Port Isaac is one of Cornwall’s oldest harbour towns and, even if you’re visiting for the first time, one of the most recognisable. The cobbled streets and busy port have featured heavily in TV and film, as the location for both ITV’s Doc Martin and the Fisherman’s Friends movies. If you’re only here on a flying visit, here’s how we recommend spending a well-filled 24 hours.
Arriving in Port Isaac
This picturesque town dates back to the 14th century and is unsurprisingly popular with tourists. Parking in town is limited, so arrive early to bag a spot on the long stay car park on New Road. If you have mobility issues be warned that the main car parks are up a hill, 5-10 minutes walk from the centre. If you’re using public transport, plan ahead – there are connections from Newquay in the south, Bude in the north and Bodmin to the east, but they can be slow and not particularly regular.
Early morning harbour life
Check the tides – and set your alarm – to make sure you’re on time to see the fishermen unloading their morning catch onto the Platt, where crab pots jostle for position with tourists along the harbour.
While you’re at the harbour, take a look at the twin piers, stretching out into the lively Atlantic waters. The oldest, which now only appears at low tide, was built during the reign of Henry VIII, creating a safe harbour for ships.
A quick stop for sweet treats
With breakfast a distant memory, you’ll be needing some sustenance by this point. Grab a cone from the Ice Cream Parlour to enjoy on the beach while the kids hunt for crabs in the rock pools. Or if you’ve got a really sweet tooth, stop by for fudge in Harbour Treats, which was the only interior location used in the TV series Doc Martin, where it stood in for the chemist.
Amble through historic Port Isaac
As the morning winds on, head into town to get an idea of how Port Isaac developed. The centre was mainly constructed during the 18th and 19th century, with a perfect jumble of photogenic whitewashed fishermen’s cottages spilling down to the harbour along some particularly narrow lanes. The least obvious of these is Temple Bar, once named by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s tightest thoroughfare. Visit before you have lunch though, as locals refer to it as Squeeze-ee-belly Alley for good reason!
Time for a spot of lunch
Enjoy a meal at one of the town’s many cafes and pubs, such as the Golden Lion pub, which has terrific views over the harbour. Dating back to the 1700s, it is rich in history and even boasts a smugglers’ tunnel accessed from the bar to a causeway on the beach!
Alternatively head a little out of town and visit Trevathan Farm Shop in St Endellion. It’s known for its homemade jams and preserves made with fruit from its orchards. Come in season and there is also the option to pick your own strawberries. And while children explore the play park, you can stop to appreciate local delicacies, including cakes and clotted cream from the local dairy.
An afternoon of shopping
After lunch, hit the shops for some light gift shopping, stocking up on souvenirs for loved ones back home. In the heart of town and located in a former Methodist chapel, Port Isaac Pottery is both studio and gallery space. During your visit you might be able to watch local potters throwing and firing their latest pieces.
Finish up with a fish dinner
Finish off the perfect day in Port Isaac with a visit to the perfect restaurant. Book a table overlooking the Atlantic ocean at Outlaw’s New Road and you can expect the absolute freshest Cornish seafood and locally sourced produce from celebrity chef Nathan Outlaw. Alternatively, Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen in the heart of town is based in a 15th century fisherman’s cottage and is positioned so close to the sea that you can watch the fishing boats come and go as you peruse the menu.