Picture Perfect Port Isaac - a popular fishing port that is still charming, despite being so popular
PUBLISHED: 10:25 20 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:13 20 February 2013
We discover this quintessential Cornish fishing port that is still charming, despite being popular with visitors and film-makers. We talk to Martin Clunes, and look at some of the local walks and Restaurants. Find out more...
Picture Perfect Port Isaac
Narrow winding streets with pretty granite fishermens cottages, quaint shops, a traditional pub, breathtaking sea views and a working harbour at the very centre of village life its what most visitors expect of a Cornish fishing port. Well, Port Isaac, on the wild and windswept north coast of the county, certainly has all this.
Its been a popular tourist destination for some years, and a popular venue for film crews, but despite its fame, most recently with the hit TV series Doc Martin, Port Isaac has its feet planted firmly on the ground and is largely unspoilt. It is still a real place where real people live within a friendly and strong community.
The main route into Port Isaac is via the B3267 from the direction of the A39 Atlantic Highway. However, a couple of miles from the village, on the B3314, its worth paying a visit to the very beautiful Collegiate Church of St Endellion, a firm favourite of John Betjeman, who wrote: St Endellion, St Endellion, the name is like a ring of bells.
The path from Port Isaacs car park down to the village is part of the South West Coast Path and you can see for miles in both directions but eastwards is a series of spectacular headlands that march in majestic formation towards Tintagel.
If the memory of the TV series Poldark, which was filmed here, has faded in some peoples minds, a whole new generation has been captivated by the irascible Doc Martins often fractious relationships with the local inhabitants of the fictional Port Wenn (Port Isaac), played by Martin Clunes. Martin says: As a film crew, weve seen basking sharks, dolphins and seals. Its just dreamy. When we are filming our crew live in the set, certainly all our regular cast will stay in some of the pretty cottages in Port Isaac, while those down for a short-time stay in hotels in Port Isaac or Rock. I stay slightly out of town, outside Delabole, on a cliff top. This is because I am such an idiot when it comes to learning lines. I have so many to learn every night that if I stayed in Port Isaac I would be tempted down to the pub and then I would want to be in the pub quiz team, and it would all go very wrong and quickly turn ugly.
In fact, the South West Coast Path is one of the glories of Port Isaac and its worth visiting for this alone. To the east the going is at times taxing but you are rewarded with some of the finest cliff-top walking in the county. To the west the gradients are kinder, and after a few miles the splendour of Pentire Point is replaced by the gentle sands of Polzeath and thence to a beautiful yet easy-going stretch of the Camel Estuary.
Like many Cornish fishing ports, artists drawn by the diversity of the coastal scenery and the great light have flourished in Port Isaac for many years. The narrow streets are home to a number of small galleries showing the work of local artists, and indeed many of the pubs and cafs mount exhibitions as well. Not to be missed is the Pottery and the Gallery on Fore Street. The latter exhibits the work of sculptor Paul Jenkins, who is a particular favourite of mine. His bronze and Raku wild animals are beautifully created and capture perfectly the grace and energy of his subjects. The Pottery on Roscarrock Hill, owned by Michael and Barbara Hawkins, has beautiful hand-thrown and individually decorated stoneware pottery on display but they have diversified recently into handmade jewellery, silk scarves, tiles and paintings.
Port Isaacs The Slipway Hotel, The Mote Bar and Restaurant and the Old School Hotel all serve beautifully cooked fish and seafood dishes, although meat and vegetarian dishes feature on all three menus as well.
Alternatively, you might wish to buy something to cook at home or to eat on the beach from Dennis Knights fish stall by the harbour. There are a number of small cafs in the village; I particularly liked the Stowaway Tea Shoppe near the car park. They have a nice selection of homemade cakes and some very good Cornish ice cream and, if youre a fan of the TV series, they claim to be the official outlet for a wide range of Doc Martin memorabilia!
Finally, if you just want a beer or a glass of wine and perhaps some pub grub, you cant go far wrong at the Golden Lion down by the harbour.
During the summer months there are always impromptu events being organised but a regular feature of Port Isaac is the Friday night performances of the local male voice choir, the Fishermens Friends, who put on a concert of sea shanties and Cornish folk songs on the Platt. Im never quite sure if the Platt is the beach, or just the slipway, but if youre near the harbour you wont miss them!
For your diary:
On the weekend of the 17-19 June the 2011 Rock Oyster Festival will be held at Dinham House, about six miles from Port Isaac. Highlights include family fun, music and a local producers will showcase their foodie treats.
For further information visit: rockoyster.squarespace.com
The St Endellion Music Festivals take place each year at Easter and in the summer in the Collegiate Church of St Endelienta. The summer festival takes place between 26 July and 5 August.
For further information visit: endellionfestivals.org.uk