Welcome to Port Isaac! Oh wait, you might not even be there yet.
That’s probably why you’re reading this…
But, “welcome” is definitely how you are gonna feel once you arrive because this charming little fishing village is famous for the warmth and friendly banter of its locals.
So, don’t be surprised if you find yourself running late to the beach because you got chatting to Maggy down at the local bakery.
Known for its picturesque narrow streets, colourful fishermen’s cottages, and ‘breath-giving’ sea views, Port Isaac has become a popular destination for tourists seeking that quintessential Cornish experience.
Also, home to the beloved TV show ‘Doc Martin’ – an added bonus for fans of the series.
But don’t be fooled by its quaint appearance, Port Isaac has a lively and fascinating history. Once a busy port for exporting slate and importing coal, the village has evolved into a thriving fishing community, with lobster and crab still being the primary catch. Nowadays, it’s also a hub for artists, musicians, and foodies, with a thriving local arts scene and some of the best seafood restaurants in the area.
Around Port Isaac
I spent many a weekend here as a young boy (said as if I’m pushing fifty). So, let me take you on a visual journey of just how it is to arrive here for the very first time…
Now, close your eyes (actually that’s gonna make reading this slightly difficult) so, reopen your eyes, and take a deep lungful of that salty fresh air, because the ocean is just around the next bend…
As you pull into Port Isaac, you’ll be struck by the sheer beauty of the place. The village itself is perched on top of a steep hillside, with narrow, winding streets that seem to have been blindly painted with a life of their own. It’s like being transported to another time, where the pace of life is slower and the worries of the world just melt away.
The streets are steep and hilly, with steps, cobbles, twists, and turns at every corner. It feels like a labyrinth, with no clear path to follow. In fact, Port Isaac is renowned for having one of the narrowest thoroughfares in Britain, the aptly named Squeezy Belly Alley.
How to Get to Port Isaac
First, make sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape and not held together by duct tape and good intentions. Then, set your GPS to guide you to the M4 motorway and buckle up for a journey through rolling hills and idyllic countryside. Take the M5 and A30 towards Bodmin, and at the A39 junction, channel your inner navigator and turn towards Wadebridge. Finally, follow the B3314 to Port Isaac, where you’ll have the chance to park your trusty four-wheeled companion in the car park at the top of the town. It’ll save you from Squeezy Car streets and the walk down is lovely.
The nearest train station is Bodmin Parkway, which is about 25 miles from Port Isaac. From there, you can take a bus or a taxi to the village. The journey from London to Bodmin Parkway takes around 4 hours and costs around £60-£100, depending on the time of day and how far in advance you book.
Hop on the bus to Port Isaac, where you can enjoy the stunning views of the English countryside through a window that’s been wiped just clean enough to make out the blurry shape of a tree. First, make sure to pack some snacks for the journey, because let’s face it, a soggy sandwich from a gas station isn’t exactly gourmet cuisine.
National Express and Megabus both offer service to Cornwall, with stops in towns like Truro and St Austell. From there, you can catch a local bus to Port Isaac. The journey from London to Truro takes around 8 hours and costs around £20-£40.
From there you can catch a connecting bus to Port Isaac.
While there’s no airport in Port Isaac itself, you can fly into Newquay Airport, which is about 20 miles away. From there, you can rent a car or take a taxi to Port Isaac. Flights to Newquay from London take around 1 hour and cost around £50-£100, depending on the airline and how far in advance you book.
What to See and Do in Port Isaac
Take a stroll through the narrow streets lined with whitewashed cottages and traditional fishing houses. Watch the fishing boats come and go at the harbour whilst taking in the stunning views of the rugged coastline and the Atlantic Ocean. Visit Doc Martin’s House and step into the world of this beloved TV show. Explore the local art scene or take a walk along the South West Coast Path for some jaw-dropping views
Doc Martin’s House (Fern Cottage)
For over 17 years, Port Isaac has been the beloved filming location for the popular TV show “Doc Martin,” starring the talented Martin Clunes.
If you’re a fan of the hit TV show Doc Martin, a visit to the character’s iconic home is an absolute must. Make your way to Roscarrock Hill, where you will find Fern Cottage, the real-life location used as “Doc Martin’s House.”
While you can’t go inside the actual house (as it is a private residence), you can still explore the area around it and get a feel for the set.
To get the most out of your visit, consider taking a guided walking tour where you can see some of the other popular filming locations in the village, such as the harbour and the local pub.
If you’re lucky you might even see the cast in action around the village:
Squeezy Belly Alley
Yes, this may well be nothing more than a tight passageway between two whitewashed stone cottages but what I’m really getting at here is that just a casual wander around the unique and maze-like streets of Port Isaac is as much an attraction as any.
Take a Boat Trip
Fishing and scenic trips can be taken from the harbour during the summer months. Local company Wavehunters runs tours of the North Coast from Port Isaac. Their North Coast Explorer tour takes in places like Tintagel and Boscastle from the sea, and there’s even a chance you might see dolphins and seals…
Fancy something a bit faster? Check out “Boaty” on Facebook, a Port Isaac-based speed boat. These are just two of the options: head down to the harbour and see what’s on offer. It’s a fantastic way to see the coast.
Go on a Wildflower Walk
The area around Port Isaac is home to a diverse range of wildflowers, including bluebells, primroses, and foxgloves, making it a nature lover’s paradise. Simply take any of the routes on the South West Coast Path and you’ll be rewarded with breath-taking views of the rugged coastline and rolling countryside, as well as the chance to fill your floral boats.
Port Gaverne is a pretty, unspoilt cove that’s just around the corner from Port Isaac. Its sheltered, sandy beach is probably one of the safest in North Cornwall for young children, who’ll love discovering its rock pools.
Eating and Drinking
This little village might be small, but it packs a big punch when it comes to delicious eats. Here are a few of my favourite places to chow down:
The Golden Lion
This place has everything you could want in a pub – a cosy atmosphere, friendly staff, and a menu that’ll make your mouth water. But the real star of the show is the food. I’m talking about fish and chips that are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, burgers that are juicy and flavourful, and even a vegan option or two that’ll satisfy even the most die-hard meat eater.
But the pièce de résistance, in my humble opinion, is the Sunday roast. We’re talking about a succulent roast beef or lamb, served with all the trimmings – crispy roast potatoes, savoury stuffing, and lashings of gravy. It’s the kind of meal that’ll leave you feeling warm and cosy inside, like a big hug from your grandma.
Nathan Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen
If you’re a seafood lover, you absolutely have to check out Nathan Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen. This Michelin-starred restaurant serves up some of the freshest and most innovative seafood dishes you’ll ever taste.
This cosy little bistro is the perfect place for a romantic dinner or a night out with friends. Their menu features classic French dishes with a modern twist, and their wine list is to die for.
The Terrace Restaurant: If you’re looking for a meal with a view The Terrace Restaurant is situated on a clifftop overlooking the sea, this restaurant serves up some of the best modern British cuisine in the area.
Where to Stay
As the name suggests, is right on the harbour slipway, offering stunning views of the sea and the village. Plus, the hotel’s restaurant serves up some of the best seafood in town, so you won’t have to go far to get your fill of crab and lobster.
Nathan Outlaws Guest House
Sit by the incredible coastal views and breathe in the fresh sea air while savouring some of the freshest, most delectable seafood in all of North Cornwall. Get a taste of Nathan’s unique approach to seafood preparation and cookery and enjoy a one-of-a-kind culinary experience. Regardless of the season, you can’t go wrong with this luxurious hideaway–escape into your own haven during the summer
Port Gaverne Hotel
If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, the Port Gaverne Hotel is located just a short walk from Port Isaac in the charming village of Port Gaverne. This historic 17th-century inn has been beautifully restored, with stylish rooms and a top-notch restaurant.
Get ready to take a trip back in time because this charming village is like stepping into a time machine. You’ll find quirky little shops selling everything from antique knick-knacks to handmade crafts. Just be prepared to lose track of time as you wander the narrow lanes and get lost in the quaintness of it all. Who needs modern shopping malls when you can travel back in time and shop like it’s the 1800s?
The nearest petrol stations are the Texaco on the A39 at St Kew Highway, about 4 miles away, and the Esso on the A39 at Wadebridge, about 8 miles away. As for supermarkets, there is a Co-op in Port Isaac itself, as well as a Tesco and a Morrisons in Wadebridge.
Port Issac is so close to so much I’d struggle to fit it all in but here are a few ideas that’ll knock your socks off (don’t forget to pack extra pairs).
Want to feel like royalty? Then visit Tintagel Castle, the supposed birthplace of King Arthur. For a more active adventure, head over to Polzeath and catch some waves like a pro (or at least pose for photos like one). If you’re in need of some serious relaxation, explore the Lost Gardens of Heligan, where you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a magical wonderland. Finally, don’t forget to visit the Eden Project, where you can escape to two different climates and pretend you’re on a holiday within a holiday.
Port Isacc – The ‘Plaice’ to be
Welcome to Port Isaac, the ‘plaice’ to be for anyone who loves a good pun or two! This charming Cornish village is ‘shore'”‘ to steal your heart with its narrow streets, colourful buildings, and stunning coastal views. Whether you’re a ‘kraken’ a smile at our seafood restaurants, or just looking for a ‘seal’-iously good time, Port Isaac’ll give you a good bang for buck. Or check out other stunning harbour villages to visit in Cornwall.
Meet Ben, a wanderlust-stricken wordsmith hailing from the surf paradise of Newquay. With a pen and a passion for storytelling in hand, from rugged coastal hikes to secret spots off the beaten tourist path, join Ben as he guides you through the very best of what Cornwall has to offer.