Exploring Port Isaac and Port Quin

Sea and rocks and cliffs

Hopping over to Cornwall’s north coast isn’t something I do very often. I promised myself that I’d make time to explore some much forgotten corners of Cornwall this year. With that in mind, I headed over to Port Quin for a Sunday stroll. Afterwards, I decided to drive a little further north and reacquaint myself with the much loved village of Port Isaac. 

It was a beautiful Sunday and my little adventure offered me a much needed reprieve from the demands of everyday life. 

Port Quin

Port Quin is rugged, unspoilt and remote.

It’s nestled between Polzeath and Port Isaac on the north Cornish coast. It’s so small, if you blinked, you’d be forgiven for missing it. I guess the few properties there are probably holiday homes.

If you’re wanting peace, quiet and tranquility, Port Quin is for you. There’s no disputing its natural beauty. You almost feel like you’ve stepped back in time. I get the feeling that not much has changed in Port Quin over the decades.

House on cliffs overlooking Port Quin

The cove at Port Quin stretches out in length but not necessarily in width. I visited at low tide and the sea looked miles away. I’d recommend wellies or walking boots, there are many rocks to navigate if you want to avoid the little streams of water making their journey to the sea. 

Port Quin’s a cove that’s perfect for rock pooling and exploring with children. You won’t find anywhere to buy food or drink in Port Quin though, so make a day of it and pack a flask and a picnic.

I’ve seen photos of Port Quin at high tide and it looks truly breathtaking. Low tide brings its own allure.

The cove is framed by a scattering of cottages, my favourite being the yellow door house on the coast path. The golden rocks and chiselled indents of the cove spring out at you. These, in turn, offset the carpet of grey and marled pebbles that pave their own road out to the sea. These gently eek out to a sandier shore. Bright green seaweed tops off some of the rocks, making Port Quin pop with rich colour.

Cove at low tide
Reeves yellow ice cream van

When I visited Port Quin, Reeves‘ rather cute 3 wheeler ice cream van was adjacent to the carpark. Ice creams are £2.50 and she had some delicious flavours on offer. I was intent on having one but discovered I left my purse at home. I’ve made a mental note of the lemon meringue ice cream for another time though. Don’t worry, if you miss her at Port Quin, she regularly pops up on the seafront at Port Isaac which is where I went next.

Port Isaac

Who hasn’t heard of Port Isaac, or at least seen it on TV?

It’s the location for Doc Martin and remains the home of Cornish shanty group, The Fisherman’s Friends.

My last visit to Port Isaac was in the height of winter. While not much has changed over those few years, I looked forward to experiencing Port Isaac in the spring sunshine.

I went on a mission to explore the hidden alleys and woven residential back roads of Port Isaac as well as the beach and sea front. 

 The Cornish Cove shop front
seagull sitting on a wall

As you wander down the hill from the car park, there are a few small art galleries, a coffee and ice cream place, the Golden Lion pub and the Old School House restaurant dotted between traditional, bijou fisherman cottages (what I’d give to have a nose inside those).

Around the corner from the pub is a little gift shop selling local tees, cups and other coastal goods.

On the left is Wavehunters. I very nearly bought one of their tasteful, fitted tees, and I wish I had now. I’d also suggest having a look in Kiln, a sweet homeware shop, tucked away off the seafront. Cards, wrap, candles (they smelt so good!), cushions, throws and other lovely things are up for grabs. 

Beach with boats and child
Fishing boats in the harbour at Port Issac

I can only describe Port Isaac beach as mesmerising, whether the tide’s in or out. Resting boats idly slump on the shore, giving way to a view of the harbour wall. The sea on the north coast seems to forever be a translucent turquoise that continued to transfix me throughout my visit. 

The beach is quite generous in size, meaning there’s space for everyone. Kids will enjoy the rocks on either side for climbing and ambling, while adults can walk, relax, or both.

I just enjoyed strolling along the beach, camera in hand, embracing the slower pace, wishing it would last forever. 

Boats in a harbour at low tide

Aside from the beach, I traversed my way though the little roads, streets and alleys behind Port Isaac’s shops. Little nooks presented themselves where house upon house had been built over the years, giving no thought to where the next one would go (it seems).

I like the higgledy piggledy nature of Port Isaac. It reminds me of the Roseland village of Portloe, albeit on a bigger scale. The traditional cottages have been nursed over the years, thankfully with their character being retained. Walking up the hill on the other side offered a wonderful roof top view of Port Isaac. It made the steep climb worthwhile.

Traditional Cornish cottages in Port Issac
Hilltop view with roofs

Along the other side of the cove, where Doc Martin’s house is, there’s a bit more to explore.

I didn’t have to time to properly investigate on this occasion but on the left is the Chapel Cafe. It’s a tearoom but it sells local pottery too. It also happens to be the place where The Fisherman’s Friends practice, when they’re not fishing, building and doing their day jobs, of course.

Port Isaac houses on the beach
Coastline cliffs with house

I love all of Cornwall, but this patch of the north Cornish coast has got to be one of my favourites. I can’t wait for my running to become established so I can run some of the coast path here, later in the year. It’ll be running selfie central!

If you plan on visiting either Port Isaac or Port Quin, do remember your camera. I came home with nearly 100 photos, that’s how pretty it is. 

Have you ever been to Port Isaac or Port Quin? What did you like the most?

Happy Cornish exploring. 

Author: plbedford

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  • Thanks Penny for this wonderful post – it makes me want to go and explore the area again but I will probably leave it until the Autumn, as I fear it will get busy going into the season!? Sue

    • HI Sue, thanks for reading! It was fairly busy last week, not packed. I think they’re filming down there too at the moment. I think definitely once the height of summer’s out of the way, it’s a better time to go.

    • HI Jessica, that sounds amazing and you’re coming from South Africa too. Port Isaac is definitely worth a visit.