Port Isaac

Porth Ysek

    Also known as Port Wenn

    Port Isaac is a traditional fishing village in North Cornwall that is home to the TV series Doc Martin starring Martin Clunes and the Fisherman’s Friends shanty singers.

    Dr Ellingham's Surgery, Port Wenn
    Doyden Castle, Port Quin
    Walk through a film set

    Is the Doctor home?

    Who would have thought in 2000 when the low budget British comedy Saving Grace was released in cinemas, that Port Isaac would become such a popular place to visit? The film about a widow growing marijuana in a small Cornish village featured the actor Martin Clunes playing a doctor.

    Inspired by the film, in 2004 Clunes would first appear on our TV screens as Doc Martin, filmed mainly in and around Port Isaac and renamed Port Wenn, it would go on to become such a huge ratings hit, averaging over 10 million viewers in the UK alone.

    Visitors to the village can wander around and pick out the locations where scenes were shot, from the Doctor Ellingham’s house on the west side of the harbour, to Mrs Tishell’s chemist shop on Middle Street, Louisa’s home on Fore Street and Bert’s Restaurant.

    Away from Port Isaac, nearby locations where filming has taken place include Doyden Castle on the cliffs above Port Quin. This ‘folly’ was built in the 1830’s by a local landowner as somewhere secret to entertain his friends. It’s now a holiday home.

    East or West

    Port Quin or Gaverne?

    A walk along the South West Coast Path either way from Port Isaac will bring you to another small cove, west to Port Quin or east to Port Gaverne. The latter is a short walk around the headland to a small community where slate from Delabole was once exported to the continent. Nowadays it’s a quiet place with a National Trust owned beach popular with families who enjoy plenty of sand and rock pools at low tide.

    Port Quin is a bit more of a walk, but it’s a stunning one. Leaving Port Isaac you head around Lobber Point to gain fine views across to Varley Head and the path you have to follow. There’s a few ups and downs before you reach Kellan Head from where you turn south and head down into Port Quin.

    Across the bay you can see Doyden Point and the offshore rocks, Cow and Calf. Soon the narrow inlet leading into Port Quin is reached. Quin, or Gwynn, is the Cornish word for white and the anglicised version Port Wenn, is of course the name for Port Isaac in Doc Martin. A few houses now make up the settlement, legend stating that one night in the 1800s a storm took all the fishermen and their wives soon left.

    Port Isaac has one of the narrowest alleyways in the UK, some say the world! Known both as Temple Bar and Squeezy Belly Alley, at its narrowest point it is only 18 inches wide. It runs from the Platt on the harbour up into the village.

    481-PORTRAITfishermans friends.jpg
    Fishermans Friends
    Port Isaac's finest

    The Fisherman's Friends

    The term Shanty is said to come from the French word to sing ‘chanter’ and a shanty is usually a call and respond tune with a good steady rhythm so it could be sung while sailors were working together on jobs like raising sails. With the introduction of steam ships, the shanties died off, but retired sailors would still sing them in pubs up and down the coast.

    Picked up by folk singers, who also included songs written about the sea, they grew in popularity in the UK through the 1950s and 1960s but then went out of fashion as rock music took over. In the 1980s, bands like the Pogue’s included shanties into their repertoire, but these were a far cry from the traditional tunes!

    In the mid 1990s a group of friends started singing shanties on the Platt at Port Isaac, the area at the top of the beach, to raise money for local charities. They recorded a couple of CDs and one of these was bought by the DJ Johnnie Walker while he was on holiday in Cornwall. He passed it on to a friend in the music industry and the rest is history.

    Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends are now big stars who have sung at Glastonbury Festival, appeared on BBC TV and had two films based on their story released. Despite this you can still catch them singing in and around Port Isaac in the summer months.

    With narrow winding streets lined with whitewashed cottages overlooking a small harbour, Port Isaac is a truly picturesque village. Set amidst rugged and magnificent coastal scenery, you can understand why it’s become something of a film star in recent years.


    Plan your trip

    Everything you need to know to plan your perfect trip to Port Isaac

    • From the M5 follow the A30 to Bodmin, Turn off here and head through the town taking the A389 towards Wadebridge. On reaching the A39 take the first left heading towards the town then right onto the B3314. Follow this until you see signs for Port Isaac.

      Due to the nature of Port Isaac's narrow, windy streets, vehicle access is very limited. It is strongly recommended that you park in one of the two car parks, the Main Car Park or the New Car Park, both located at the top of the village and wander down to the harbour area on foot.

    • Port Isaac is served by the 96 local bus service from Wadebridge to Launceston (Summer 2022)

      The nearest National Express stop is at Bodmin from where a bus runs to Wadebridge.

    • The nearest mainline railway station is Bodmin Parkway from where you can get a bus to Port Isaac by changing at Wadebridge.

    • Due to the nature of Port Isaac's narrow, windy streets, vehicle access is very limited. It is strongly recommended that you park in one of the two car parks, the Main Car Park or the New Car Park, both located at the top of the village and wander down to the harbour area on foot.

    • Anytime, but try to avoid the height of summer when the village can be very busy. Spring and early summer are good months to visit, as they are to visit all of Cornwall. Or why not come down in the winter and brave the coast path watching the waves break against the cliffs?

    • The circular walk to Port Quinn along the South West Coast Path and back across the fields is about five miles in length, however it's not the mileage that you need to worry about, it's all the ups and downs and the steps!

      But, it's a fantastic walk and well worth all the climbs. Take refreshments with uyou and make a day of it.

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