If you’re looking for a mini Cornish walking challenge, then I can most definitely suggest the impressive Port Quin to Port Isaac route. Also known as the ‘Rollercoaster Path’, you’ll be left short breathed, not only from the number of steps you’ll have to clamber up and down, but from the most magnificent views - endless coastlines and rolling waves to gawp at as you gather yourself, and your breath, after the steep inclines. This walk is only 5 miles, but it is a perfect amount of mileage if you’re after something picturesque and exhilarating.
On a particularly sunny Sunday morning, fourteen enthusiastic yet apprehensive Cornish Ramblers set out at 10:30am, ready to take on one of the most arduous sections of the South West Coastal Path. By 12:30pm we were laughing our way back into the car park whilst gabbling non-stop at how much we loved the route and that we deserved a wedge of cake and pint of beer! We may have felt a tad differently halfway round when our thighs were burning, our breathing was heavy and we struggled to pull ourselves up yet another steep step. But once you get past the soaring coastline, undulating stairways and precipitous pathways and make your way into the small fishing village of Port Isaac, there are an abundance of cafes and restaurants to put your feet up and unwind in before the last leg of the journey.
As I led the way to the top of, what seemed like the stairway to heaven, I stopped at a point to let everyone catch up and have a swig of water. As I leant against the hedge and took in the view, I noticed a very amusing sign beside me…
…I laughed and thought to myself, ‘are they actually taking the piss?’ A shuttle service on the coastline? Turns out, it is an actual village taxi service! ‘Take the Port Isaac Shuttle Service’ - a one-person one-car service run by Louise Houston – I must admit, when seeing the climb we had ahead, I may have popped the number in my phone, you know, just in case!!
For anyone who tackles the rugged coastline from Port Quin to Port Isaac, I first off task you with counting just how many blinking steps you go up and down because quite frankly, I lost count after the first set. They weren’t lying when they said it was like a rollercoaster! I also dare you to not fall in love a little bit more with each glance out at the stunning scenery and sweeping shorelines – I tried but no matter how rapid my breathing was from clambering up a gazillion steps, the views still knocked me for six and managed to take what little breath I had left, right out of me. Yes yes, I am extremely biased because I’m a proud Cornish lady who is besotted with her home county, so of course, will love everything about it! But there are still plenty of places in Cornwall I’ve yet to explore and form a strong infatuation with, and no matter how many times I may visit the same town or stare out at the same section of coastline or explore the same majestic woodland, it always feels like the first time I’m seeing it – and Port Isaac is one of those places.
Port Isaac, fictional home and location of the series ‘Doc Martin’, is a small but picturesque village on the Atlantic coast of north Cornwall. It is home to the wonderful sea-shanty singers ‘Fisherman’s Friends’, and as you meander throughout the narrow winding streets that are littered with quaint whitewashed cottages, you really do feel transported into another, quite beautiful world. This quirky and vibrant village always feels full of life, and not one pub or restaurant seems void of humans or dogs. The hustle and bustle of villagers going about their day to day lives mixed with excited visitors searching for Doc Martins house is infectious, and you can’t help but get caught up in the rush of it all. The harbour is dotted with people and seems the perfect pitstop for a sarnie or to stare out at the beauty ahead – it’s hard not to lose yourself in your own fantasy world whilst standing amongst it all.
After we’d spent a little time exploring the village, we met up at the top of the hill and prepared ourselves for the last couple of miles. The hard part was done – phew - and all that was left were a few fields to navigate through, followed by a flat stony track that took us all the way back to the car park. Although we’d conquered the thrill of the rollercoaster, I must admit, I did begin to miss the exhilaration of the challenging coast path and the large expanse of ocean that blinded me. Don’t get me wrong, my legs were glad of the break and it was nice to be able to talk to my fellow ramblers without fear of spitting at them as I tried to breathe through each word. But when it comes to hills, personally, I love them. The steep climb, the shortness of breath, the muscles in my thighs screaming at me to slow down – I can’t get enough, and it’s times like that when I really understand the meaning behind the words, ‘adrenaline junkie’. I’m not saying I’m the fittest person in the world and on occasions, when I initially see the hill in front of me I do think, yikes, and get minor stage fright as to whether my body will do what it’s supposed to do when it comes to reaching the top! But the adrenaline that flows through me and the feeling of accomplishment is all I need to keep me going back for more.
As an asthma sufferer, I occasionally find hills to be a real negative challenge. It frustrates me that the thing holding me back isn’t my motivation, fitness levels or determination, but this chronic lung disease. I can go weeks without any trace of having asthma and then one morning, I can wake up and it’s decided it wants to restrict my breathing and ability to do the things I love…like stomping up an almost vertical hill. On a particularly bad day when my chest is tight and I’m wheezing like an old broken squeaky toy, I don’t always enjoy the inclines. But if I have my trusty inhaler grasped tightly in my hand and a determined thought planted firmly in my head, I put one foot in front the other and power through.
I was so proud of all those who came along and took on the rollercoaster path and although it was a struggle in places, the adrenaline was palpable and the feeling of euphoria at what we’d just achieved over the last couple of hours really was infectious. It is certainly a walk I will organise again and for anyone reading this, if you’re in Cornwall or venturing here for a holiday, I recommend you give this mini Cornish challenge a go…and let me know the total amount of steps too!! After I’d waved goodbye and thanked everyone for coming along, I got into my car and drove home with a grin on my face and the wonderings of where the next Cornish Ramblings adventure might take me.
‘There’s something about a rollercoaster that triggers strong feelings, maybe because most of us associate them with childhood. They’re inherently cinematic; the very shape of a coaster, all hills and valleys and sickening helices, evokes a human emotional response’. Diablo Cody