A Tale of Stargazing and Fish Pie
London has been on my bucket list for years so last summer I decided it was time to go. I chose December because it’s off-season and everything is a lot cheaper and less crowded. Then one evening, while watching Doc Martin, a popular TV series filmed in Port Isaac, I thought, “I can go there!” Port Isaac is a small fishing village in Cornwall, about a four hour drive from London. In Doc Martin, it’s called Portwenn. This also seemed like a great opportunity to see the countryside, so I hired a guide (Richard’s Tours) for a two day tour.
My guide recommended several hotels in the area, but while googling, I discovered one called the Stargazy Inn. Naturally, I had to stay there, just because… what better place for an amateur astronomer? But the strange spelling was intriguing, so I did some more googling and discovered that the Inn did not get its name from stargazing. I’ll explain later.
Doc Martin souvenirs in a shop in Port Isaac.
Richard picked me up at my London hotel at 6am. About a two hours later we stopped so I could take pictures of Stonehenge. We arrived at Tintagel a couple of hours later. Tintagel is the legendary birthplace of King Arthur. After lunch in Port Isaac we wandered around town, looking at various filming locations for Doc Martin. By late afternoon, he dropped me at the Stargazy Inn and we later met for dinner at The Golden Lion, the pub often featured in the TV series.
Of course it was cloudy almost the entire time I was in Cornwall, so I didn’t have the opportunity to do any astrophotography. In fact, the only shots I got of anything other than this planet were of the Moon and Venus – from central London.
A great view of Tintagel
So how did the Stargazy Inn get its name? Not because of stargazing, but because of a fish pie. The pie is made of sardines along with eggs and potatoes, covered with a pastry crust. It is said to have originated in the village of Mousehole in Cornwall. In the 16th century a fisherman named Bawcock saved the village from starvation by rallying the town’s fishermen to go out during very stormy weather. The legend is that the entire catch was baked into a huge pie, thus saving the town from starvation. The fish were skinned and boned, tails and heads removed, before putting them in the pie. The heads poked through the pastry lid, to prove that there were indeed fish in the pie.
The pie was named “stargazy” because the fish appeared to be gazing upward at the stars.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find a single restaurant that serves Stargazy Pie. It’s still made for celebrations and in a few high-end restaurants, but has otherwise fallen out of fashion. However there are several recipes online and someday I might have to try making it, because by all reports it’s delicious.
Stargazing Fish Baked into a Pie
Source: Wikipedia. Baked Stargazy Pie by Krista Uploaded by Diádoco, CC BY 2.0.
I think I’ll go back to Port Isaac someday, but in the summer. The sun always shines in the fictional town of Portwenn, but not so much in Port Isaac. The dramatic coastline and landscape would be great backdrop for astrophotography.
The Stargazy Inn, formerly the Bay Hotel. This building was also used in Doc Martin as the daycare in Season 8.
St Materiana’s Church, Tintagel. Some scenes in Doc Martin were filmed there.
Old School Hotel, used as the Portwenn school in Doc Martin.
Harbor Treats – also Mrs. Tishell’s Pharmacy in Doc Martin.
The Camelot Castle Hotel and the footbridge at Tintagel.
The Round Table in the Camelot Castle Hotel
Port Isaac lifeboat station on the left, fish market on the right and Harbor Treats in the center.
The Moon with the London Eye, my only good astro photo from the trip. Most evenings were overcast.
Port Isaac, Cornwall.