on his country estate in Cornwall, named Manderley. However, the new Mrs de Winter soon finds that her husband’s deceased first wife, Rebecca, still has a strange hold on everyone at Manderley.

Doc Martin

Doc Martin has been a much-loved programme on British TV since 2004. It stars Martin Clunes as a gruff, abrupt surgeon from London, who relocates to the seaside village of Port Wenn in Cornwall. 

Port Isaac is the real village that serves as the location for the fictional Port Wenn. Port Isaac is a charming fishing village just north of Padstow on the northern section of the South West Coast Path. As well as being a lovely visual showcase for life on the Cornish Coast, there is much humour to be had as Doc Martin slowly gets used to the sometimes-eccentric way of life in a small Cornish village.

Rosamunde Pilcher

A bit of a left-field one – as it’s unlikely you’ll have seen it unless you’ve spent some time watching German television.

Rosamunde Pilcher was a hugely successful British writer of romance novels, whose books sold over 60 million copies worldwide between 1949 and 2000. She was born in Lelant, just outside St Ives – and her Cornwall surroundings provided the setting for many of her novels.

Her books became especially popular in Germany, where her novels have been adapted into more than 100 TV films. The popularity of these hugely successful films resulted in Rosamunde Pilcher receiving a British Tourism Award in 2002 for the positive effect that her books and the TV adaptations have had on Cornwall.

It’s no surprise that so many of the books, films and TV programmes set in Cornwall over the years have been tales of romance, intrigue and high-drama – given the highly dramatic and ruggedly beautiful nature of the county. You can experience all of it on a Cornish walking tour with Walkers' Britain.

 

Cornwall, South West Coast Path

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