I haven’t been a die-hard fan of Doc Martin from the beginning, but it’s pretty easy to fall in love with the characters of the popular UK TV series.
The comedy drama series follows Doc Martin (Martin Clunes) as he leaves a surgical job in London to become the general practitioner in the fictional seaside town of Port Wenn.
Despite the sea change, things don’t come easy for the Doc. His worsening haemophobia (fear of blood) and limited social skills prove to be a challenge, albeit a hilarious one, for himself and the locals. Watch the show and you’ll find yourself captivated by the characters as well as the real-life picturesque seaside town where it’s filmed: Port Isaac in Cornwall, England.
So, on my recent trip to the UK, I immediately set aside time to visit the Cornish village. I knew I’d enjoy Port Isaac, but my expectations were exceeded. Here’s why Port Isaac (aka Port Wenn) should be on your UK holiday list.
You can easily drive the 4.5 hours from London to Port Isaac, but if you prefer to fly, take a direct flight with FlyBe from London Heathrow to Cornwall Airport Newquay. The flying time is 1 hour and 10 minutes and flights are pretty inexpensive – just be sure to pay extra for checked luggage. At the airport, pick up a rental car and make your way to North Cornwall.
Driving through the Cornish countryside is stunning, but keep in mind that the roads are narrow and often two-way streets. Consider this when choosing a rental car and be mindful when driving. Once you arrive in Port Isaac, pay for parking at the top of town and walk to your accommodation.
Take your time as you stroll through this 14th-century fishing village (note: hills!) and you might just recognise a few Doc Martin filming locations among the whitewashed cottages.
...and the fictional locations
You can take a Doc Martin walking tour, or you can easily wander on your own and spot points of interest such as Mrs Tishells’s chemist, the school, the Crab & Lobster pub and undoubtedly the most famous location: the village surgery. Walk for three minutes up from the harbour and you’ll find yourself standing in front of the surgery! Scenes featuring the surgery’s exterior are filmed here, however the interior scenes are filmed at a set located within a barn in Cornwall.
For another photo op, head to the school, which is now a restaurant. According to a Doc Martin fan page on Facebook, a crab sandwich in the old schoolhouse is a must-eat.
Speaking of good food, there are plenty of cosy pubs and restaurants in Port Isaac, from a classic pub feed to high-end small plates. Doc Martin fans must visit The Golden Lion pub, where many pub scenes throughout the series have been filmed. At the harbour, you’ll also spot a Crab & Lobster tribute painted on the walls of a smuggling tunnel, connecting the pub to the causeway.
The best thing about this 18th-century pub? The cosy Cornish character. Grab a pint of Tribute (a Cornish ale), pull up a chair next to one of the open fireplaces and you’ll soon discover the pub’s charm for yourself. The specials blackboard has plenty of hearty pub options, most of which featuring fresh, local seafood. For dessert, I highly recommend the brownie topped with ice-cream and caramel sauce.
For something different, book a table at Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, located within a stunning 15th-century fisherman’s cottage overlooking the harbour. The menu consists of various small plates that showcase local ingredients, particularly fresh seafood. The fine dining establishment is renowned for its outstanding food, which has earned the kitchen one Michelin Star. We opted for the smoked mackerel dip, cucumber and sourdough toast as well as breaded plaice, pickled vegetables and jalapeno mayonnaise.
While Season 10 of the TV series is yet to be confirmed, there’s every chance that if you time it right, you could bump into the Doc himself (and other characters) on set, as many visitors have done before.
But the best part about visiting Port Isaac is the locals. On both nights I visited The Golden Lion, I enjoyed good old-fashioned hospitality, chatting with other visitors and locals.
After all, it’s pretty easy to strike up a conversation when dogs are welcome inside the pub. In fact, I was lucky enough to meet Mia, a rescue dog who preferred her complimentary dog biscuit dipped in Carlsberg. Wear a smile and you’ll be sure to have a similar experience with some of Cornwall's best.
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