Port Isaac

Coordinates: 50°35′37″N 4°49′52″W / 50.5935°N 4.8312°W / 50.5935; -4.8312
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of two World Wars on a small community.community, and the sacrifice it made in the conflicts of the C20. Architectural interest: for its design, a well-executed Celtic cross hewn from local granite.
War Memorial listed Grade II for architectural and historic significance

Port Isaac
Port Isaac 2.jpg
Port Isaac beach and boat launching area in 2006
Port Isaac is located in Cornwall
Port Isaac
Port Isaac
Location within Cornwall
OS grid referenceSW997809
Civil parish
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtPL29
Dialling code01208
PoliceDevon and Cornwall
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
List of places
50°35′37″N 4°49′52″W / 50.5935°N 4.8312°W / 50.5935; -4.8312

Port Isaac (Cornish: Porthysek)[3] is a small fishing village[4] on the Atlantic coast of north Cornwall, England, in the United Kingdom. The nearest towns are Wadebridge and Camelford, each ten miles (16 km) away. A nearby hamlet, Port Gaverne, is sometimes considered to be part of Port Isaac. The meaning of the village's Cornish name, Porthysek, is "corn port", indicating a trade in corn from the arable inland district.

Since 2004, the village has served as the backdrop to the ITV television series Doc Martin. It also is home to the sea-shanty singing group Fisherman's Friends.


The origins of Port Isaac are likely Celtic[5] and the development of the town can be roughly divided into three phases. Through the middle ages and up to the coming of the railways, Port Isaac was a thriving port serving the area inland. During the Tudor period the harbour was dredged,[5] a good illustration of its importance. Once goods from locations further inland were better served by the North Cornwall Railway, the economy of the port relied on pilchard fishing, an activity that had likely been happening for centuries. However the pilchard shoals began to decline, and following World War I tourism became the mainstay of the economy.[5]


Port Isaac's pier was constructed during the reign of Henry VIII. A 1937 history said, "...Tudor pier and breakwater have now yielded to a strong new sea-wall balanced by an arm on the opposite side of the cove, and we do not doubt that the fishermen sleep more soundly in their beds on stormy nights."[6] The village centre dates from the 18th and 19th centuries, from a time when its prosperity was tied to local coastal freight and fishing. Apart from the corn that gave the town its name,[5] the port handled cargoes of coal, wood, stone, ores, limestone, salt, pottery and heavy goods which were conveyed along its narrow streets.[citation needed] Small coastal sailing vessels were built below Roscarrock Hill.[citation needed]

The pilchard fishery began here before the 16th century and in 1850 there were 49 registered fishing boats and four fish cellars.[7] Fishermen still work from the Platt, landing their catches of fish, crab and lobsters. The historic core of the village was designated a Conservation Area in 1971 and North Cornwall District Council reviewed this in 2008 with the endorsement of a detailed Port Isaac Conservation Area Appraisal document and a related Conservation Area Management Plan. The village has around 90 listed buildings (all Grade II).[8]

Port Isaac viewed from the west


The Port Isaac lifeboat station was established in 1869 following the delivery of the Richard and Sarah. The former boathouse building was until recently the Post Office but is now a gift shop. In the early 1960s the Royal National Lifeboat Institution introduced the Inshore Lifeboat, and in 1987 the Port Isaac Station reopened with a new class D inshore lifeboat. Since that time, the lifeboat has responded to more than 623 calls, saving more than 333 lives. Today,[when?] Port Isaac's crew and shore helpers man the station 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, providing full coverage of part of the north coast of Cornwall.[9] In 2009, a new D class inshore lifeboat called Copeland Bell (D707) commenced service.[10]

In July 2012, the crew of the lifeboat received RNLI medals for gallantry following a dangerous rescue. This was only the second time in RNLI history that the entire crew of a D class, inflatable, lifeboat have received gallantry medals. It was the first time a silver medal had been awarded to a member of a Port Isaac crew since 1870.[11]


The first link from Port Isaac to the railways was started by John Prout who ran a service to Bodmin Road station, more than 10 miles (16 km) distant, from 1861.[12] The railways came much closer when the North Cornwall Railway opened the section from Delabole to Wadebridge in 1895, which included a station at Port Isaac Road 4 miles (6.4 km) from the town.[13] Produce from the area including fish, flowers and fruit were transported through the steep and narrow lanes to the station, with 150 tons of fish being transported by cart for onward shipment in 1897.[12] The horse-drawn connection to the railway was replaced by a motor bus in 1920 and when this service was taken over by the Southern National Omnibus Company in 1930, Prouts merged the passenger service into the freight cartage service that they ran for the Southern Railway. The Okehampton to Wadebridge railway line closed in 1966. Due to the sparsely populated area, ticket sales were always low:4,500 annually in 1928, dropping to less than 2,000 in 1936; freight dropped in a similar way over the same period.

The village was served by Western Greyhound's 584 bus service from Wadebridge to Camelford which ran five times daily in each direction, except for Sundays. A summer Sunday service provided up to four return journeys.[citation needed]

In 1997, FirstGroup route 96 provided 5 buses each way on the service which ran between Wadebridge and Bude.[14]

Newquay Cornwall Airport, located in Newquay, is the closest airport to the village.

In 2016, a local taxi service was asked to change the way that it displayed its name after Cornwall Council deemed it offended good taste.[15]

Recreation and tourism[edit]

Port Isaac is located on the South West Coast Path, and apart from people walking the 630 miles (1,010 km) long National Trail there are shorter walks in the area using this path as part of their route.[16][17]

There is an alley in Port Isaac, known as Temple Bar, that is particularly narrow.[18] In the 1978 edition of Guinness Book of Records, it was dubbed the world's narrowest thoroughfare. Locals refer to it as Squeeze-ee-belly Alley.

Places of worship[edit]

The church of St Peter was built as a chapel-of-ease in the parish of St Endellion in 1882–84; Port Isaac became a separate parish in 1913, though more recently it has returned to St Endellion parish. The church is built of granite and stone and the style adopted was Early English.[19]

A former Methodist chapel converted into a pottery and art gallery

The village has had three Nonconformist places of worship: the oldest was a Quaker meeting house, 1806; from 1832 it was used by the Baptists but was converted to a dwelling house in 1871. The United Methodist chapel (1846) and the Wesleyan Methodist chapel are both now closed. The nearest Roman Catholic church is in Tintagel.

Notable people[edit]

Film location[edit]

View of Doc Martin's fictional home, real name Fern Cottage, shown in the centre of the picture

Locations in and around the village have been used for a number of films and television series, including:

  • Poldark (1975–77), a BBC television series, used locations in the area.
  • Tarry-Dan Tarry-Dan Scarey Old Spooky Man (1978), BBC supernatural play.
  • The Nightmare Man (1981), BBC drama serial, filmed in and around the village – which doubled for a Scottish island.
  • Oscar and Lucinda (1997), film.
  • Saving Grace (2000), a comedy film, was filmed in and around the village.
  • DIY SOS (2001), featured the village hall being decorated.
  • Doc Martin (2004–2022), ITV series, ten series filmed in the port (using the fictional name of "Portwenn"; also used in the Sky Pictures movies Doc Martin and Doc Martin and the Legend of the Cloutie under its true name "Port Isaac").
  • The Shell Seekers (2006), a television production with Vanessa Redgrave, where the village was used as the backdrop and many scenes were shot in the main street.
  • Fisherman’s Friends (2019), a film about the shanty-singing band of the same name.


  1. ^ "Cornwall County Council Website". Cornwall County Council. Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  2. ^ "St Endellion Parish Council Website". St Endellion Parish Council. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  3. ^ Place-names in the Standard Written Form (SWF) Archived 15 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine : List of place-names agreed by the MAGA Signage Panel Archived 15 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Cornish Language Partnership.
  4. ^ "Must see fishing villages in Cornwall". Travel Daily News. Archived from the original on 7 September 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d Hoskins, W.G.; Berry, Claude. Devon and Cornwall in Pictures. Britain Illustrated Series. London: Odhams. p. 81.
  6. ^ Mee, Arthur: Cornwall; The King's England; London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1937, p. 184.
  7. ^ Clegg, David (2005) Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly. Leicester: Matador; pp. 63–64
  8. ^ Stuff, Good. "Listed Buildings in Cornwall". www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk.
  9. ^ "Port Isaac Lifeboat Station". rnli.org.
  10. ^ "Port Isaac Lifeboat Station history". rnli.org.
  11. ^ RNLI Website – RNLI Press release
  12. ^ a b Wroe, David; Reeve, George (2008). An Illustrated History of the North Cornwall Railway (2nd (Reprinted, updated and considerably expanded) ed.). Clophill, Bedfordshire: Irwell Press. pp. 139–140. ISBN 978-1-903266-89-2.
  13. ^ Wroe, David; Reeve, George (2008). An Illustrated History of the North Cornwall Railway (2nd (Reprinted, updated and considerably expanded) ed.). Clophill, Bedfordshire: Irwell Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-903266-89-2.
  14. ^ "96 Wadebridge - Port Isaac - Camelford - Tintagel - Bude" (PDF). FirstGroup. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  15. ^ Haroon Siddique (25 May 2016). "Port Isaac Shuttle Service: an acronym too far for Cornwall council". The Guardian. Guardian News & Media Limited. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  16. ^ "Walk - Port Isaac & Porteath". The South West Coast Path 2020. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  17. ^ "Port Isaac to Tintagel". explorethesouthwestcoastpath.co.uk. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  18. ^ All About Cornwall Website – Port Isaac entry
  19. ^ "Port Isaac article in Genuki". Genuki. Retrieved 7 May 2010.

External links[edit]