New series of Poldark is set to showcase the beauty of Cornwall all over again

Gerard Gilbert looks at how TV programmes, from 'Balamory' to 'Broadchurch', pull in the telly tourists
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

As if the tourist industry of Padstow in Cornwall wasn't already blessed with Rick Stein's proliferating eateries and the popularity of ITV's Doc Martin clogging the narrow streets of nearby Port Isaac with sightseers, the area's rugged natural beauty has now attracted the makers of a new BBC1 adaptation of Winston Graham's Poldark novels.

The original mid-1970s version of Poldark, with Robin Ellis as the dashing 18th-century mine-owner vacillating between servant girl Demelza (Angharad Rees) and former fiancée Elizabeth (Jill Townsend) pulled in 15 million besotted viewers and is credited with kick-starting Cornwall's modern tourist boom. The new version, this time staring Aidan Turner as Poldark, was filmed all over the duchy (and – whisper it – Wiltshire), but viewers wondering where the gorgeous cliff-top scenes in next Sunday's opening episode were shot – well, that's Lellizzik near Padstow.

The cliffs at Lellizzik are even more dramatic than those of West Beach in Dorset, where ITV's Broadchurch is partly shot, and which has become such a tourist magnet that enterprising locals offer themed walking tours along the cliffs. Unaccompanied sightseers have been warned not to venture too close to the edge for fear of meeting a similar fate to young Danny Latimer – or arguably even worse: appearing in the Daily Mail under the headline "Shocking pictures show tourists sitting on edge of perilous Dorset cliffs featured in TV drama". I can't say what the Mail paid for these busybody snaps, but it's yet another way that television fame keeps on giving.

Telly tourism is at least as old as Last of the Summer Wine – Roy Clarke's sitcom is still attracting visitors to the Yorkshire town of Holmfirth five years after the venerable comedy hung up its wellies – and no local authority worth its council tax can afford to ignore the potential windfall.



Private travel firms have also smelt the opportunity, with at least eight separate companies offering guided tours of the locations across south Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire used in Midsomer Murders – one even offering a reality-sapping Midsomer Murders and Inspector Morse combination tour. Why not throw in Miss Marple for good measure?

And happy the owners of stately homes willing to have burly gaffers and best boys camped on their crumbling doorsteps for months on end. Lord and Lady Carnarvon, owners of Highclere Castle in Berkshire, had 50 uninhabitable rooms and Lord Lloyd-Webber hovering with an offer to buy the property to house his art collection. ("I thought it was incredibly rude actually," Lady Carnarvon told a journalist.) Enter their good – now presumably even better – friend Julian Fellowes with Downton Abbey. On top of the location fee, Highclere now sees 1,200 visitors a day during summer months. Call in the damp-rot chappies and hang the expense.

Highclere is by no means the first country pile to so benefit, and Lyme Park in Cheshire, the setting for Colin Firth/Mr Darcy's wet shirt scene in the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, saw visitor numbers almost triple from 32,852 in 1994 to 91,437 in 1995.

The National Trust has its own film and TV division, and the charity's website advertises which of its properties have been used in television productions, their current star attractions being those houses used in Wolf Hall – Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire and Montacute House in Somerset.

But even TV shows far more modest in scale than Wolf Hall pull in the punters. The pre-school CBBC programme Balamory, for example, in which characters with names like Suzie Sweet, Penny Pocket and Archie the Inventor (played by Miles Jupp, no less) lived in colour-coded cottages on a fictional Scottish island, was filmed in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. The town saw 160,000 more visitors in 2003 – the year after the show was launched – than in 2002. So what's the story in Balamory? A £5m boost to the tourist economy of Mull and the Western Isles, that's what.