Wadebridge makes a good base for exploring the North Cornish coast, just 20 minutes from Padstow, 25 to Port Isaac and maybe 45 up to Tintagel. With this in mind, Tom and I set off to take in some of the UK’s most breath taking cliff tops (and to keep an eye out for any Poldark filming…)
Port Isaac does remind me a little of Portmeirion in Wales, not in style mind you, but for the fact that the whole village was taken over as a TV set for much-loved Martin Clunes classic Doc Martin. This was all completely wasted on Tom, who’s never seen an episode – had I realized I’d have given him a crash course. You can now do a complete Doc Martin tour.
Port Isaac couldn’t be more quintessentially Cornish with cobbled streets and squat houses anchored down into the slopes, as if ready for the windy onslaught and lashing rain which arrives with the colder seasons. With this in mind, don’t try to bring your car down to the quayside, you’re just asking for trouble – you’ll never get it back up in one piece without losing a wing mirror on a narrow side street. Leave your car at the new car park at the top of the hill, its a bit of a walk to the town centre, but it’s worth it for leaving out the agro!
As a traditional fishing harbour the cobbled alleyways and slender opes (that’s lanes to rest of the English speaking nation) lead down to the medieval harbour and slipway. Fishing has shaped the identity of this community; in 16th century a pilchard fishery was established and in 1850, 49 fishing boats were registered. Now fisherman still launch from the slipway, landing catches of fish, crabs and lobster, but many also use their fishing heritage in other ways…
Port Isaac has its own super group – the Fisherman Friends, who sing traditional fishing shanties. It’s nice to see that despite fame, they are still active members of the community, owning local shops and businesses across the quayside. Their voices and CD recordings waft out of shop doorways up and down the alleyways. Celeb chef, Nathan Outlaw, has also recognised the village’s fishing history and has two restaurants in the area – including Cornwall’s only two Michelin star eatery.
The community still plays an important part in safeguarding the Cornish coast as the RNLI have a permanent station here which is manned 24 hours a day and has responded to more than 623 calls, saving 333 lives. Inspired by our trip, Tom and I recently took part in the RNLI’s H2Only challenge – where we were sponsored to drink just water for 10 days, you can still donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jessandtomh2only2016
We enjoyed our stroll through the opes, buying our gift fudge from Cornish maker, Buttermilk and sitting with a Cornish pasty on the harbourside. I was absolutely desperate for a beach swim, but as Steve from Wadebridge B&B said, “best leave that until next time, when it’s a bit less bracing!”