Poldark Country

Take me to the beachNicola here, with a post that is part travelogue, part about settings and backgrounds in books. 

There’s something about Cornwall, isn’t there. It rivals Scotland in the imagination as a romantic setting for a novel. It's wild, rugged and magical. Perhaps it all started with Daphne Du Maurier and with Winston Graham’s Poldark books and the TV series. I know it did for me.  I grew up on the original BBC dramatization of Poldark, though my teenage heart was mostly given to Dr Enys rather than to Ross. When the more recent dramatization came out I felt it couldn’t possibly match the first one but it carved its own niche in our affections as well as raising interest in the ancient skill of scything. And as for Daphne Du Maurier’s books, well, Frenchman’s Creek is still up there on my all-time favourites list, and Jamaica Inn not so far behind. Both Du Maurier and Winston Graham created the atmosphere of historic Cornwall so evocatively that I was desperate to visit (which was neither quick nor easy 40 years ago from Yorkshire!)

Other authors, including Judy Finnegan and Liz Fenwick, have also captured the spirit of JAmaica Inn Cornwall in their fabulous books and the romantic potential has also been recognised in a number of contemporary romantic novels such as the lovely Cornish Café series from Phillipa Ashley. There’s no doubt about it – there’s something about Cornwall, and I should know as I went there for my honeymoon 30 years ago this year and have visited regularly since.

Cornwall in the snowMy most recent visit, two weeks ago, was the first time I had seen snow in Cornwall. We were staying almost as far to the south and west as you could get, at Vellandreath near Sennen Cove. The cottage had a spectacular view of the beach and of the sunsets. Fortunately it was also very cosy! It was the perfect spot for relaxing in front of the woodburning stove whilst others more daring than I tackled the surf out in the bay. A footpath took us into the village whilst there were long walks to be had on the beach and the cliff path.

We’d been to Lands’ End before. As the most south westerly point on the British mainland it’s an Angus miniature village iconic landmark to rival John O’Groats in Scotland but on the day we went the visitor attractions were all closed so we got the authentic rugged sea cliff experience with the waves crashing below and no one else in sight! We walked to Maen Castle, an Iron Age promontory fort that has one of the most outstanding settings imaginable. It must have been cold living there at the top of the cliff, though. On the way back we took in the Lands End miniature village – here's Angus at the pub!

Carn Euny EHCornwall is full of ancient, atmospheric sites linked to legend, of course. The most famous castle is probably Tintagel, allegedly the birthplace of King Arthur. On this trip, though, my favourite ancient site was Carn Euny, one of the best preserved Iron Age villages in the south west. (Photo from English Heritage). You can see the ruins of nine courtyard houses that were occupied up until the end of the Roman period and in the 18th century someone built a cottage in amongst all the fallen down houses. I can only imagine what it must have been like to live on that site with all the relics of the past scattered around you!  The most amazing part of the village, though, was the “fogou.” I’d never seen one before and it is a cave-like dry stone structure underneath the village accessed by tunnels. Whether it was a meeting place, built for defence or storage or some other purpose isn’t known, but it was fascinating – and not great if like me you sometimes get claustrophobia!

More recent history comes in the shape of Cornwall’s industrial heritage, and the old mining works from the 18th and 19th century Cape Cornwallare still scattered over the countryside. The town of St Just was once the centre of the tin mining industry in the area and has a fascinating history. All the places familiar from Poldark are here – the villages of Morvah and Botallack, and the spectacular scenery of Cape Cornwall with its mine chimney stack on the top of the cliff. Cape Cornwall was my absolute favourite place with a beach full of beautiful stones and a row of 19th century coastguard cottages with walled gardens. It was a place crying out to be the setting of a story, maybe a timeslip novel…

Nicola Cornwall 1Do you have a favourite book set in Cornwall, either historical or contemporary? What do you think it is about places like Scotland or Cornwall that make them so appealing and "romantic"?

135 thoughts on “Poldark Country”

  1. The Rose Garden from Susanna Kearsley. The Forgotten Garden and The Lake House by Kate Morton. I’m sure there are others, but those are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head. The pics are GORGEOUS!

    Reply
  2. The Rose Garden from Susanna Kearsley. The Forgotten Garden and The Lake House by Kate Morton. I’m sure there are others, but those are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head. The pics are GORGEOUS!

    Reply
  3. The Rose Garden from Susanna Kearsley. The Forgotten Garden and The Lake House by Kate Morton. I’m sure there are others, but those are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head. The pics are GORGEOUS!

    Reply
  4. The Rose Garden from Susanna Kearsley. The Forgotten Garden and The Lake House by Kate Morton. I’m sure there are others, but those are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head. The pics are GORGEOUS!

    Reply
  5. The Rose Garden from Susanna Kearsley. The Forgotten Garden and The Lake House by Kate Morton. I’m sure there are others, but those are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head. The pics are GORGEOUS!

    Reply
  6. Nicola, you’re making me crave another visit to Cornwall–it’s been far too many years. My maternal grandfather told me that their family name was Cornish, so I’d like to think I have a connection there. I shall ponder favorite books set there…

    Reply
  7. Nicola, you’re making me crave another visit to Cornwall–it’s been far too many years. My maternal grandfather told me that their family name was Cornish, so I’d like to think I have a connection there. I shall ponder favorite books set there…

    Reply
  8. Nicola, you’re making me crave another visit to Cornwall–it’s been far too many years. My maternal grandfather told me that their family name was Cornish, so I’d like to think I have a connection there. I shall ponder favorite books set there…

    Reply
  9. Nicola, you’re making me crave another visit to Cornwall–it’s been far too many years. My maternal grandfather told me that their family name was Cornish, so I’d like to think I have a connection there. I shall ponder favorite books set there…

    Reply
  10. Nicola, you’re making me crave another visit to Cornwall–it’s been far too many years. My maternal grandfather told me that their family name was Cornish, so I’d like to think I have a connection there. I shall ponder favorite books set there…

    Reply
  11. Once upon a time, my family went to Cornwall and stayed in a lovely hotel right on the coast where we could hear the waves crashing against the cliff below the bedroom windows. We also went to see a play in an outdoor amphitheater, very dramatic. (It was also drizzling rain.) The setting would have been perfect for a tragedy—King Lear, perhaps, or Oedipus Rex. However, what was being performed was Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn, a Victorian melodrama that was definitely melodramatic. I made us all stay to the end, because despite the drizzle, I loved the setting.
    My kids thought I was nuts.

    Reply
  12. Once upon a time, my family went to Cornwall and stayed in a lovely hotel right on the coast where we could hear the waves crashing against the cliff below the bedroom windows. We also went to see a play in an outdoor amphitheater, very dramatic. (It was also drizzling rain.) The setting would have been perfect for a tragedy—King Lear, perhaps, or Oedipus Rex. However, what was being performed was Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn, a Victorian melodrama that was definitely melodramatic. I made us all stay to the end, because despite the drizzle, I loved the setting.
    My kids thought I was nuts.

    Reply
  13. Once upon a time, my family went to Cornwall and stayed in a lovely hotel right on the coast where we could hear the waves crashing against the cliff below the bedroom windows. We also went to see a play in an outdoor amphitheater, very dramatic. (It was also drizzling rain.) The setting would have been perfect for a tragedy—King Lear, perhaps, or Oedipus Rex. However, what was being performed was Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn, a Victorian melodrama that was definitely melodramatic. I made us all stay to the end, because despite the drizzle, I loved the setting.
    My kids thought I was nuts.

    Reply
  14. Once upon a time, my family went to Cornwall and stayed in a lovely hotel right on the coast where we could hear the waves crashing against the cliff below the bedroom windows. We also went to see a play in an outdoor amphitheater, very dramatic. (It was also drizzling rain.) The setting would have been perfect for a tragedy—King Lear, perhaps, or Oedipus Rex. However, what was being performed was Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn, a Victorian melodrama that was definitely melodramatic. I made us all stay to the end, because despite the drizzle, I loved the setting.
    My kids thought I was nuts.

    Reply
  15. Once upon a time, my family went to Cornwall and stayed in a lovely hotel right on the coast where we could hear the waves crashing against the cliff below the bedroom windows. We also went to see a play in an outdoor amphitheater, very dramatic. (It was also drizzling rain.) The setting would have been perfect for a tragedy—King Lear, perhaps, or Oedipus Rex. However, what was being performed was Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn, a Victorian melodrama that was definitely melodramatic. I made us all stay to the end, because despite the drizzle, I loved the setting.
    My kids thought I was nuts.

    Reply
  16. Thank you for taking us on your visit to Cornwall. Lovely – just lovely. I like any story that is set in a coastal area. It evokes such a beautiful picture in my mind. I can just imagine the waves hitting the rocks and cliffs and smell the salt in the air. In my mind it enhances any romance, adventure or mystery story.

    Reply
  17. Thank you for taking us on your visit to Cornwall. Lovely – just lovely. I like any story that is set in a coastal area. It evokes such a beautiful picture in my mind. I can just imagine the waves hitting the rocks and cliffs and smell the salt in the air. In my mind it enhances any romance, adventure or mystery story.

    Reply
  18. Thank you for taking us on your visit to Cornwall. Lovely – just lovely. I like any story that is set in a coastal area. It evokes such a beautiful picture in my mind. I can just imagine the waves hitting the rocks and cliffs and smell the salt in the air. In my mind it enhances any romance, adventure or mystery story.

    Reply
  19. Thank you for taking us on your visit to Cornwall. Lovely – just lovely. I like any story that is set in a coastal area. It evokes such a beautiful picture in my mind. I can just imagine the waves hitting the rocks and cliffs and smell the salt in the air. In my mind it enhances any romance, adventure or mystery story.

    Reply
  20. Thank you for taking us on your visit to Cornwall. Lovely – just lovely. I like any story that is set in a coastal area. It evokes such a beautiful picture in my mind. I can just imagine the waves hitting the rocks and cliffs and smell the salt in the air. In my mind it enhances any romance, adventure or mystery story.

    Reply
  21. I fell in love with Cornwall early. I read Susan Cooper’s book Greenwitch and it made the whole area come alive in my mind.
    In more recent history, Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden took me back there again.
    People who cannot afford the cost of plane fare can always afford a library card if they want to travel to wonderful places.

    Reply
  22. I fell in love with Cornwall early. I read Susan Cooper’s book Greenwitch and it made the whole area come alive in my mind.
    In more recent history, Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden took me back there again.
    People who cannot afford the cost of plane fare can always afford a library card if they want to travel to wonderful places.

    Reply
  23. I fell in love with Cornwall early. I read Susan Cooper’s book Greenwitch and it made the whole area come alive in my mind.
    In more recent history, Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden took me back there again.
    People who cannot afford the cost of plane fare can always afford a library card if they want to travel to wonderful places.

    Reply
  24. I fell in love with Cornwall early. I read Susan Cooper’s book Greenwitch and it made the whole area come alive in my mind.
    In more recent history, Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden took me back there again.
    People who cannot afford the cost of plane fare can always afford a library card if they want to travel to wonderful places.

    Reply
  25. I fell in love with Cornwall early. I read Susan Cooper’s book Greenwitch and it made the whole area come alive in my mind.
    In more recent history, Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden took me back there again.
    People who cannot afford the cost of plane fare can always afford a library card if they want to travel to wonderful places.

    Reply
  26. Daphne du Maurier was my introduction to Cornwall as well. This biography covers the importance Cornwall was to her. Daphne du Maurier and her Sisters: The Hidden Lives of Piffy, Bird and Bing
    by Jane Dunn

    Reply
  27. Daphne du Maurier was my introduction to Cornwall as well. This biography covers the importance Cornwall was to her. Daphne du Maurier and her Sisters: The Hidden Lives of Piffy, Bird and Bing
    by Jane Dunn

    Reply
  28. Daphne du Maurier was my introduction to Cornwall as well. This biography covers the importance Cornwall was to her. Daphne du Maurier and her Sisters: The Hidden Lives of Piffy, Bird and Bing
    by Jane Dunn

    Reply
  29. Daphne du Maurier was my introduction to Cornwall as well. This biography covers the importance Cornwall was to her. Daphne du Maurier and her Sisters: The Hidden Lives of Piffy, Bird and Bing
    by Jane Dunn

    Reply
  30. Daphne du Maurier was my introduction to Cornwall as well. This biography covers the importance Cornwall was to her. Daphne du Maurier and her Sisters: The Hidden Lives of Piffy, Bird and Bing
    by Jane Dunn

    Reply
  31. Was that the Minack Theatre, Lilian? it’s a terrific setting for any sort of performance, i think. I’ve visited it but never seen a play there. It was re-opening the week after we were there!

    Reply
  32. Was that the Minack Theatre, Lilian? it’s a terrific setting for any sort of performance, i think. I’ve visited it but never seen a play there. It was re-opening the week after we were there!

    Reply
  33. Was that the Minack Theatre, Lilian? it’s a terrific setting for any sort of performance, i think. I’ve visited it but never seen a play there. It was re-opening the week after we were there!

    Reply
  34. Was that the Minack Theatre, Lilian? it’s a terrific setting for any sort of performance, i think. I’ve visited it but never seen a play there. It was re-opening the week after we were there!

    Reply
  35. Was that the Minack Theatre, Lilian? it’s a terrific setting for any sort of performance, i think. I’ve visited it but never seen a play there. It was re-opening the week after we were there!

    Reply
  36. I think our hearts long for places like Scotland and Cornwall because author’s descriptions make those places seem like a place to escape the everyday cares of our lives. There is beauty, and adventure and no utility bills, no sick kid and no difficult boss to face.
    Recently I have read several contemporary stories set in Cornwall and each of them have created the atmosphere of life in that wonderful place.
    I am ready to go.

    Reply
  37. I think our hearts long for places like Scotland and Cornwall because author’s descriptions make those places seem like a place to escape the everyday cares of our lives. There is beauty, and adventure and no utility bills, no sick kid and no difficult boss to face.
    Recently I have read several contemporary stories set in Cornwall and each of them have created the atmosphere of life in that wonderful place.
    I am ready to go.

    Reply
  38. I think our hearts long for places like Scotland and Cornwall because author’s descriptions make those places seem like a place to escape the everyday cares of our lives. There is beauty, and adventure and no utility bills, no sick kid and no difficult boss to face.
    Recently I have read several contemporary stories set in Cornwall and each of them have created the atmosphere of life in that wonderful place.
    I am ready to go.

    Reply
  39. I think our hearts long for places like Scotland and Cornwall because author’s descriptions make those places seem like a place to escape the everyday cares of our lives. There is beauty, and adventure and no utility bills, no sick kid and no difficult boss to face.
    Recently I have read several contemporary stories set in Cornwall and each of them have created the atmosphere of life in that wonderful place.
    I am ready to go.

    Reply
  40. I think our hearts long for places like Scotland and Cornwall because author’s descriptions make those places seem like a place to escape the everyday cares of our lives. There is beauty, and adventure and no utility bills, no sick kid and no difficult boss to face.
    Recently I have read several contemporary stories set in Cornwall and each of them have created the atmosphere of life in that wonderful place.
    I am ready to go.

    Reply
  41. That’s very interesting, Annette. Definitely a part of the enchantment for me is the idea of a break from routine so if we can re-capture that sense of escape in our readings then yes – I’ll sign up to go even if it’s only in imagination!

    Reply
  42. That’s very interesting, Annette. Definitely a part of the enchantment for me is the idea of a break from routine so if we can re-capture that sense of escape in our readings then yes – I’ll sign up to go even if it’s only in imagination!

    Reply
  43. That’s very interesting, Annette. Definitely a part of the enchantment for me is the idea of a break from routine so if we can re-capture that sense of escape in our readings then yes – I’ll sign up to go even if it’s only in imagination!

    Reply
  44. That’s very interesting, Annette. Definitely a part of the enchantment for me is the idea of a break from routine so if we can re-capture that sense of escape in our readings then yes – I’ll sign up to go even if it’s only in imagination!

    Reply
  45. That’s very interesting, Annette. Definitely a part of the enchantment for me is the idea of a break from routine so if we can re-capture that sense of escape in our readings then yes – I’ll sign up to go even if it’s only in imagination!

    Reply
  46. Cornwall is a place I’ve long wanted to visit but I’m not a good traveler. I love Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher and I’ve read books by E V Thompson which are set in Cornwall also. I know I’ve read quite a few old romances over the years that had this setting but can’t name them off the top of my head. In with Cornwall and Scotland you can throw Ireland too. We have some magical places here and some fantastic scenery. Lovely post.

    Reply
  47. Cornwall is a place I’ve long wanted to visit but I’m not a good traveler. I love Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher and I’ve read books by E V Thompson which are set in Cornwall also. I know I’ve read quite a few old romances over the years that had this setting but can’t name them off the top of my head. In with Cornwall and Scotland you can throw Ireland too. We have some magical places here and some fantastic scenery. Lovely post.

    Reply
  48. Cornwall is a place I’ve long wanted to visit but I’m not a good traveler. I love Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher and I’ve read books by E V Thompson which are set in Cornwall also. I know I’ve read quite a few old romances over the years that had this setting but can’t name them off the top of my head. In with Cornwall and Scotland you can throw Ireland too. We have some magical places here and some fantastic scenery. Lovely post.

    Reply
  49. Cornwall is a place I’ve long wanted to visit but I’m not a good traveler. I love Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher and I’ve read books by E V Thompson which are set in Cornwall also. I know I’ve read quite a few old romances over the years that had this setting but can’t name them off the top of my head. In with Cornwall and Scotland you can throw Ireland too. We have some magical places here and some fantastic scenery. Lovely post.

    Reply
  50. Cornwall is a place I’ve long wanted to visit but I’m not a good traveler. I love Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher and I’ve read books by E V Thompson which are set in Cornwall also. I know I’ve read quite a few old romances over the years that had this setting but can’t name them off the top of my head. In with Cornwall and Scotland you can throw Ireland too. We have some magical places here and some fantastic scenery. Lovely post.

    Reply
  51. The Shell Seekers, absolutely! One of Pilcher’s best books. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the climate is so much more temperate than the rest of England, so they can grow crops pretty much all year round.

    Reply
  52. The Shell Seekers, absolutely! One of Pilcher’s best books. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the climate is so much more temperate than the rest of England, so they can grow crops pretty much all year round.

    Reply
  53. The Shell Seekers, absolutely! One of Pilcher’s best books. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the climate is so much more temperate than the rest of England, so they can grow crops pretty much all year round.

    Reply
  54. The Shell Seekers, absolutely! One of Pilcher’s best books. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the climate is so much more temperate than the rest of England, so they can grow crops pretty much all year round.

    Reply
  55. The Shell Seekers, absolutely! One of Pilcher’s best books. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the climate is so much more temperate than the rest of England, so they can grow crops pretty much all year round.

    Reply
  56. I remember reading Victoria Holt’s books. Thank you, Suzanna, for reminding me which author placed some of her books in Cornwall. I was waffling among Holt, Mary Stewart, and Phyllis Whitney.

    Reply
  57. I remember reading Victoria Holt’s books. Thank you, Suzanna, for reminding me which author placed some of her books in Cornwall. I was waffling among Holt, Mary Stewart, and Phyllis Whitney.

    Reply
  58. I remember reading Victoria Holt’s books. Thank you, Suzanna, for reminding me which author placed some of her books in Cornwall. I was waffling among Holt, Mary Stewart, and Phyllis Whitney.

    Reply
  59. I remember reading Victoria Holt’s books. Thank you, Suzanna, for reminding me which author placed some of her books in Cornwall. I was waffling among Holt, Mary Stewart, and Phyllis Whitney.

    Reply
  60. I remember reading Victoria Holt’s books. Thank you, Suzanna, for reminding me which author placed some of her books in Cornwall. I was waffling among Holt, Mary Stewart, and Phyllis Whitney.

    Reply
  61. There are a good many Cornwall settings in the books I reread — many of them have been mentioned above.
    The most recent rereads would be those about the Cornwall members of the Bastion Club (Stephanie Laurens). The series covers many areas of England, butin those two books the action does take place in Cornwall.

    Reply
  62. There are a good many Cornwall settings in the books I reread — many of them have been mentioned above.
    The most recent rereads would be those about the Cornwall members of the Bastion Club (Stephanie Laurens). The series covers many areas of England, butin those two books the action does take place in Cornwall.

    Reply
  63. There are a good many Cornwall settings in the books I reread — many of them have been mentioned above.
    The most recent rereads would be those about the Cornwall members of the Bastion Club (Stephanie Laurens). The series covers many areas of England, butin those two books the action does take place in Cornwall.

    Reply
  64. There are a good many Cornwall settings in the books I reread — many of them have been mentioned above.
    The most recent rereads would be those about the Cornwall members of the Bastion Club (Stephanie Laurens). The series covers many areas of England, butin those two books the action does take place in Cornwall.

    Reply
  65. There are a good many Cornwall settings in the books I reread — many of them have been mentioned above.
    The most recent rereads would be those about the Cornwall members of the Bastion Club (Stephanie Laurens). The series covers many areas of England, butin those two books the action does take place in Cornwall.

    Reply
  66. All the books mentioned plus Penmarric by Susan Howatch in which the house is one of the characters not just a background to the action. I’ve noticed this is common in Cornish novels starting of course with the infamous Manderley…

    Reply
  67. All the books mentioned plus Penmarric by Susan Howatch in which the house is one of the characters not just a background to the action. I’ve noticed this is common in Cornish novels starting of course with the infamous Manderley…

    Reply
  68. All the books mentioned plus Penmarric by Susan Howatch in which the house is one of the characters not just a background to the action. I’ve noticed this is common in Cornish novels starting of course with the infamous Manderley…

    Reply
  69. All the books mentioned plus Penmarric by Susan Howatch in which the house is one of the characters not just a background to the action. I’ve noticed this is common in Cornish novels starting of course with the infamous Manderley…

    Reply
  70. All the books mentioned plus Penmarric by Susan Howatch in which the house is one of the characters not just a background to the action. I’ve noticed this is common in Cornish novels starting of course with the infamous Manderley…

    Reply

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