Just a drunken sailor…

We’ve been staying in Port Isaac in Cornwall. You might think that it got its name from someone called Isaac, but you would be in error. This pretty little fishing village, well known these days as the setting for a popular TV series about a grumpy doctor, and also the fantastic shanty band, The Fishermen’s Friends, but the name is from Porthysek – corn port. If you have only seen it on TV you would hope that it is as lovely and as interesting as it appears – well, yes it is! There’s a very steep, narrow road leading down to the harbour which gives lovely views as you descend. There are plenty of eating places but only one pub which is very good by all accounts.

So why visit Port Isaac, apart from being a charming little Cornish fishing village (yes it actually still is a fishing village) and a place where you can get good meals, good coffee and good pictures? Well, in our case it was to go to the shanty festival! I have mentioned before that husband is a shanty man, and Port Isaac is one of the  places to go on the shanty circuit because of the aforementioned Fisherman’s Friends. Two of the members of our shanty band, the Beach’d Buoys, were extras in the most recent film about and starring the band. If you see the back of the head of someone wearing a blue cap in a crowd scene, that was one of them.

Here is all the information you might need for the festival:

Well, blow the man down! What the blazes is this? It’s one of Cornwall’s best up-and-coming sea shanty festivals, that’s what it is. The Port Isaac Shanty Festival is set to become an institution on the north coast, not least because it happens all across the pretty little village of Port Isaac, which is famous for its harbour, its relaxed vibe, its tales of the sea and its, well, Doc Martin and Fisherman’s Friends (see here if you’re looking for them).
In fact, it’s worth flagging up the success of the Fisherman’s Friends here because these Port Isaac lads, who formed a folk music group and started performing locally in the early ’90s before signing a record deal in 2010 and going stratospheric, put the sea shanty at the front and centre of the village (quite literally, as they used to sing al fresco at the harbour-front). But this lively Port Isaac sea shanty festival has been carrying on these vocal traditions of late and introducing both locals and visitors to all sorts of new and established shanty acts.
The festival was started up in September 2019. Its 2021 edition was heralded as a massive success, with a whopping £16,072 being raised by all who attended. That money went towards a new roof for Port Isaac Village Hall. A total of 29 sea shanty acts from far and wide gave their time for no fee and they played across the village, including in the village hall, in the Old School Hotel in Fore Street, in pubs, in restaurants, in fields, in private gardens and al fresco next to the harbour. The whole village came alive with the sound of the sea shanty.
And alive with the sound of sea shanties it shall be again. The Port Isaac Shanty Festival takes place between Friday 21 and Sunday 23 April 2023 and is to be based in a massive marquee with a main stage at the Port Isaac Playing Field, which is at the entrance to the village and is within easy walking distance of the rest of the village, where the other shanty festival venues, including the all-important Port Isaac Village Hall in Trewetha Lane, lie. Protip: every single event is free. That’s right. No tickets needed. You just need yourself and your ears.
Expect more than 30 acts at the 2023 edition, as well as some familiar faces and some new. Prepare for an incredible tribute to the long and storied history of the sea shanty as Port Isaac enjoys one of its most colourful and all-inclusive festivals of year. All are invited, whether you’re a local, a visitor or just a drunken sailor…


  1. himalayanbuddhistart

    How interesting, I was there many years ago and loved the place but didn’t know the origin of its name, although it was unlikely to be biblical. I can still remember the delicious seafood platter served at a small restaurant. Thanks for bringing back memories of such a delightful place!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lois

      You will be pleased to know it is still delightful and not too touristy. However it suffers the blight of many Cornish and other pretty seaside towns of having many second home owners and high property prices making it difficult for local people, especially the young too find housing.
      It’s been raining today, bit it’s very mild, so we’re not complaining! My legs are complaining a little going up and down the steep roads though!

      Liked by 1 person

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