Port Isaac (Porth Izzick – ‘corn port’, Cornish language) was a busy trading port handling coal, timber, pottery and slate from the Middle Ages until the middle of the 19th century. With the coming of the railways, it was easier to move goods and materials by land and Port Isaac's role as a port fell away. A leading fishing, and in particular pilchard, port in the 1900’s, modern Port Isaac is now a very popular tourist destination, with internationally renowned restaurant, as well as more traditional seaside fair, in this pretty and much-loved destination.
Gently nestling around its own natural sea inlet and sheltered by the surrounding valley sides, Port Isaac has a timeless quality about it and is considered a quintessential Cornish fishing village. Narrow streets of slate capped and whitewashed cottages wind steeply down to its harbour, always a lively spot with the crabbers, with fishing boats arriving to tie up and land their catch, much of which can be eaten in the surrounding restaurants only a few steps away. At the mouth of a deep, steep-sided valley a rushing stream runs down through the colourful higgledy-piggledy cottages and into the sea over the harbour wall.
Weather-beaten mariners would long to catch sight of Port Isaac whilst trawling along the inhospitable coast, and today as an overnight stop for weary coast walkers, it's a cosy and welcoming place, with a healthy number of eating places in the village as well as nearby Port Gaverne. As a taste of things to come at the next stop en-route, cosmopolitan Padstow, you can find everything from fish and chips at the harbour wall to highly rated restaurants serving international cuisine.
With fishing and crabbing still active daily, there are plenty of locally caught lobster and shellfish to sample on the menus. Whilst you may find yourself faced with be the most culinary choice since you started walking, don't go too wild if you need to negotiate infamous "Squeezebelly alley" on your return to bed!
Explore the narrow lanes and find a pleasant handful of art galleries, café's and shops as well as a working pottery overlooking the harbour. The now famous "The Fisherman's Friends", a group of local residents and fisherman including the Postmaster, used to gather at The Platt on the harbour wall to sing timeless sea shanties, but with increasing fame and several films under their belt, these once regular Friday night singing are reduced to rare occasional performances – you will consider yourself lucky if you catch them!
A well protected conservation area since 1969, the town may well look familiar having been the location of several films including ‘Saving Grace’, ‘Poldark’ and more recently the setting for the village from the TV series Doc Martin. With a good range of facilities and an unspoilt backdrop, Port Isaac is one of the most welcome and picturesque stops on your walk. Those taking a rest day can get an unforgettable experience of the coves and sea caves by paddling a kayak to them from the harbour with Cornish Coast Adventures.