The American stage and TV actor Tom Lenk counts Port Isaac in north Cornwall and the Scottish Fife coast among his favourite seaside spots
WORDS CAROLINE WHEATER
I grew up in southern California where everything was built in the 1960s. We don’t have the quaint history that Britain has, unless it’s a set built for a movie. During the pandemic I watched lots of British TV, and just wanted to be travelling, seeing the beautiful backdrops to some of these stories. One of the places I wanted to go to – because I’m obsessed with Doc Martin starring Martin Clunes – was Port Isaac, which doubles for Portwenne, the fictional Cornish fishing village where the drama is set. While I was doing a movie in the UK last year, I pitched the idea of going to the locations of some of these sacred TV shows to Acorn TV, and was commissioned to make some mini travel documentaries, including one on Port Isaac.
I went there last November with a couple of friends and even though it was a little bit grey the colour of the ocean was even more beautiful than on TV. We stayed in a small hotel with a view of the water and it felt like being on the edge of the world. Exploring the various locations, such as Doc Martin’s surgery [Fern Cottage], and the coast path which goes over to Port Quin, was magical. I had my first cream tea at the Old School Hotel, which doubles as the village school in the drama – so delicious, in America scones are like bricks! And we had heavenly fish and chips at the Golden Lion pub, another setting in the series. Maybe because I’m on the shorter side, I felt at home there, all the doors were made for people far shorter than me, which was very cute. We went from Port Isaac to Tintagel to visit the castle ruins there and to look at the beach. My friends are both cold water swimmers and invited me in, but I just put my feet into the brisk, cold water, I didn’t fully immerse. It was stunning and I’d like to go back and do a whole summer trip in Cornwall.
I’ve performed at the Edinburgh Festival several times and done that lovely walk from Dean Village down to Leith. Last time I was there I visited Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven and was blown away by the drive along the Fife Coast, where we stopped to have fish and chips at the Anstruther Fish Bar. That was a magical trip. Since I grew up close to the ocean and went to the beach a lot, being by the sea has a sense of hominess to it. You go back to childhood, there’s a feeling of fun and play and of relaxation as you hear the waves crashing at night. My next stop will be Frinton-on-Sea in Essex, with friends. I’m fascinated by British beach culture, east coast versus west coast, and I can’t wait to see the beach huts.
At this summer’s Edinburgh Festival Tom will be appearing in the new play, Lottie Platchett Took A Hatchet, at the Assembly Roxy (Upstairs), 8.35pm, from 4th to 27th August. To book, visit assemblyfestival.com/whats-on/lottie-plachett-took-a-hatchet.