Doc Martin – Port Isaac from Port Quin round
Cornwall is located in the far south west of England on a peninsula that stretches into the vast Atlantic Ocean, with a dramatic coastline of almost 300 miles it is almost completely surrounded by the sea. The county is split into three sections North Cornwall, South East Cornwall and West Cornwall. Cornwall has many leafy estuaries, captivating fishing harbours and villages, spectacular beaches, and an abundance of exotic gardens and beautiful meadows that flourish in Cornwall’s mild climate. Cornwall is also home to the captivating wilderness of the Bodmin Moor with fascinating prehistoric remains, fantastic walking trails from gentle strolls to challenging hikes, many castles, intriguing towns and villages and holds many local legends. At the beginning of the 19th century Cornish mines were some of the largest anywhere in Europe and the copper industry, centred in West Cornwall, grew beyond any other sector in the British economy. In the old industrial heartland, the landscape has been awarded World Heritage Site Status and is dotted with remnants of its mining past illustrating Cornwall’s enormous contribution to the Industrial Revolution with engine houses, museums and miles of recreational trails. Cornwall’s maritime legacy is never far away where local fishermen land their daily catch of fresh seafood and where tall ships, luggers and ketches unfold their sails in the Cornish breeze. Cornwall has long been one of the most popular UK holiday destinations and is a truly wonderful and beautiful county. Its natural environment is recognized nationally as the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which can be enjoyed by everyone and can be accessed by the South West Coast Path. The flourishing tourist industry provides a host of accommodation options such as holiday cottages, camp sites, caravan parks, hotels, bed & breakfast and guest houses.
The South West Coast Path is England’s longest long distance footpath and a designated National Trail mainly funded by Natural England and maintained by a dedicated South West Coast Path Team. It stretches for 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset, along the coasts of Devon and Cornwall to Poole Harbour in Dorset. The trail passes through two World Heritage Sites which are the Dorset and East Devon Coast known as the Jurassic Coast and takes in much heritage, wildlife and geology. The path was originally for the coastguards to be able to walk from lighthouse to lighthouse patrolling for smugglers hence the path runs close to the coastal edges so that they could look down into every bay and cove.
North Cornwall is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and of important geological and scientific interest. The coast of North Cornwall is the only part of the county that is formed of carboniferous sandstone, a type of rock that is around 300 million years old, the rest lies on Devonian Sedimentary Strata and the granite of Bodmin Moor. Famous for its remote, bleak coast line North Cornwall from Bude to a place called Rock close to the Camel Estuary has been protected from development by its sheer inaccessibility. From Padstow to Portreath the North Cornish Coast, exposed to westerly storms and pounding surf, is a landscape carved and sculptured by the sea and the coves and caves portray many tales of smuggling and wrecking. The sea with its gigantic Atlantic rollers has made the Cornish north coast famous for perfect surfing conditions. Other extreme sports such as coasteering, zapcat, scuba diving and rock climbing are also very popular. The North Cornwall’s dramatic Atlantic Heritage Coast has 60 miles of cliffs, coves, sandy bays, market towns, country houses, historic castles, farmsteads and the wilderness of Bodmin Moor. Some of the most visited places to visit in North Cornwall are Bude, Newquay, Wadebridge, Bodmin, Bodmin Moor, Tintagel, Boscastle, Camelford, Padstow, Launcester and Port Isaac all with their own unique history and a variety of things to see and do. Padstow a working fishing port was made famous by celebrity chef Rick Stein, Port Isaac is the where the television series “Doc Martin” is filmed and Tintagel has long been associated with King Arthur and Tintagel Castle being his birth place. The Camel Trail is another popular activity for walkers and cyclists running for 18 miles it follows the River Camel from the Camel Estuary at Padstow to Wadebridge, Bodmin, Poley’s Bridge and finishing at Wenford Bridge.
Port Quin a tranquil tiny hamlet and cove consisting of only a few buildings and a car park is situated at the end of a narrow rocky inlet on the coast between Port Isaac and Polzeath. The hamlet and the coastline lie within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Beauty and are mainly owned by the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty. The National Trust rents out several of the stone cottages as self-catering accommodation. Port Quin meaning White Cove is popular with walkers using the South West Coast Path that follows the coastline of the inlet and also with holiday makers because of its sheltered location and safe bathing waters. The hamlet is also home to the Cornish Coast Adventures who run Kayaking tours and Cliff Jumping is often practised here. Port Quin was once a thriving fishing village but has been deserted twice once after the great storm of 1698 when the entire fishing fleet was destroyed and none of the fishermen returned alive creating twenty-four widows who along with the families who were left moved to Port Isaac leaving the village deserted and again after the pilchards failed so the village is often referred to as the village that died. Port Quin was used as a location for the TV series Poldark between 1975 and 1977 based on Winston Grahams four Cornish Romantic novels following the 18th century life of Ross Poldark and in 1996 Amy Foster also used the village as a location. Doyden Castle situated on Doyden Point which can be found on the south west side of the cove is a Castellated Folly built around 1830 as a retreat for a local businessman who had a reputation for extensive partying and gambling. The castle was used as Pentire Castle in an episode of the ITV series of Doc Martin in 2011.
Port Isaac is a picturesque fishing village with a harbour and bay known as The Haven. It was a busy coastal port from the Middle Ages to the mid 19th century loading and unloading cargoes such as stone, coal, ores, timber, limestone, salt and pottery. When the new ships became too large for Port Isaac harbour they were used to trade further overseas. Also in the 19th century Port Isaac meaning “Corn port” traded in corn from the surrounding area of arable land. The railway and road transport finally ended the coastal trade and in the early 20th century Port Isaac was starting to become a place for holiday makers and tourists and today tourism has now taken the lead role. Fishing and fish processing were also important and the pilchard fishery began here before the 16th century and in 1850 there were 49 registered fishing boats and four fish cellars. Today fishermen still work from the Platt landing their daily catch of fish, crab and lobsters and Port Isaac is home to the sea shanty singers group the “Fisherman’s Friends” who perform every Friday evening on the Platt in the old harbour. The “Fisherman’s Friends” have also performed all over the UK including the Royal Albert Hall and have appeared in the TV quiz show Eggheads. Most of the old part of the village consists of narrow alley ways lined with 18th and 19th century cottages, many of which are listed as of architectural or historic importance. The Port Isaac lifeboat station was established in 1869 after the arrival of two lifeboats called Sarah and Richard. In the early 1960s the Royal National Lifeboat Institution introduced the inshore lifeboat and the Port Isaac Station reopened in 1967 with a new class D inshore lifeboat named Copeland Bell. The former boathouse is now the Post Office. Since the reopening the lifeboat has responded to 550 calls and has saved more than 140 lives and the station is manned by the crew and shore helpers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Port Isaac has become associated with the famous TV series “Doc Martin” in which Port Isaac is the filming location to date of five series, the village being transformed into the fictional Port Wenn in the series. The sixth series is now being filmed this year, 2013. The comedy drama stars Martin Clunes as Doc Martin Ellingham who is a surgeon that developed a phobia of blood which prevented him from conducting operations and his tactless manner causes mayhem in the small Cornish community of Port Wenn. Martin Clunes also starred in “Saving Grace” along with Brenda Blethyn and Craig Ferguson which was also filmed in Port Isaac in 2000 and so was the BBC drama serial “The Nightmare Man” in 1981.
We park in car park at Port Quin and head forwards to take the coast path on the right next to a National Trust building. We follow the coast path uphill and downhill, some parts with steep steps, for about 2½ miles. The path becomes a dead end road into Port Isaac where we take some time to wander around and to walk up the small road on the other side of the bay to get a better view of the building used as the surgery in the TV series Doc Martin. We retrace our steps back through the village and turn right up the dead end road we came down on. Near the top we take the path on the left signposted Port Quin Inland Route. We head forwards uphill through a field and in the second field we pass to the right of a tall pole then head downhill towards the left hand corner and a gate. Do not go through the gate but take the footpath 30 feet inwards downhill through some gorse bushes to cross a stile then a stream via a bridge at the bottom signposted Port Quin. We then head uphill following the path through the trees. We come out of the wood and then bear left to the top of the field. Just before a farm we turn right and follow the track through a gateway, you will see an arrow on the post next to a stile on the right, across the open fields and when we reach a gate with a stile on the left we go through and keep heading forwards slightly downhill over the grass field towards the sea and Port Quin in the distance. We come to a track and a small stream and follow the track with the stream on our left to a small road and then turn right back to the car park in Port Quin.
This is a moderate walk with some steep inclines and declines along the coast path. There are also many steep steps to ascend and descend.
Elevation: Approx lowest point 8m (26ft). Approx highest point 81m (266ft)
Distance and Start Point
Approx 5 miles allow 2¼ – 3 hours using OS Explorer map 106, Newquay and Padstow.
Start point: Port Quin National Trust car park.
Port Quin is situated on the coast of North Cornwall near Padstow and Wadebridge in the south west of England.
Directions and Parking
From the M5 take junction 31 and merge onto the A30 towards Bodmin and Okehampton then take the A395 at a roundabout towards Hallworthy and Camelford. At the t-junction turn left onto the A39 towards Wadebridge. After the Davidstow turn off turn right onto the B3314. After St Endellion turn right down narrow road for Trelights then second left on narrow road for Port Quin.
Parking: National Trust car park in the village which has a £2 honesty box.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are public toilets in Port Isaac and for refreshments there are shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants. There are no amenities in Port Quin except in the summer when a shed like structure serves a few drinks and snacks. There is a large car park with public toilets on the outskirts of Port Isaac if you only wish to visit the village.