It’s always sunny in Doc Martin’s Port Wenn, but the weather isn’t looking too flash this morning in west Cornwall. We consult Paul, the proprietor of the Commercial Hotel in St Just, where we’re staying, for the day’s forecast. “Sunny for a week straight,” he says, rummaging through papers at the reception desk. “Oh, sorry, that’s the weather report from 1976.”
Despite today’s perpetually grey sky, nothing can dampen our excitement when we arrive in Cornwall’s Port Isaac, a working fishing village that doubles as the fictional Port Wenn. Tittering like the local teenage girls in Doc Martin, my mother and I – unashamed fans of the TV series – stroll around the town as if we know it like the back of our hand.
The map of Port Wenn, which is available from Stowaway Tea Shoppe, helps us to pinpoint set locations. Our first stops include school principal Louisa Glasson’s first house (really Sea Cove Cottage, which is available to rent) and Port Wenn Primary (aka The Old School Hotel). The highlight, of course, is seeing Dr Martin Ellingham’s surgery (a holiday home, said to be owned by an Australian) just behind Large Restaurant (a private home with beach access).
The shooting of series six of Doc Martin has begun, but there’s no trace of the actors or crew on a Saturday, save for a glimpse of the Large Restaurant van as it disappears up a narrow, winding street. That said, we have it on good authority that PC Joe Penhale, who is “on the job 24/7”, is often in town outside of filming times.
The local businesspeople are only too happy to chat with visitors – especially Australians, who represent the show’s biggest fan base – about living in Port Wenn.
“Martin [Clunes, who plays the gruff doc with no bedside manner] comes in for an espresso and he’s his normal, friendly self,” says the manager of Stowaway Tea Shoppe. “Then, when he finishes his coffee, he says, ‘Okay, I have to go and get nasty now,’ and he goes off and gets back into character.”
As the stockist of official Doc Martin merchandise in Port Isaac, Stowaway Tea Shoppe sells everything, from Doc Martin chocolate and clotted cream shortbread, to postcards of the doc with canine star Dodger (unlike his character, Clunes is a dog lover) and mouse pads with embedded fake blood that moves across the haemophobic doc’s face.
Visiting Mrs Tishell’s pharmacy is something of a treat – literally – as it’s really the premises of The Buttermilk Shop, which specialises in handmade fudge. As husband-and-wife shopkeepers Mike and Glenn explain, their store is the only interior used in the show (all other interior scenes are shot in an old barn three miles out of town). The store’s complete and amazing transformation into the fictional Port Wenn pharmacy includes temporarily gutting the space and moving the counter.
Mike and Glenn tell us they’re sworn to secrecy, so they can’t reveal what they know about the plot lines in the upcoming series. The big question is: Will Louisa and Martin finally marry? One thing is certain: Aunt Joan didn’t really die in the last series, she just went to Coronation Street.