The Great British Adventure

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CORNISH COAST: PORT ISAAC
05 February | Adventures
Cornwall at its most spectacular. A coastal walk from Port Quin to beautiful Port Isaac, via The Golden Lion.

Port IsaacTwo things are true of Cornwall: one, that it is a notoriously tricky place to get to, and two, that even so, it is always worth the trip.

With that in mind, we hopped in the nimblest form of road-worthy transport available to us - the Farer Mini, of course - and tried to drive in as straight a line as possible until we reached Port Quin, site of an adventurous little walking route - which takes in our real destination for the day, Port Isaac - that we had long wanted to complete.

Port Quin is beautiful, in that particular way the coastal villages of Cornwall are. Rough-hewn stone houses, that look as though they have been there as long as the sea itself, dot winding roads that snake through rugged coastal countryside.

We walk past and along a few examples of each, skim the edge of a field, until we come to gate that leads us temporarily inland, and turns out backs to the water.

U-Shaped and unusual, it is a 'kissing gate', according to a quick search on our phone.

The name is nothing to do with illicit mid-field passion, but all to do with the way the gate closes. We swing at it and true to form (and wikipedia), it doesn't latch securely shut, but just kisses the sides of the enclosure. Every day is a school day.

We march on until Doyden Castle, sat teetering on the edge of a sheer cliff face, looms into view. A little more googling-in-the-wild reveals that it was allegedly once used for decadent gambling parties. We silently wonder if a castle overlooking a deadly drop is a suitable place for illicit money-making (and money-losing) to take place. Probably not. We certainly wouldn't have accepted an invitation.

We walk on - around the gorgeous natural harbour at Port Quin, along the coast's edge, and up to Kellan Head, where the views to sea are breathtaking. The wind is cold, the sky is grey, but somehow the field greens and sea blues are still bright. Perhaps it's the clean air that's responsible.

From Kellan Head, we snake along a narrow and chalky foot path, flanked by what looks like gorse and heather, all greys and yellows and dusty purples. 

We push on quickly past Scarnor Point and Varley Head, until we reach Lobber Point, a high-point on the coast offering views of the villages all around.

Each little settlement visible appears to consist of play-sized white buildings and stone cottages, that look like something a particularly avid model railway builder might construct alongside his lines. 

And finally, at long last, we reach Port Isaac.

We find a pretty blue enclave of water set at the foot of steep-setting bright green hills, and from the other side of the natural harbour, a singular solid stone pier, jutting straight out from the land like the arm of a clock. A final bit of al fresco net-browsing reveals it was built in Tudor times.

We push into the town itself, and find a sloping maze of streets so narrow they're practically drainpipes. You can almost still hear the centuries of human noise reverberating through these impossibly slim streets. The whole place echoes with history.

And the pubs, in particular The Golden Lion where we stop, are superb.

We sit down for a pint and some lunch, and as we browse the menu, a local sits down beside us at the bar, and tells us about Stargazy Pie, a traditional pastry-based fish pie which is filled with whole pilchards.

He tells us it's delicious and that he's already ordered ours for us.

As we figure out a polite way to say 'but...pilchards?', he bursts into gales of laughter and tells us he's joking. Then he asks what we're drinking and insists he is not, on this occasion, messing around, and once more, we're reminded of those two truths about Cornwall. 

Difficult to reach, yes; but always worth the effort. Especially so, in the case of Port Isaac. 

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