With its narrow streets of white-washed cottages and Cornish slate-fronted houses, winding your way through picturesque Port Isaac can feel like taking a step back in time. Steeped in maritime history, the village was once home to a thriving pilchard fishing industry and a bustling port, and with much of the old centre of the village dating back to the 18th century, many buildings here are officially listed because of their architectural and historic importance.
Today Port Isacc is an idyllic spot to base your holiday in Cornwall. Based in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and on the Atlantic Heritage Coast, there are beautiful views whichever way you look. During the summer months, fishing and scenic trips can be taken from the harbour, whilst the South West Coast Path offers stunning coastal views at any time of year.
Nearby Port Gaverne is a pretty unspoilt cove around the corner from Port Isaac which is perfect for families with young children, with its sheltered, sandy beach, and plenty of fascinating rock pools to explore. Whilst the popular surfing beach at Polzeath, is just 4 miles away, as is the golden sandy beach at Daymer Bay, which is very family and dog-friendly.
A few miles to the west, and within hiking distance, is Port Quin, a village deserted since sometime in the 19th century when all of its menfolk were lost one night in a storm at sea. Now it is primarily owned by the National Trust. The walk from Port Isaac to Port Quin offers breathtaking views, and along the route you will pass Doyden Castle, a truncated Gothic tower on a rocky outcrop that was once used in the TV drama, Poldark.
Just 1.5 miles from Port Isaac you'll come across the only public gardens on the North Cornish coast, Long Cross Victorian Gardens. The gardens overlook the coastline and retain their original Victorian layout, featuring 4 acres, a maze, small lake, dovecote, children's play area and pets' corner.
A holiday cottage in Port Isaac provides a lovely setting from which to base your holiday in North Cornwall.
Rock climbing, coasteering, ecoasterring, wild swimming, sea kayaking – for the thrill seeker who wants to get that little bit closer to Cornish nature, Cornish Rock Tors has venues on the north and south coasts of Cornwall, so it’s a good one to keep in mind whether you’re visiting the area for the first time or after multiple trips. Suffice to say the excursions allow you to take in some of the most picturesque aspectsof Cornwall, getting to grips with the great outdoors and some of the most incredible scenery the UK has to offer. They even cater to hen weekends and stag parties, all the while endorsed by the National Trust and conservation organisations.
Offering kayaking tours, SUP sessions and coasteering in picturesque Cornwall, Cornish Coast Adventures is all about tours on the water and getting to see the area from one of its prized assets – the sea. Based at the family run Scarrabine farm in Port Quin, between Polzeath and Port Isaac in North Cornwall, it’s a beautiful way to explore the sheltered harbours, huge caves and old shipwrecks under the watchful guidance of friendly guides. You can book family tours, classic kayak tours and adult-only adventures whether you’re a beginner or a thrill seeking pro.
Part of English Heritage, Tintagel Castle is more a ruin than a castle these days, but nonetheless, it’s an exciting opportunity to get involved with the history, myths and exceptional scenery at this spot that’s inextricably linked to the legend of King Arthur. Set on a coastline that has inspired artists and writers for centuries, see ancient artefacts and explore the history of the castle and the legends that have shaped its story, as well as learning about its time as a royal stronghold, thriving trading post and the setting for romantic stories. Prices start at £7.90 for adults who are not members, and £4.70 for children.
A pretty fish shop and café serving fish and seafood fresh from the owner’s boat. Delicious crab, lobster or salmon sandwiches and salads are the specialities, all sustainably caught in the waters around Port Isaac.
Fresh From the Sea 18 New Rd, Port Isaac PL29 3SB (T: 01208 880849)
An 18th century pub full of character in an idyllic location overlooking the Cornish Sea. Home to the ‘Bloody Bones Bar’ complete with smuggling tunnel leading down to the beach which, along with open fires and cask ales, adds to the air of history and intrigue. Expect a warm welcome from the staff and top notch food including plenty of local seafood.
The Golden Lion 10 Fore St, Port Isaac PL29 3RB (T: 01208 880336)
Celebrity chef Nathan Outlaw oversees this smart bistro style restaurant serving delicious tapas-style fish and seafood dishes. Dedicated to sustainability and supporting local fishermen the menu changes regularly depending on the days catch.
Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen 1 Middle St, Port Isaac PL29 3RH (T: 01208 221183)
A relaxed and welcoming harbourside restaurant, specialising in the fantastic local fish that is landed each day just feet from the front door. Spread over two floors in a pretty 16th century building, this is a great place from which to watch the hustle and bustle of the harbour.
The Mote 9 Fore St, Port Isaac PL29 3RB (T: 01208 880226)
A light and airy restored Methodist chapel in the heart of Port Isaac with a passion for well cooked, simple local food and great service. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner along with a huge range of coffees, cakes and cream teas.
Chapel Café Roscarrock Hill, Port Isaac PL29 3RG (T: 01208 880625)
Since the arrival of Doc Martin on the small screen, Port Isaac has soared in popularity, and the pretty little village with the historic harbour, which also serves as the beach, has become instantly recognisable. Still an active fishing village with crab pots scattered about, the sand stretches between twin piers at low tide and has a small stream and lots of rock pools to explore, so it’s ideal for children. Dogs are allowed on the beach all year round, and as it’s at the centre of the village there’s easy access to shops and all facilities including public toilets. The car park for the town is a 10-minute walk away, and while there are a couple of parking spaces on the beach itself, just make sure you park above the high water mark, or keep an eagle eye on the tide!
A sheltered beach on the north Cornwall coast, Port Gaverne Beach is in a narrow cove just east of Port Isaac. It’s comprised of sand and shingle with lots of rock pools to explore at low tide. In the summer months it can get quite busy given the popularity of the location and its suitability for families. Surrounding walks along the cliff path are delightful and at high tide the beach is favoured by divers. There’s also a slipway and it’s sometimes used to launch boats because of the easy access from the road. Thanks to it proximity to Port Isaac half a mile away facilities and restaurants are nearby, and the beach welcomes dogs all year round. You can also park in the village although there is limited road parking by the beach itself.
A rocky beach in a narrow, sheltered cove, Port Quin Beach is close to Port Isaac, and is only accessible at low tide. Its rugged landscape is beautiful to see, but its location means that it’s largely popular with seasoned walkers and those looking to go snorkeling and kayaking. Unspoiled and peaceful, it reveals a treasure trove of rock pools when the tide is out, and the nearby village is largely deserted, having once had thriving fishing and mining industries. Today both the cove and the village are owned by the National Trust and there is a car park courtesy of them in Port Quin. Dogs are banned between Easter and October, and there aren’t any facilities nearby – it’s all about enjoying the peace and quiet.
Best known as a surf beach, Tregardock Beach is only accessible by footpath, which offers beautiful views of the water and Port Isaac as you head down. It is quite a stroll and the terrain is bumpy, so it’s not an ideal beach to visit with children. The path can also get quite muddy, so keep an eye on the weather. There’s a seasonal ban on dogs from Easter to September, and there aren’t any facilities in the immediate vicinity of the beach. When the tide goes out, several small beaches become one long stretch of sand, and there’s a waterfall cascading down the cliffs at the back of the beach as well as caves to explore, so it really is a little paradise hidden in the landscape. Because it’s not easy to access, it’s usually quiet at this beach, but parking along the roadside near the farm at Treligga is very limited, so it’s a good idea to head over as early as possible and make sure you don’t get cut off at high tide.
Two miles from Tintagel, Trebarwith Strand Beach on the north Coast of Cornwall is easily accessible and is owned by the National Trust. A long stretch of sand, it’s backed by flat rocks and steep cliffs, but check the tides before you visit because people often get cut off in the summer months. Once there, there are caves to explore and rock pools containing a wealth of sea life. It’s been the setting for a number of films in its time, but these days it’s all about swimming (when lifeguards are on duty between May and September) and exploring. Dogs are allowed on the beach all year round, and there are two car parks – the main one is a bit of a walk away, and a smaller one is closer to the beach. There’s also a handful of roadside parking spaces.