Port Isaac

Have you ever viewed a TV show or movie and fallen in love with the location of where it was filmed? Have you ever wanted to plan a vacation around visiting that location, possibly getting a chance to see scenes filmed? Many people do just that with a TV show called Doc Martin.

Doc Martin is a British TV show that is filmed in Cornwall, England. In the United States the show airs on Acorn TV online and on some PBS stations. It airs in many other countries. Doc Martin is set in the fictional village of Portwenn. The actual village where many scenes are filmed is Port Isaac. Many fans of the show make the trip from the United States, Canada, Europe, as far away as Australia, and other places to visit the village, some in hopes to catch some filming of the series.

Doc Martin (Martin Clunes) exiting Mrs. Tishell’s Chemist shop during the filming of Season 8.

Doc Martin is starting its ninth season of filming in 2019. It has been filmed every other year in odd years. Filming takes place between the end of March up until around the third week of July. If one travels in Port Isaac during the time period filming takes place there is no guarantee they will see filming. They do not film on weekends or U.K. school holiday periods. In 2017 there was a three week period in June they did not film in the village. They also film indoors nearby and in other villages in Cornwall. I was fortunate to see a few scenes of season 8 filmed in 2017.

Sigorney Weaver (Season 8 filming)
Getting to Port Isaac From Heathrow by Train

Before you leave, get in touch with a local taxi company. Tell them what day you expect to need a ride. If you are going by plane, many fly into Heathrow in London. There are other options though that are closer, but may take additional flights. Within Heathrow you can take the Heathrow Express train to Paddington Station. From there you buy a train ticket to Bodmin Parkway. If you buy a ticket for a train with no changes, the trip takes less than 4 hours. Once on the train, email the taxi driver to let them know which train you are on, so they can be there waiting for you at Bodmin station. From there they can get you to Port Isaac. All taxis waiting at Bodmin are usually pre-arranged rides.

The Village

The streets are very narrow and steep. It would be a challenge for people with health or walking issues. If you plan to visit, wear comfortable shoes.

Know ahead of time that cell service is spotty at best. You can get a signal /wifi inside some of the restaurants such as the Slipway down near the harbor/platt. I found you could get a signal near the Co-Op. Oddly, when I climbed the sea wall, I was able to get service.

Port Isaac from the Coastal Path
Where to Stay

Since a large percentage of the houses are rentals, there are many options in the village. During filming there may be less options. On the lower price end inside the village is The Gallery. If you will have a vehicle with you, there are many options outside the village in other towns and villages. Path’s End is also an option on the lower end as well as a hostel in Tintagel. I reserved accommodations through Booking.com, however, I have friends who reserved cottages through John Bray Cornish Holidays and were quite happy with their experience.

Parking

I recommend parking in one of the lots. There is larger lot at the top of the hill at the edge of the village before you reach the Co-Op and one further down the hill after you turn to go towards Port Gaverne. It is on the left side of the road (sea side). The streets within the village are narrow and not wide enough for two-way traffic in spots. Some accommodations may provide parking such as the Old School House, however, if they are filming exterior scenes for the school you may be asked to park elsewhere. Interior school shots are filmed in another town.

Where to Eat

Port Isaac is a small village, but it has some nice food options. I was happy with every meal I ate during my stay. Since Port Isaac is a fishing village, some restaurants carry fresh catch of the day. There is a Co-Op at the top of the hill. It is a small convenience grocer with a cash machine/ ATM inside. You can find ATMs in larger villages/towns nearby such as Wadebridge, Bodmin, and St. Ives. If you visit between June-August you may need a reservation at some places for dinner. I found some were booked for the night in July. Many restaurants have vegan or vegetarian and gluten-free options. Some establishments that include gluten-free options are: Angry Anchovy (pizza), Nicky B’s Pasty Shop, The Chapel Cafe, the Golden Lion, the Old School Hotel, and the Mote. I ate at all of these locations and can vouch for them. In addition the Krab Pot advertises that they have gluten-free options. There is also a pub in Port Gaverne a short walk from Port Isaac.

Recreation from Port Isaac

There are a few recreational options from Port Isaac. Besides just enjoying the gorgeous views, exploring the tidal pools and swimming, another option is hiking the coastal path which cuts through Port Isaac. However, I do not recommend hiking the coastal path if you have health issues or knee, ankle, or foot issues. It is a strenuous hike. I will mention more about this in another post.

Another option is the walking tour inside Port Isaac. It covers some of the filming locations within the village. You can buy tickets for it at May Contain Nuts. The tour also leaves from there.

Additionally, check out the dates Fishermen’s Friends will perform in Port Isaac. If you are lucky, they will have a concert date in Port Isaac while you are there. If it is not raining, they perform on the platt.

Fishermen’s Friends performing on the platt
Filming Etiquette

If you are lucky enough to visit when they are filming in the village, be sure to follow directions. They crew tells you where you can stand so you are out of the shot. They let you stand closer when they are rehearsing, but may ask you to move back when they are actually filming. They also ask you not to make noise or take photos when they are rolling as most people’s cameras make noise when taking photos. Listen quietly, otherwise you may interfere with their work.

This was when they were filming at the Chemists. On the right people are sitting under the awning of the Slipway as crowds in the middle left watch on the street.

When they are filming at Mrs. Tishell’s Chemist shop, you may be allowed to watch from the outdoor seating area of The Slipway restaurant if that is not in the background of the shot. Keep in mind, the Slipway is a business. If you are going to sit there, order food and drinks. If you are going to stay a while, keep ordering, otherwise you are hurting their business by taking up spots paying customers could occupy. You may hear tipping is not the same in England as it is in the U.S. I would advise tipping at the Slipway, if you are taking up space.

Whether you travel to Port Isaac during Doc Martin filming or not, it is a great little seaside village to visit.

12 thoughts on “Port Isaac”

  1. Watch out for the seagulls! One grabbed my husband’s pasty out of his hand last year, paper bag in all!! 😄😄 and yes, park up the hill and walk down into the village, and prepare for the lots to be full even up top! All of Cornwall is beautiful. Saw all the filming locations of Poldark too. Stayed at Alverton Hotel in Truro. Followed the coastal path all the way to Penzance and around. Got lost at night fall in Bodmin Moor. Found so many remains of tin mines. A wonderful experience for an American and her French husband.

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    1. I went to some of the Poldark sites as well. I have a seagull story as well. A friend had just bought an ice cream. I think she may have gotten one lick of it, when one swept in and grabbed the whole thing out of her hand and flew away. Don’t eat outside in Port Isaac. The sea gulls there are especially aggressive. If you were under the awning of the Slipway you were fine.

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  2. Great tips—I am especially concerned about restaurants as I have quite a restricted diet—no meat, no shellfish, no dairy, no onions! I am hoping to find places with just fresh fish without all the fancy sauces. Or vegan/vegetarian options. Any suggestions?? (Gluten is not an issue.)

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