Torbay, the English Riviera
With its mild climate, award-winning beaches and famous palm trees, it’s easy to see why Torbay is known as the English Riviera.
Nestled within a sheltered, east-facing bay on the South Devon coast, Torbay is the collective name given to the three resort towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham – each with its own distinctive character and attractions.
The northernmost of the three towns, Torquay is a delight – with its marina, pier and elegant promenade, there is plenty of scope for relaxing walks while taking in the wonderful sea views and all the activity of the busy harbour.
Torquay is the area’s commercial hub, too, where you’ll find big-name shops and department stores alongside quirky craft shops and vintage boutiques. For local produce, don’t miss the Market Forum – Torquay’s revamped indoor market – with its attractive shops and barrows housing independent retailers.
Once you’ve worn yourself out from walking and shopping, don’t worry – Torquay is a great centre for eating out and entertainment as well. From award-winning restaurants for every taste to ancient watering holes serving delicious pub fare, there’s certainly no danger of going hungry – and that’s before you sample a Devon cream tea in one of the town’s many charming tea rooms.
And once you’re fed and watered, make a night of it by enjoying a show at the town’s Princess Theatre. Whether your preference is a West End musical, a night of comedy or the annual pantomime (oh yes it is!), you’ll find something to entertain you throughout the year.
If you fancy somewhere a little quieter, the neighbouring resort of Paignton is perfect for either a romantic getaway or a fun family break. Delight the children with a trip to see the gorillas and orangutans at Paignton Zoo, enjoy the spectacular seven-mile journey to Kingswear on the Dartmouth Steam Railway, or save up your tuppences for the coin pusher machines on Paignton Pier.
Meanwhile, savour the feeling of the sand between your toes on Paignton’s sandy beaches, whether you’re enjoying a relaxing evening stroll alongside the colourful beach huts, or helping the kids build their own sand version of Compton Castle – a National Trust-owned fortress just a few miles to the west.
The third town, Brixham, is Torbay as it used to be – a quaint but bustling fishing port, overlooked by the narrow streets and attractive buildings that cluster up the hillside. Enjoy hearing about Brixham’s past at the Smuggler’s Story on the harbourside, explore the replica of Drake’s Golden Hind, or take a tour of the celebrated Brixham Fish Market.
Meanwhile, Agatha Christie fans mustn’t miss Greenway, her former holiday home on the banks of the River Dart, which is now owned by the National Trust. Three of the author’s novels were set here, and today the house and garden provide a unique insight into Christie’s world of crime and mystery.
Where to stay
One of the joys of Torbay is that you’ll find every type of accommodation imaginable. From family-friendly budget-hotel brands to luxury Torquay hotels and traditional Paignton B&Bs, there really is something to suit everyone. Head a little further out into the South Devon countryside and you’ll be spoilt for choice for self-catering cottages, campsites and holiday parks.
For all that Torbay feels like a world apart, it’s surprisingly easy to get to. The resort is less than four hours’ drive from London, and is just 25 miles from the M5 at Exeter, providing motorway links to the rest of the UK. If you prefer the train, both Torquay and Paignton are served by the delightful Riviera Line, which connects to the mainline at Exeter. If you’re travelling from Exeter to Torbay, be sure to sit on the left-hand side of the carriage to admire the views as the train skirts the very edge of the sea.
So, whether you’re looking to visit Torbay for just one day or many, there’s no excuse not to – hop in the car or on the train and enjoy this unique and lovely part of the UK where the climate is just as warm as the welcome.
Photo credit: Graham Soult
For more ideas of what to visit in Torbay, go to the official English Riviera tourism site.