The casual visitor to Port Isaac might be forgiven for thinking he has wandered onto a TV film-set, for this pretty Cornish village is also the Portwenn of the popular ITV series Doc Martin. Yes, you can park on the beach but watch out for the rising tide or you could see your car floating away as seen in the first episode of the Doc's adventures. That house high up the hill to the right does look rather like the Doc's surgery but actually it's "Fern Cottage", a private house so try not to disturb the occupants. The old school building on the cliffs to left may look exactly like schoolmarm Louisa's place of employment but in normal life it's just another hotel.
Port Isaac Bay © TAB
Long before it became a TV star, however, Port Isaac was a busy trading centre. Its Cornish name Porth Izzick (Corn Port) indicates it was once active in the corn trade, exporting the produce of the arable Cornish countryside. The pier was constructed in Tudor times to facilitate this trade and down the centuries all manner of goods have come and gone as coastal trading vessels visited the port.
Fishing was, of course, a prime occupation for the villagers and even today fishing boats continue to ply their trade bringing home their daily catch of fish, crab and lobsters.
You won't find Bert Large's restaurant (thank goodness) but the village has some delightful pubs and eating places. I once enjoyed one of the best beer-battered fish and chips I've ever tasted at a cafe in the village centre.
A group of 10 local shanty-singers, the Fishermen's Friends, who are based in Port Isaac, have recently become very popular and have performed in many parts, including the Royal Albert Hall. See the Fishermen's Friends website for details or listen to them on Spotify
The rather quieter but equally quaint cove of Port Gavern lies just to the north-east while to the south west can be found the small hamlet of Port Quin. Port Quin is remembered for the great tragedy of 1698 when a terrible storm overwhelmed the entire fishing fleet at sea. None of the fishermen returned alive and their widows and children all moved to Port Isaac, leaving the village deserted.
Location: on the north coast of Cornwall 10 miles from both Camelford and Wadebridge. If you plan to visit during the high season then it's best to arrive early to obtain a parking space. Parking in most of the village is restricted and the harbour is permit holders only. There is a large public car park situated on the way into the village (on the B3267) but even this can be full by midday.
Located at the side of the harbour slipway, home to the 'Port Isaac Fishermen Ltd', a group of outlets that sell locally caught fresh fish and shellfish. Check out the Just Shellfish facebook page for details of the latest catch of the day. Local fishing boat trips can also be booked if you fancy a go at catching your own.
The Port Isaac lifeboat which is housed just across the road from the slipway (the Platt) is an impressive sight. The lifeboat station is manned 24/7, 365 days a year by local volunteers and provides a vital rescue service covering the whole of Cornwall's north coast. The streets in the harbour area are so narrow that the ropes once used to pull the lifeboat through them have left grooves that are still visible today in some of the buildings.
Pottery, gallery and art workshop, located in the charming old Methodist Church building, at the bottom of Roscarrock Hill. A wide range of locally made arts and crafts, paintings, jewelry, gifts and other items are on sale. The internal layout remains relatively unchanged since its use as a place of worship. A brief history of the chapel along with many interesting old photographs can be found in the foyer.
Port Isaac was once a thriving Methodist community (before the first world war) and was often visited by John Wesley. Sadly the village's two Methodist chapels have long since closed. The remaining C of E church nestles amongst the white washed cottages, just up the hill from the Old School Hotel Bar & Restaurant.
Regular Holy Communion services are held every Sunday morning at 9.45am
See the 6 Churches Website for further details.
If you are interested in the history of the fishing port and in which of the many properties were used in films and the Doc Martin TV series, then daily guided tours are available by one of the local Fishermen's Friends singers, John Brown. For details see Walk & Talk Guided Tours. Tel: 01208 881 277 (day) or 07815156632 (evening)