Port Isaac is an unspoilt picturesque fishing village on the north coast of Cornwall, five miles from Wadebridge and set amongst magnificent cliff scenery. The village provides good walking on the South West Coast Path, which leads either side of Port Isaac on the cliffs. It has been a fishing village since the 14th century, but from the 15th century until the middle of the 19th century, Port Isaac was a busy port, handling coal, timber, corn and Delabole slate. The name, Port Isaac, is derived from “Porth Izzick” which means corn port, reflecting the trade in corn.
White washed slate hung cottages stand in tiers above the harbour. Between the cottages are narrow passages called drangs. A stream runs down through the village to the harbour, where fishing boats unload their catches. There are long stone built fish cellars by the harbour. Fishing and pleasure boat trips are available during the summer months. The original Lifeboat House was built in 1869. The lifeboat was run down the street on an iron carriage. It closed in 1933. In 1966, the village acquired an inflatable inshore lifeboat, which is now housed opposite the slipway by the harbour. Until 1976, The Old Primary School functioned as a village school. It is now The Old School Hotel. As car parking is very limited, visitors need to park in the car park at the top of the village and make the steep climb down into Port Isaac. There are plenty of places to eat and drink and a number of shops selling local art and crafts.
Perhaps Port Isaac’s main claim to fame and a reason for attracting so many tourists, is the television series, Doc Martin, which has been filmed here since 2004. The television comedy drama is set in the fictional Portwenn which is, of course, Port Isaac and strangely enough, Port Wenn is the old name of the nearby cove Port Quin. The ninth series of this programme, starring Martin Clunes as the grumpy Doc Martin and Caroline Catz, as his wife, Louisa, has now been filmed. The most visited building in Port Isaac is Fern Cottage on Roscarrock Hill, a two bedroom detached stone house, which is Doc Martin’s home and also his surgery. It has stunning views over the harbour and out to the Atlantic Ocean. Port Isaac has been used as a location for other films, including Poldark in the 1970s and Saving Grace, a comedy also starring Martin Clunes, in 2000 which, in fact, was a forerunner to Doc Martin. In 2005, scenes from The Shell Seekers, a television production, starring Vanessa Redgrave, were filmed in Port Isaac.
Port Isaac is home to the male singing group, Fisherman’s Friends. They sing traditional sea shanties without any, or only limited musical accompaniment and have become popular recording artists. They have performed at the Glastonbury Festival.
The Golden Lion pub, is a beautiful 18th century pub, full of character and charm. The “Bloody Bones Bar” has a smuggling tunnel which leads down to the beach. The pub’s outdoor terraces give a wonderful view of the harbour and the cliffs beyond.
Port Isaac is the home of the Fisherman’s Friends singing group. For many years, this group of ten Cornish men sang sea shanties at the harbour in Port Isaac. Of the original members, nine grew up in Port Isaac and the tenth, a fisherman, is from Padstow. In March 2010, they signed a contract with Universal Records and their debut album, Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends, became a top ten best selling album. They have performed internationally and on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival. A comedy drama feature film, Fisherman’s Friends, was filmed in Port Isaac in 2018. It stars Daniel Mays and James Purefoy and is based on the story of their rise to fame.