PUBLISHED: 10:17 25 December 2015 | UPDATED: 12:56 30 August 2017



This walk takes in the harbour town of Port Isaac has become famous to viewers of Doc Martin as the fictional Portwenn

The harbour town of Port Isaac has become famous to viewers of Doc Martin as the fictional Portwenn. ROBERT HESKETH follows in the Doc’s footsteps

Sheltering in a rocky cove on the north Cornish coast, Port Isaac is a fishing village of real charm. Its beautiful situation and narrow streets of 18th and 19th century houses built in local stone and slate have made it an ideal backdrop for films such as Saving Grace and TV dramas from Poldark to the long running Doc Martin, in which Martin Clunes plays irascible GP Dr Martin Ellingham in fictional Portwenn - look out for series seven this autumn.

Tourism is the mainstay of Port Isaac today, so it is strange to visualize the area as the industrial centre it once was, though easier to do so outside the main holiday season when visitors are fewer. Port Isaac’s original pier and breakwater were built during Henry VIII’s reign and the port grew to handle cargoes of coal, wood, stone and ores. In 1850, at Port Isaac’s industrial zenith, 49 fishing boats were registered here and the pilchard industry thrived, regularly filling four village fish cellars.

Victorian England’s rapidly growing population created an insatiable market for building materials. Local quarries, including the 400ft deep pit at Delabole and smaller workings like that on the cliffs at Dannonchapel, produced more than 1,000 tons of Delabole slate daily in the 1880s. Until the North Cornwall Railway arrived in 1893 (bringing more holidaymakers), most of the slates were shipped from convenient beaches and the tiny harbours of Boscastle and Port Gaverne were hives of activity, crowded with men, horses and carts.

Boots on? Let’s go!

1 We start from the Port Gaverne side of Port Isaac, where the former industrial buildings have new uses as holiday homes. Leave your vehicle in the main car park. Descend to the lowest level and turn left along the path. Reaching the village, turn right downhill. Follow the road around the harbour and up Roscarrock Hill, where Doc Martin’s Cottage (Fern Cottage) is signed.

2 Follow the signed Coast Path for Port Quin. Climb the steps up to the cliff top. Now follow the fairly level path around Lobber Point to the next cove, Pine Haven.

3 Leave the Coast Path here, following a minor path up the valley with the stream on your right for 500m. At a path junction turn left for Port Isaac. Reaching a yellow waymark continue ahead and pass the old lookout pole. At the top right corner of the field, turn right through a gate and along a walled track. This leads to a lane.

4 Turn left down the lane opposite North Light for 60m. Turn right through a kissing gate into a public footpath. From this point, the public right of way has been legally diverted, so walkers should follow the waymarks. Follow the right field edge. Continue ahead at a yellow waymark to the stile at the far top corner of the field. Cross this and turn immediately left down a concrete track.

5 The track bends right. When it then turns a hairpin bend to the left, continue ahead on the waymarked footpath. Follow the path inland when it narrows. Just before a stile, turn sharp left on a well-beaten path along the valley bottom towards Port Isaac.

6 Turn right onto a drive and then continue ahead on the footpath until you reach the village. Turn right down the road, take the first right, then first left at Leatside Cottage. Reaching the harbour, turn right and retrace your steps to the start.

Fact File

Start/parking:Port Gaverne car park, SX 999810

Terrain: Footpaths, coast path, short lane sections, two steep ascents. Parts may be muddy after rain.

Child/dog friendly: Suitable for dogs on leads and older children. Care needed around unfenced cliffs.

Maps: Ordnance Survey Explorer 106; Landranger 200; Harvey’s South West Coast Path 2.

Refreshments: Choice of pubs and cafes in Port Isaac

Public toilets: At start

Public transport: 584 Wadebridge/Camelford, Mon-Sat.; 226 Trago Mills/Bodmin/Camelford Mondays to Fridays (limited service).

More Walks: Really Short Walks North Cornwall, Paul White, Bossiney Books, 2008 and 2014.

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