Coastal Running in Cornwall: Port Quin & Port Isaac

Not for the faint hearted, this route and stretch of coast path has all the climbs. But, do the views make it worthwhile?

a grassy cliff with rocks and sea below

WIth the Dartmoor Volcano to prepare for, it was time to add some serious inclines to my running. Let’s face it, they aren’t hard to find on the south west coast path. To be fair, I wasn’t sure how hilly this route would be but it turned out to the ultimate test. It was also an opportunity for me to explore an unfamiliar stretch of Cornish coast.

If you’re one of the few people who’ve not heard of Port Isaac, it’s on the north Cornish coast and has several claims to fame. It’s the home of Cornish singers and folk group, Fisherman’s Friends, and is the location of Dr Marten, the longstanding TV series, starring Martin Clunes.

white houses on the edge of Port Isaac overlooking the sea and harbour wall

Port Isaac is quaint and pretty and makes for a good day out in Cornwall. It’s grown hugely in popularity over the years, making it a sought after holiday destination. It has some small shops, a decent local pub, and several eateries.

Despite embarking on this route in August, the weather was disappointing. It may’ve been dry but glorious sunshine certainly didn’t happen. Every time I run on the south west coast path lately, it’s all grey skies and unpredictable weather.

a wooded sign on the south west coast path to Port Quin with a wooden stile and stone wall

Fields first

I parked in the main car park in Port Isaac which isn’t that big given how popular the village is. I was jammy with a space, arriving just at the right time as someone was leaving.

This is a looped route and at 6 miles, it’s short enough for walking too. I started by running from the car park into the heart of Port Isaac. I clocked a few shops to nip into once my run was complete and noticed there had been a change since my last visit. Running through the village, I made my way to the opposite side of the harbour (where Doc Marten’s house is). On the bend, there’s a wooded path leading away from Port Isaac which stretched across a few fields.

Sometimes, my running routes aren’t always well marked but this one was pretty good. This didn’t stop me missing the little footbridge at the end of a downhill section. I knew I got it wrong when I could see the sea and had met up with the coast path. As tempted as I was to continue, I knew I wouldn’t be happy if I cut this route short. Little did I know how difficult this run from Port Isaac to Port Quin would be.

green fields overlooking Port Quin

Hello, Port Quin

Once over the little bridge (don’t get excited, it really is small), I headed out along more fields. I then felt like I was running in someone’s front garden or driveway but I promise it’s a public footpath. In fact this is the first house you come to in Port Quin. As this is a hamlet, there really aren’t many.

a cornish cottage on the edge of a harbour at high tide at port Quin
golden stones and rocks in Port Quin cove
a small number of houses overlooking Port Quin

There’s no doubt, Port Quin is sleepy and untouched. This hidden cove has a rocky and stoney enclosed and sheltered beach. It’s the sort of place where I could sit quietly, sipping tea and reading a good book. Today was not the day for that.

For some reason, I started heading towards Polzeath but changed my mind once on the cliff top. I can’t remember why, it certainly wasn’t because of the scenery. I think I was considering running through Port Isaac and onto Port Gaverne, on the other side, but that idea didn’t last. Doyden Castle looked fabulous on the headland here though. I recognised it immediately but only because it’s featured in Fisherman’s Friends 2!

a green headland in Cornwall, near Port Quin, with an small turett building
some steps between 2 houses leading to the coast path at Port Quin
a narrow cove at high tide at port Quin

The south west coast path from Port Quin

While there is only one route out of Port Quin toward Port Isaac, once at the top of the first climb, you can either head across the headland or go around. I went around – it kept me nearer to the sea and looked like an interesting trail. And in case you’re wondering, it’s safe. I didn’t feel like I was running along the edge of the cliff, thankfully.

the coastline near POrt Quin under a cloudy sky

It’s no surprise that this bit of coast path is similar to the coastline of nearby Tintagel Castle. There’s no ancient ruins here but lots of up and downs with old, well worn, irregular steps carved out in the path. There’s no escaping the beautiful scenery but running, unless you are a goat, is clearly not what it’s made for here.

a path on the coast with grass and green scenery and the sea

It was at this point that I realised the remainder of this run was going to take me a while. It was okay because I had time. I felt rather unfit or unprepared for such challenging terrain though and started to wonder if the Dartmoor Volcano was a good idea.

As I made my way along, I kept looking back in awe of the coast path I’d covered. I was moving so slowly though, I started to question if I’d ever get to Port Isaac!

the coastline near Port Quin with rugged cliffs and the sea

Thankfully, it wasn’t too long before Port Isaac started to make an appearance ahead. The coast path naturally meets up with the road I took on the way out. There’s plenty of benches dotted along the field above; a good place to stop and have a picnic if you’re hiking or having a day out in Port Isaac.

high tide in the harbour at Port Isaac with the harbour wall and houses on the cliff edge
a fishing cove at high tide with lots of houses on the edge of the harbout

Running through the village, there were certainly more people milling around compared to when I started. I was soon at my car and was surprised that the hill leading to the car park wasn’t too arduous. I had a quick change (why is there always someone loitering nearby when I want to do this?) before heading back into Port Isaac for an meander and an ice cream from The Ice Cream Parlour – I’d recommend gooseberry with a massive dollop of clotted cream. It was delicious!

I hope you enjoy this route from Port Isaac to Port Quin; it’s just under 6 miles. It’s challenging but as wonderful as ever. That’s the south west coast path for you!

Have fun.

Author: plbedford

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