Quick: I say "England," you say _______________?

I'm guessing most folks would say "London" or "Shakespeare" or "fish and chips" or maybe even "Premier League Football" (at least, that's what my sons would say). 

Seldom said is "Cornwall," the county that occupies the southwest corner of England and is almost a country of its own. Separated from the rest of England by the River Tamar, Cornwall had its own language until the early nineteenth century, is populated by a fiercely independent people who for ages made their living by working tin mines or fishing the Atlantic, and is resplendent with beauty that rivals the Mediterranean. 

In fact, the most salient feature of this slice of earth is its beauty:  rugged coastlines, verdant gardens, wild moors, and charming fishing villages nestled in coves all along the sea. Home to castles and tin mines, Henry VIII and Prince Charles (Duke of Cornwall), Cornish pasties and cream tea, Cornwall is a little-known treasure trove for those who enjoy exploring history and geography and art and literature. 

I say "little-known." However, thanks to the BBC's recent production of Poldark, millions of people have heard of Cornwall and have seen its Glory. (Ross Poldark racing shirtless across the moors on horseback comes to mind.) Many of those who've glimpsed the staggering beauty of Cornwall on the small screen are now curious about this mysterious, seemingly remote niche of England. And some, like you, are bold enough to venture across the pond to explore Cornwall's secrets, experiencing firsthand the serendipities of Poldark country. 

Before you do, a little homework is in order. No, there's no test and you won't be graded. But you will cultivate anticipation by getting to know Cornwall as portrayed by those who have lived there, writing about it via fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, stimulating curiosity and imagination. Many of the books, stories, movies, and TV shows listed below can be found in public libraries and bookshops and (certainly!) Amazon. Two of the nonfiction recommendations are written by famous authors who lived in Cornwall and imbued their works of fiction with the people and places of their beloved homeland. In the fiction offerings, you'll find captivating stories in which setting plays a significant role, painting the Cornish landscape with words. And, finally, the TV shows and movies listed will expand the vision in your mind's eye with vast, panoramic views of Cornwall (Poldark, especially) and cozy pictures of village life (Doc Martin). And they're just good entertainment.

May your days be rich with anticipation as you prepare for our journey to "The golden and unpeopled bays / The shadowy cliffs and sheep-worn ways / The white unpopulated surf / The thyme-and-mushroom scented turf / The slate-hung farms, the oil-lit chapels / Thin elms and lemon-coloured apples…" (Sir John Betjeman, Delectable Duchy, 1974).


Books about Cornwall

Fiction set in Cornwall

Also, Sir William Golding (author of Lord of the Flies) hails from Cornwall, and author John le Carre (real name David Cornwell) lives in Cornwall.