There has been so many storms and flooding in Britain lately I was worried that it might affect our winter break away. The drive down to Cornwall was quite unpleasant with a lot of water on the roads, trees down and very high winds. But once we arrived the weather was glorious. We only had one day of rain, which lent itself well to lounging by our log burner and scoffing afternoon tea! Staying in the quaint fishing village of Port Isaac found on the North Cornish coast it was the perfect escape from everyday life. With no phone signal in most areas of the village you have no choice but to relax and forget about all your daily worries. (I cheated slightly when I started this blog as the cottage I was staying in had wi-fi, but I did limit my daily usage!)
If you stay down in the village a lot of cottages don’t have parking. The roads in the village are also extremely narrow and can be a bit nerve-racking to drive along especially if you meet another car! The closest place to park is the car park at the top of the hill. A ten-minute stroll will take you down into the village centre. Pasty shops, cafes serving cream teas, the Golden Lion pub, a few restaurants, (The Moat is my favourite) and some lovely shabby chic shops await. Exploring the village doesn’t take long follow the narrow streets as they wind past quaint white washed cottages. Look out for Squeeze – ee -Belly Alley, as the name describes it is a very narrow walkway built-in between the cottages. How very Cornish! The harbour is good for an adventure when the tide is out, rock pools and caves appear and you can climb up onto the harbour wall. For a scrummy dinner after all that activity head to the fishmongers right on the Platt.
For such a small village with a population of only about 700 people, Port Isaac is quite famous. Home to the TV series ‘Doc Martin’ many tourists are attracted to this quaint part of the UK. On that note one of the reasons why I prefer visiting in the winter months is that there is hardly anyone around, compared to the summertime. ‘Keeping Mum’ starring Maggie Smith and Rowan Atkinson was also filmed in the community. The sea shanty group Fisherman’s Friends have all lived and worked in Port Isaac, many are fishermen, and members of the lifeboat and coastguard. They can be heard performing to huge crowds on the Platt every Friday night throughout the summer. I would love to see them live, their powerful a cappella tones send shivers up my spine!
I love heading down to the south-west of the UK for surfing in the summer but there’s nothing like braving the elements and staying in a cosy cottage, log burner roaring, watching the winter swell roll in through the harbour. Staying with our friends at White House Cottage this is exactly what we did. Situated on Roscarrock Hill with magnificent three doors down from Doc Martin’s surgery and a stones throw from the village centre, harbour and the South West Coast Path at the top of Roscarrock hill. There is a great viewpoint at the top by the way; from here you can look back down to Port Isaac and the surrounding rugged coastline, it is breathtaking and great for photos. Don’t try walking up the hill with a hangover though, believe me it’s not fun! The cottage itself had uninterrupted views across the harbour and village. In fact you could see the beautiful view from every room, including the bathroom. The novelty of brushing your teeth while watching the gulls soaring, waves crashing and fisherman in the harbour never got boring! I loved lying in bed with the window open in the morning listening to the waves rolling softly into the harbour, utter bliss! White House cottage also came with not one but two gardens. One in front of the building and an upper garden, almost like a secret garden, set higher up above the cottage. It was the perfect place to have the view all to yourself.
The nearby fishing village of Padstow is well worth a visit. Colourful fishing boats are lined up in the harbour and the cobbled streets are filled with gift shops and pasty stops. There is a lovely walk along the beach; you can also jump on a passenger ferry just over the water to Rock. Padstow is home to the National Lobster Hatchery which I would thoroughly recommend visiting. This charitable organisation focuses on marine conservation. The work and aim of the hatchery is to protect and support local fishing communities by rearing and releasing these beautiful crustaceans into the wild. The lobster population has declined over the years due to over fishing and poor survival rates. An interesting fact that I learnt via the hatchery website is that a female lobster can hold up to 20,000 eggs, with only one of those expected to survive in the wild! The hatchery has lots of information and you can see the laboratories and baby lobsters at different stages before release.
While in Cornwall there are a few must dos on the food and drink front. First and foremost you must have a pasty. This very traditional Cornish delight is a savoury pastry typically filled with beef, potato, suede and onion, seasoned with salt and pepper and crimped on the edge to hold it all together. There are some tasty alternatives such as steak and Stilton and you can even get sweet pasties. Be careful if you are eating your pasty in a seaside town such as Padstow though as the cheeky seagulls have become wise to tourists and will dive bomb you for your lunch, keep that pasty protected! A cream tea is another west country treat, scones accompanied with jam, cream and a pot of tea. There is much debate around which way you should put the jam and cream on the scone. Jam before cream is apparently the Cornish way, cream before jam is the Devon way. I prefer spreading the jam first and then putting the cream on top. Our favourite Cornish beverages include, Rattler, cloudy cyder and Doom Bar, an ale brewed in the small village of Rock close to Port Isaac. Back in Port Isaac The Golden Lion is the perfect place to warm up with a local beverage; the tiny public house is the centre of village life, has a lovely open fire and a friendly atmosphere.
It always amazes how time passes so quickly when you are on holiday, our days centred on lovely walks, food, drink, afternoon naps and cups of tea by the log burner. Port Isaac is my ultimate Cornish retreat and I can’t wait to visit again soon…