PUBLISHED: 14:03 16 May 2014 | UPDATED: 13:04 30 August 2017



As the backdrop to Doc Martin, Port Isaac is a quintessential Cornish fishing village with a lot going on

It is not surprising that the quintessential Cornish fishing village of Port Isaac has been made famous as a television film site. IAN WILKINSON finds out why there are at least seven great reasons to live here...

People fall in love with Port Isaac on their very first visit and its not hard to see why. This ancient Cornish fishing village has everything charm, a picturesque location, a fine history and very friendly people. In the summer it is a honeypot for holidaymakers and for film makers. The village was used in the 1970s as the set for Poldark and in more recent times as the location for the ITV series . Yet despite the annual influx of visitors and film crews, Port Isaac has remained largely unspoilt and retains its sense of identity.

'For surfers, Polzeath is just a short way down the coast to the west, while to the east is Tregardock Beach. For swimming there's the harbour itself or Port Gaverne, the adjoining village, which is blessed with one of Cornwall safest sandy beaches'

1 A sense of community

Community spirit in Port Isaac is alive and well, and as any quick stroll around the village will show, there is pride in its appearance. People are friendly and have time to stop and chat and the number of community activities you see advertised in the local shops and pubs is testament to a lively social scene. Barbara Hawkins is the proprietor of and I asked her and her friend, Cheryl Webster, what they thought of the village. The people are just wonderful. Everyone pulls together and helps one another, is their unanimous response.

2 The South West Coast Path

The path is beautiful along its whole 630-mile length, but Port Isaac lies at the centre of a section that is unrivalled in its diversity. To the east, in the direction of Tintagel and its magical castle, the cliff-top scenery is wild and the going tough, with eight steep-sided combes to negotiate. To the west the cliffs are lower and the gradients kinder, with a lovely stretch around Pentire Point, where the scenery is outstanding even by coastal path standards. The walk then becomes gentler as it descends to the sands of Polzeath and to Rock along the beautiful Camel Estuary.

3 Art and Culture

Many Cornish towns and villages have attracted artists for generations and Port Isaac is no exception. Partly the spectacular coastal scenery, partly the quaint narrow streets and partly the wonderful light makes it a perfect location for creative spirits to express themselves. The work of local artists is often displayed in the pubs, cafés and restaurants or in the small art galleries. One gallery in particular caught my attention that of Paul Jenkins in Fore Street. Paul sculpts ceramics, stoneware and bronze. His work is inspired by a love of nature and many of his pieces are the result of his observation of wild animals in their natural habitat. The Raku hares on display in the gallery are captivating.

4 Food and drink

There are a number of little cafs serving traditional Cornish food such as pasties, cream teas, saffron cakes and Hevva cake and several restaurants that specialise in that rather more modern Cornish tradition fine dining. I have eaten very well in both the Slipway Hotel and the Old School Hotel. The latter is the old school house and features as such in Doc Martin. The food at both hotels is locally sourced, with an emphasis on fish and seafood. For pub food and real Cornish ale, the Golden Lion is hard to beat not least because of the superb views over the harbour. If you fancy a picnic, Dennis Knight's fish stall by the harbour has a wonderful display of seafood.

5 Beautiful homes

Port Isaac has a wide variety of different types of properties ranging from tiny fishermen's cottages to huge mansions. The houses surrounding the harbour area are picture-postcard material and many of them are listed as being of architectural or historic importance. Their sizes range from small two-bedroom terraced cottages to quite substantial family residences. The narrow streets and lanes of the village (one is called Squeezeebelly Alley!) are not really suitable for motorcars, so it does mean that the houses in the village centre will appeal more to those who do not need or own a car

6 The sea

Living close to the sea doesn't just give you breathtaking scenery. There's lots of waterborne activity in Port Isaac and the surrounding area. For surfers, Polzeath is just a short way down the coast to the west, while to the east is Tregardock Beach. For swimming there's the harbour itself or Port Gaverne, the adjoining village, which is blessed with one of Cornwall safest sandy beaches. Port Isaac is still a working fishing village although in the winter the boats are berthed in Padstow but trips for sea anglers take place all year weather permitting. During the summer months there is also sailing, although it has to be said that this part of the north Cornish coast is not for beginners.

7 Belonging

People who live in Port Isaac seldom leave, or if they do, they return sooner or later. In the Old School Hotel there are some wonderful black and white photographs of schoolchildren in the 1930s, and theres still quite a few around! There is a real sense of belonging in the village, as John Collins, the proprietor of the local fish merchant explains: I was born and bred here and have lived here all my life. All my family and friends live here and I hope I'll never have to move away. Why would I?


The name Port Isaac comes from Port Izzyek, believed to mean Corn Port

Port Isaac is a working harbour

It is said that pirates used the small passageway next to the Golden Lion for smuggling

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