The BBC’s recent dramatization of Jamaica Inn was battered with a storm of complaints for being too dark and full of unintelligible dialogue. Though actually filmed on the Yorkshire Dales, perhaps the production was just too Cornish, and like du Maurier's young heroin Mary Yellan, to most viewers the setting came across as unfamiliar and a little hostile.
Though Cornwall lives in the imagination of the British as a place of smugglers and excitement, in reality the bleak Bodmin Moor is cast aside for the fancy Rock and Padstow, where generic holiday houses plague the skyline, interspersed with Rick Stein restaurants. It is not for nothing that this part of the county has been dubbed ‘the rich kids' playground.’
Yet great walks across du Maurier's rugged landscape can still be found, and not only on the moors. Walking past the surfers, campsites and donut stalls of Polzeath Beach, only a ten minute drive from Rock, you can make your way towards 'New Polzeath'. Climbing some steep stone steps up off the beach onto the cliffs, you will soon find yourself on a northward-heading boardwalk. Looking out over the sea, you will be able to follow this path for as long or as little as you like. The sudden Cornish storms are no myth so before heading off ensure that you have the right gear no matter how bright the morning appears.
Continuing along this path, the hotels will soon fall away and through the wind a pleasant invigorating hike can be enjoyed with the sea below to your left and tangled fields peppered with sheep sprawling out to your right. Up in the distance you will be able to see landmarks such as the Rumps and beyond them the off-shore clump of rocks known as the Mouls, which in summer are a breeding-spot for puffins and kittiwakes.
Passing through a few kissing gates, about 40 minutes into your walk you will come to a path striking off to your right with a sign for Pentire Farm. The farm is another possible starting point for your walk, or, indeed, a place to park the car if you fancy exploring the multiple little coves that are indented along the cliff face such as Pengrite Bay and Downhouse Cove. These are beautiful, but often unreachable due to treacherous paths down from the cliff. Common sense and caution is urged!
After the sign to the farm it won’t be too long before you reach the Rumps. There is a path that leads down to these where you can stand on the site of what was an Iron Age fort. A second, higher path will take you up to Com Head. Here it will likely be too windy for a picnic, but the view is certainly worth a short pause.
The next peak you come to will be Cornweather point, from the vantage of which you will be able to look down to Lundy Bay. This is the largest beach you will pass and easily accessible, and is consequently bustling on fine summer days. From Lundy Bay you can venture into what at first appears to be just a large cave. Persevere into the darkness however, over slippery rocks and deathly cold pools, and you will eventually come out on the neighbouring beach, Epphaven Cove. This pass under the cliff is safe, if a little spooky.
For those preferring to keep to the boardwalk you can pass Trevon Point above Lundy Bay and look through a gap in the rock to the beach below. Twenty minutes on from Epphaven you will reach the little fishing village of Port Isaac, sleepy and cobbled and with the thick smell of fresh fish. Here you can enjoy a well-deserved lunch and look out upon moored fishing boats draped in seaweed. But enjoy it while you can; Port Isaac was the setting for ITV’s Doc Martin, and it won’t be long before it too becomes part of the rich kids’ playground.