Port Isaac is 700-year old fishing village comparatively unspoilt by modern tourism. Port Isaac has only a shingle beach, however there are sandy beaches within a short distance at Polzeath, and at Daymer Bay. In the centre of the village is the Platt, where the fishermen land their catches of crab and lobster. Relatively unspoilt by the influx of tourism, the town still retains its original air of a fishing port. You feel the place would function even if the tourists were not there.
Port Isaac is one of the most characterful fishing villages in Cornwall, the main road narrows as it twists through the village past whitewashed cottages, fish cellars and a small working harbour. The narrow alleys are called drangs, with narrowest named Squeeze Belly Alley. Many of the buildings are listed as of architectural or historic importance. The town was the location for scenes in the television series of Poldark. And the pubs down at the harbour are worth stopping for the atmosphere alone.
The modern Port Isaac lifeboat station is in one of the old fish cellars right on the harbour. The town has seen lifeboats launching off the north Cornish coast for over 100 years. Today the station operates an inshore D class lifeboat.
Port Isaac at the height of the pilchard boom, relied entirely on catching and processing pilchards. The majority of the population worked either on one of the fifty odd fishing vessels that used to work from the harbour, or in the fish cellars processing them. Today, there are still a small number of fishing boats working out of the port. ‘Cellar’ is a local term for fish-processing shed. Huge hauls of pilchards were salted and pressed into barrels here before being exported to southern Europe.
To the north, separated by only a few hundred yards, is Port Gaverne, which used to be the main port for shipping slate from the Delabole Quarry. Now just a small holiday hamlet, with a pub, in the news for selling canned Norwegian Crab soup in their restaurant as being Cornish Crab soup. Both the town itself and Port Gaverne are within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There is a sheltered, sandy beach, with rock pools. Some of the old buildings on the quay, which were once used to export slate, have been converted into holiday accommodation.
To the south is Port Quin, a small hamlet, owned by the National Trust, at the head of a sheltered inlet. Above Port Quin is Doyden Castle, a folly built in 1839. A few miles inland is the church of St Kew, which contains some of the finest medieval glass in Cornwall. After a storm killed most of the men in the village was largely abandoned. There is a worthwhile walk from the town to Port Quin with lovely views.
South of Lobber Point: More Stories from Port Isaac, North Cornwall, 1944 - 1950 James Platt
East of Varley Head: Stories from Port Isaac, North Cornwall, 1944-1950 James Platt
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