A lot of folk know of Doc Martin of Portwenn, a creation for UK television set in a fictional Cornish seaside fishing village. Unknown to most is that there is more irony in the tale than we see on the surface. Portwenn is set in the real life village of Port Isaac on the North coast of Cornwall UK.
The cottage on the left side of the harbour looking out to sea that Doc martin uses as his surgery is directly next door to the more picturesque 'White House', a beautiful period fishing cottage that belongs to Dr Hambly, a real life Doc Martin in the village in the 1970's. The White House, is part of a set of three cottages with it's direct neighbour belonging to Doctor Hambly's cousin and the lower cottage, 'Halwyn' with steps onto the beach, once belonging to Dr Hambly's brother (another Dr Hambly!).
Standing on the harbour front, locally known as 'The Platt', with the sonorous sounds of musical phenomenon's 'The Fisherman's Friend's' (also based in the village) singing gently into the ears, the view of fishing boats and white washed cottages looks very familiar. This is likely to be because the same view is routinely used by national newspapers to illustrate the quintessential British coastal village. Port Isaac today is like a time capsule with all the functional bits of a old English fishing village: a beautiful friendly pub handgun over the harbour wall, fresh seafood at every turn and delightfully scenic walks undulating away from the village picking up the famous Coastal Path.
Dr Hambly arrived in Port Isaac (Portwenn) in 1973 fresh from an early career in London with his young wife Bridget and first born daughter, Rebecca. The village offered then a much tougher living environment with cold winters and little comfort for the inhabitants. Going back even further to when Dr Hambly's father was a child living in the village, the only lavatories in the village consisted of two caves, males to the left and females to the right, with a tidal flushing system.
These days Port Isaac is a beautiful retreat as well as an active fishing port. A quick hike across the hill will see you in the quiet hamlet of Port Gavern; perfect for local fish lunches and pints of ale. The walks either way from the village are stunning, especially heading south towards Port Quin and on to the Pentire Point. Seals and dolphins appear at intervals to entertain walkers along this idyllic section of the coastal path.
The White House is now only stayed in once or twice a year by Dr Hambly and his family and is mainly used as a holiday cottage for the rest of the year. It is very popular with artists for its sea views, whilst others have enjoyed seeing Doc Martin's quaint existence unfold before them.
Author: Nick Breeze
White House Cottage