Here’s my guide to the filming locations in Cornwall for the beloved British drama Doc Martin.
The delightful Cornish village of Port Issac is the principal filming location for the show The idyllic hamlet is a huge part of the quirky show’s allure. With its rugged coastline and medieval center, Port Issac is the postcard perfect setting for the sleepy underground hit.
Since going to college in London, I’ve always loved Cornwall. And I adore the long-running Doc Martin. As a result of all this big love, here’s your guide to Doc Martin filming locations.
Doc Martin: Synopsis of the Series
Doc Martin stars Martin Clunes as the cranky and stiff local doctor, Martin Ellingham. After developing a phobia of blood, he quits his prestigious job as a surgeon in London. He decamps to the quaint hamlet of Portwenn on the coast of Cornwall and becomes the local GP. The villagers don’t know quite what to make of Ellingham at first.
Though a medical genius, the doc is a difficult man — eccentric, irritable, routinized, and intolerant. He’s also got a brusque bedside manner. He’s downright snarky to the sick. There’s no mollycoddling; he’s blunt and gets right to the (sometimes embarrassing) point. On the surface, he’s a miserable git who even hates dogs.
You’d think the Ellingham character would be entirely unlikeable. But the doc is a classic British anti-hero. Beneath his stern exterior lies vulnerability and a painful awkwardness that’s both appealing and relatable. We love him because he’s somewhat tormented, with a not-so-easy life.
Despite these character flaws, once in Portwenn, Ellingham manages to fall in love, get married, and have a child. His love interest is Louisa Glasson, headmistress of the local elementary school. She’s a smart, independent woman with a passion for vintage clothing. The pair have an off-again on-again relationship because of their glaring personality differences.
Doc Martin also boasts a quirky cast of characters: a bird-brained receptionist with a good heart, a bumbling police chief, a nutty pharmacist, moonshine brewers, and a host of other interesting characters. Everyone you might find in your own dysfunctional family. The show moves at a rather glacial pace, celebrating life’s small moments and inevitable trials and tribulations.
Despite its slower pace, I find Doc Martin incredibly appealing and watchable. It’s a welcome change from all the action packed, special effects laden shows on TV where you’re bombarded with sensory stimulation. With Doc Martin, you get invested in the lives of the characters immediately.
You can find the first 8 seasons on Netflix or Hulu. Right now, season 9 is only available on Acorn (which I confess I subscribed too). I have serious Doc Martin-itis.
Doc Martin Filming Locations in Cornwall
The interior scenes for the show are filmed almost entirely in a converted barn on Roscarrock Farm. (The manor house coincidentally served as Nampara, the Poldarks’ home in the BBC’s Poldark series.) But I give you 13 other places in Cornwall where you can follow in the steps of the grumpy Doc Martin and his coterie of lovable misfits.
1. Port Issac, the Scenic Star of the Show
Cornwall stars as a backdrop in many films and TV productions, including Poldark, Ladies in Lavender, The Shell Seekers, and Doc Martin. In Doc Martin, the Cornish village of Port Isaac doubles as the fictional village of Portwenn, the center of action in the series.
The name Portwenn isn’t entirely fictional though. It’s the historic name of the nearby village of Port Quin. The series is filmed every other year in Port Issac, to give both the cast and the residents a break.
Set in its own natural harbour, Port Isaac was once a simple fishing village and a sleepy backwater. Now, not surprisingly, its revenue comes mostly from tourism, especially after the arrival of Doc Martin in 2004. Plus, it boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in northern Cornwall.
Port Isaac gets star billing in Doc Martin and the bulk of the exterior scenes are filmed there. As you can see from the show, the hilly village is a picturesque jumble of tiny cobbled streets and is largely car free. The cottages are fetchingly white washed or made from traditional granite.
If you want some exercise with your scenery, you can hike the clifftop path from Port Isaac to Port Gaverne. It’s less than two miles. The tiny cove is used in some scenes in Doc Martin. Port Gaverne also has lovely sea caves, if you’re a strong swimmer and want to explore.
Or, just 6 miles down the road is the ever-so-pretty village of Port Quin. The hiking pathway features stunning vistas. But, be forewarned, it’s strenuous and can be treacherous with sheer drops. Star Caroline Catz, who plays Louisa, was surrounded by cattle in real life on her coastal walk. She had to call the local farmer for help.
2. Fern Cottage, 4 Roscarrock Hill, Port Isaac
Perched fetchingly on Roscarrock Hill, Fern Cottage is the adorable detached stone house that appears as Doctor Ellingham’s “surgery.” Surgery is a quirky British term. It just means doctor’s office, not an actual place to conduct surgeries.
The red bricked cottage is right off Port Isaac’s historic center. You can even rent the 2 bedroom cottage for a holiday getaway on VBRO.
It has stunning views of Port Issac’s harbor and beyond. Although it’s privately owned, you can snap photos without issue.
3. The Old Schoolhouse Hotel, Fore Street, Port Isaac
The Old Schoolhouse Hotel appears as the school village in Doc Martin where Louisa teaches. In real life, it’s an actual hotel (albeit tiny, only 12 rooms) where you can book a room. It did once serve as a school, but was converted into a hotel in the 1980s.
4. Rendered House, 26 Dolphin Street, Port Isaac
Rendered House is a private residence in the heart of Port Issac. Its exterior stars as the house of Ellingham’s Ann Ruth, an on screen psychiatrist who’s almost as intimidating as the doc himself. She arrives in Portwenn when Martin’s Aunt Joan unexpectedly dies.
Ruth is a fabulous character, steely and principled. She’s just like Martin, albeit with a dash more sociability. She inherits Joan’s farm and unexpectedly decides to keep it and stay in Portwenn.
Opposite Rendered House you’ll find several other cottages featured as background in the show, including Rose Cottage.
5. Sea Cove Cottage, 25 Fore Street
Sea Cove Cottage is Louisa’s house in Doc Martin. It’s just a few feet away from the cute eatery, the Cornish Cove. This house is often rented out as well.
6. The Cornish Cove, 76 Fore Street, Port Isaac
The adorable Cornish Cove is one of Port Issac’s delicious eateries. It’s located on the outskirts of the village near the coastal path. The Cornish Cove’s specialty is cream tea.
The cafe was used in filming in 2017 for season 8.
7. The Portwenn Pharmacy, Buttermilk Confections, 4 Church Hill
This cute old fashioned shop is where the village pharmacist, Mrs. Tishall, reigns supreme on Doc Martin. She’s a lonely old lady with a crush on the doc, who perpetually wears a neck brace for her torticollis.
Mrs. Tishell is the doc’s most ardent supporter, always defending him to others and trying to impress him with her medical knowledge.
Mrs. Tishell is played by Selina Cadell. Her BFF of decades is Sigourney Weaver. Cadell was instrumental in getting A-lister Weaver to agree to a guesting stint on the show. Weaver plays a pushy American tourist trying to find a diagnosis.
In real life, Mrs. Tishell’s pharmacy is known as Buttermilk Confections. The interior is the only Port Issac interior used on the show.
The rest of the interior scenes are shot in a converted barn, as I mentioned above. Today, you can indulge in traditional sweet treats, like the shop’s famous fudge.
8. Doyden Castle, Port Quin
A little down the coastline, you’ll find Doyden Castle, a beautiful folly in a deserted rural area of Port Quin. Built in 1830, this petit castle was the creation of bon vivant Samuel Symons. He reputably loved the rock star life. He built the castle as a secret den of iniquity for himself and his businessmen friends.
In 1956, England’s National Trust was bequeathed the Symons’ folly, along with 40 acres of land. In Doc Martin, Doyden Castle stars as Pentire Castle. It’s featured heavily in Season 5 of the show.
It’s most dramatic appearance is in the Season 5 finale. In that episode, feuled by a cocktail of drugs, Mrs. Tishell lost her mind and absconded with baby James to the castle. In her delirium, she yearns for a romantic rendezvous with the doc, and imagines that James is her baby.
9. St Nonna’s Church in Altarnun
The 15th century St. Nonna’s church is located on Bodwin Moor. The granite church is also known as the “Cathedral of the Moors.” Inside, it’s beautiful, with famous bench ends featuring 79 figures of animals and humans. They were carved by Robart Daye between 1510-30.
In the Doc Martin series, the church is where Doc Martin is jilted at the altar in Season 3. In a happier turn of events, Doc Martin and Louisa return to the church to be married in Season 6. As Louisa walks down the altar, the stern frown of the doc softens touchingly and he catches his breath.
10. Pencarrow House on Bodwin Moor
Pencarrow is an elegant Georgian mansion, also near Bodmin Moor. You can tour the house and the accompanying 50 acres of gardens. The mansion’s been owned and occupied by the Molesworth family since the 1500s.
In Doc Martin, Pencarrow House was the setting for Martin and Louisa’s first real date. They attend a classical music concert on the grounds. Romance is in the air, with birds chirping and sunny skies. The pair hold hands and kiss under a postcard-worthy beautiful tree.
But naturally, Martin ruins the idyll with blunt, insensitive medical talk. Recognizing that Martin may be on the spectrum, Louisa later announces that they’re a bad match. Martin is plunged into despair and tries to act “normal.”
11. The Godrevy Lighthouse
The first episode of Season 9 featured Godrevy Lighthouse, a famous Cornwell landmark situated in St. Ives Bay. The doc commissions a fishing boat to save Mrs. Tishell, who’s just had an accident there on her date.
The landmark lighthouse is considered the inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse novel, which fittingly is the name of the Doc Martin episode. It was built in 1858 after many shipwrecks on the reef.
12. Gunwalloe, St. Winwalloe Church
The small village of Gunwalloe is home to St. Winwalloe Church, a tiny building overlooking Gunwalloe Church Cove. It’s the only church in Cornwall that’s located on a beach. You may recognize it from scenes in Poldark.
St. Winwalloe church is where the funeral of the doc’s sweet and sensible Aunt Joan takes place. She dies suddenly in a car crash, to Martin’s shock.
The funeral isn’t without its funny moments, characteristic of the entire show. The pall bearers almost drop Joan’s coffin and PC Penhale’s cell phone rings during the service.
13. Camelot Castle Hotel in Tintagel
The Camelot Castle Hotel was built in 1896 and opened as a hotel in 1899. Legend holds that King Arthur was either born or conceived here. The hotel has a terrific location, standing guard over a sweeping coastline.
The hotel was featured in the first episode of Season 1 of Doc Martin. Ellingham is there to interview for the position of Portwenn GP.
The hotel also notably appeared in season 5. When Mrs. Tishell abducts James, the doc and Louisa frantically search the hotel, disrupting a wedding reception in the process. They later find the wacky pharmacist at Doyden castle.
How To Get To The Doc Martin Filming Locations
By Car: The easiest way to explore Cornwall is by car. There’s a long stay parking lot at New Road. Another lot, the Main Car Park, is to the right past the “welcome” sign.
By Train: The closest train station is Roche, approximately 11 miles away. You can catch a train with one change from London Paddington station, taking 4 hours. It can’t be done as a day trip.
By Bus: Take Bus 96 and get off at the Port Isaac stop
I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to Doc Martin filming locations in Cornwall. You may enjoy these other UK guides:
• Guide To Free Museums in London
• Guide To the Churchill War Rooms
• Tourist Traps To Avoid in London
• Guide To the Tower of London
• Guide To Hampton Court Palace
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3 thoughts on “Guide to Gorgeous Doc Martin Filming Locations in Cornwall England”
Very nicely done and very informative. Thank you. My own maternal ancestors were from Yorkshire, and our only trip to your country was somewhat sadly a tour with little time for excursions. We’re big fans of Doc Martin, All Creatures Great and Small, Last of The Summer Wine, and As Time Goes By. Comedy is best done at a slower pace where character development and exploration comes to the fore, don’t you think?
Absolutely! I will check out some of your recommendations.
I love British TV and want to visit Yorkshire of Downton Abbey, Cornwall, Yorkshire Dells/Dales.