Port Isaac is the textbook definition of a Cornish fishing village. Think: white-washed fisherman’s cottages, a vibrant port and sheltered harbour, lush green cliffs dotted with wildflowers. Add in some familiar sights for Doc Martin fans and some great Cornish pasties, and you have the makings of a lovely afternoon.
Our first stop was the bakery May Contain Nuts, located on Fore Street, the town’s main road. It was full of all manner of Doc Martin paraphernalia (Port Isaac is after all the fictional town of Portwenn, where Doc Martin is set), but we were after (what else?) their much-raved-about Cornish pasties. (Minted lamb every time for me.) Their treacle tart seemed to be another big hit as I observed patron after patron take away a slice of the dessert. Seating is limited; we happily strolled the street with pasties in hand.
There are lots of side streets to poke your head around; look for the quintessentially Cornish white-washed fisherman’s cottages that line the lanes. These quiet back ways allow for a bit of tranquility so you can digest your pasty in peace.
Meandering down Fore Street takes you to the natural horseshoe-shaped harbour, sheltered by two cliffs, at the bottom of the town. There has been a port here since the Middle Ages; indeed, even Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen directly across from the water occupies a 15th century fisherman’s cottage. It is still a working harbour, so you can watch the fishermen roll in with the tide and haul their nets and traps onto the sand.
Whilst down at the base of the town, poke your head into Buttermilk Shop to build up your strength before climbing the village’s steep coastal path. With origins in nearby Padstow, Buttermilk sells delightful Cornish clotted cream fudge and ice cream in addition to assorted candies, bonbons, and souvenirs.
One of the best things to do in Port Isaac is to walk the path up the cliff on the far side of the harbour, opposite Fore Street (look for the “school house” from Doc Martin across the way!). While I can only consider myself a casual Doc Martin viewer, even I recognised some of the filming locations scattered throughout the town, the most famous of which is probably the Doc’s house (Fern Cottage in real life). The road takes you right past this photogenic home; it is a private residence, however, so do be respectful. If you keep climbing, you are afforded fantastic views of Port Isaac and the coastal cliffs surrounding it.
Whilst small, Port Isaac is not short on charm. The village is a serious photographer’s dream, but even the casual vacationer (or hobby photographer like yours truly) can appreciate a simple fact: Port Isaac has no bad angles.