Fishermen's friends, famous faces and fantastic fodder: this is Port Isaac.
Lying in a picturesque groove within the cliffs, Port Isaac is a traditional fishing village less than 30 minutes’ drive from Padstow. Latterly having found fame as the backdrop to the much-loved TV series Doc Martin and film Fisherman’s Friends, it once was part of the county’s booming pilchard industry and even today has an active commercial harbour.
A spider’s web of little streets, Port Isaac’s network of narrow roads and white-washed cottages remain much unchanged. With the kind of pinched thoroughfares built for the humble transportation of centuries gone-by, many a large vehicle has fallen prey to its unforgiving bends and tight spots (with a poetic nod, one of Port Isaac’s passages is called Squeezy Belly Alley!). Naturally, we think it’s best to make use of the car parks at the top of the village and wander down on foot.
Wending your way down the fairly steep hill into the village basin, you will enjoy a bird’s eye view of the village, harbour and sea beyond. Peppered with toy-like boats manned by local fishermen, the harbour has been a prominent feature of the community since its construction during the reign of Henry VIII. In 1937, historian Arthur Mee talked about the Tudor pier’s new protective arm shielding anchored boats, describing that it left no “doubt that the fishermen sleep more soundly in their beds on stormy nights.”
Once you’ve snapped a few photos of the harbour (as dramatic in winter with its unruly swells as placid in summer with its glassy top) and walked along the pebbled shore, you will find plenty of interest in the village itself. Of course, a trip up to Fern Cottage, Doc Martin’s surgery, is a must, as is a wander around some of the other familiar buildings including Little Dolphins (Mrs Tishell’s chemist) and the Liberal Club (the village shop). On Fore Street more set locations include Louisa’s old and new houses, Bert’s restaurant, the school and quay.
For a chance to bellow out some sea shanties, the Golden Lion pub is the place to go. With its unparalleled outlook over the harbour, cool smugglers tunnel leading down to the beach and famous face thanks to its central role in the Fisherman’s Friend film, this characterful 18th century pub is popular amongst locals and tourists. With regular singsongs taking place, it’s also a great spot to visit to spin a few yarns, listen to seafaring tales and tuck into some food by the open fire.
Speaking of food, another of Port Isaac’s claims to fame is its amazing culinary acumen. Despite its size, this humble fishing villages is one of the best places to go in Cornwall for first-class restaurants. Supported by local fishermen who bring fresh catch to restaurants’ doors each day and a wealth of brilliant local produce sourced from the surrounding countryside, restaurants such as Nathan Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, Outlaw’s New Road, the Mote, the Chapel Café and the Krab Pot are but a few you can visit.