Torbay - otherwise known as "The English Riviera", situated on the South coast of the beautiful and desirable county of Devon, is a popular location for a great variety of reasons. Torbay mainly comprises of the three very different and individual coastal towns of Torquay, Paignton & Brixham, along with a number of more rural and timeless outlying villages that surround them.
Torbay offers a diverse range of lifestyles to appeal to many different types of people; from those that enjoy an active lifestyle with a preference for outdoor pursuits, extreme sports and a busy nightlife, to those who prefer more gentle activities such as hiking, cycling or bird watching, South Devon has something to offer almost everyone.
For those looking to move into the area from other parts of the UK, or even from further afield, and who are unfamiliar with the many attractions of Torbay our brief guide below should provide a taster of what's on offer in this outstanding part of the Westcountry. You will also find below some internet links to other sites of local interest and information.
Torbay Towns - Torquay
Torquay is generally considered to be the primary town within the Torbay region, being the location for the main offices of Torbay Borough Council at Castle Circus in the centre of town, and being the town that attracts the most publicity, attracts the most tourists, and is the most well known.
Torquay is a large town being home to around 64,000 residents at the time of the last census in 2001, making it the third largest town in Devon by population, and it rightly deserves its place as a major UK seaside resort.
There are a large number of beaches in the vicinity of Torquay ranging from the expansive soft sandy beach of Torre Abbey Sands situated along the main promenade of Torquay sea front, to several less obvious inlets and coves hidden away down steep cliff paths such as Anstey's Cove, and Watcombe Beach. In between there are many other coastal gems to explore including the dramatic rocky shorelines flanked by cliffs such as at Meadfoot Beach, the iconic Thatcher's Rock which has seemingly detached itself from the rugged headland of Hope's Nose, and the ever popular Oddicombe Beach located at the bottom of sheer red sandstone cliffs and accessible on the cliff railway that dramatically descends from Babbacombe Downs to the beach below.
Aside from beaches there are plenty of other notable tourist attractions around the Torquay area. Babbacombe Model Village is a long standing favourite, Kents Cavern is an unexpected delight, Torre Abbey is a historical gem, Living Coasts is a marvellous wildlife experience with all kinds of sea creatures and sea birds to see up close and there are many other diverse things to see and do.
For the culture fans there is the Princess Theatre set on Torquay Promenade amongst the palm trees of Princess Gardens, various opportunities to follow in the footsteps of crime writer Agatha Christie who was born in the town and lived for a time at nearby Greenway (now looked after by The National Trust), the summer "Torquay Live!" event with street performers. live music and entertainment, Torquay Museum with lots of fascinating local artefacts and memorabilia along with an Agatha Christie exhibit, and plenty of other live events to keep you busy all year.
Sports fans are also spoilt for choice, whether it be enjoying watersports around the green flag beaches, supporting the local "Gulls" of Torquay United Football Club, tenpin bowling, golf, tennis, swimming, bowls, cricket, rugby or anything else that takes your interest Torquay has a venue for almost any sport imaginable.
Torbay Towns - Paignton
Paignton is a much more stereotypical English seaside town with its traditional Victorian pier, an esplanade of sea front hotels, a long stretch of sandy beach, a sea front crazy golf course, amusement arcades and seaside shops selling buckets & spades.
It is also the starting point for the Paignton & Dartmouth steam railway, a magnificently scenic journey which follows a 7 mile coast, country and riverside route to the terminus at Kingswear at the mouth of the River Dart.
Paignton is the location for Torbay's largest multi screen cinema, situated at the centre of the promenade beside Paignton Green the Apollo multiplex shows all the latest films. Paignton also has its own theatre, situated in Palace Gardens close to the centre of the town the Palace Theatre stages regular productions as well as comedy and musical entertainment.
Paignton has some interesting historical heritage to explore, from the grandeur of Oldway Mansion to the medieval Kirkham House which is unexpectedly located in a modern residential area not far from the town centre
Another famous attraction in the town is Paignton Zoo which opened in 1923 and currently houses thousands of animals in an 80 acre park which can easily take all day to explore fully. A great day out for the whole family.
Adjoining Paignton is the nearby area of Preston, possibly best known for its long stretch of beach with its many coloured beach huts which line the promenade making for a real old-fashioned seaside feel.
On the other side of Paignton is the area of Goodrington where you can relax on the South Sands Beach whilst the steam trains trundle by just a few yards inland along the beautifully scenic coastal stretch of its route to Kingswear. Goodrington is a very popular beach with a long stretch of golden sand, a seaside pub / restaurant, a large green for ball games, many colourful beach huts, amusements, a seashore centre, pedalo hire and a crazy golf course.
South from Goodrington the coast path leads past a number of other scenic but less accessible beaches such as Saltern Cove and Oyster Cove, and then eventually leads to Broadsands and Elberry Cove where there is another popular stretch of beach with a large car park and a number of visitor facilities including a scenic pitch & putt golf course.
Torbay Towns - Brixham
Brixham is one of the most lucrative fishing harbours in Europe, yet still manages to retain the feel and character of a small, quaint fishing village. The harbour area of Brixham is most picturesque; cradled in a valley surrounded by steep hillsides with multi coloured cottages stacked high above each other in every direction you can look Brixham Harbour is what people think of when imagining a quintessential Westcountry fishing village. Around the harbour, as you might expect, are plenty of fish restaurants, takeaways and seafood stalls where you can sample the local catch almost directly from the sea. It is no wonder that Brixham is such an active fishing harbour as it was here, late in the 18th Century, that the fishing technique of trawling with nets was first devised, Brixham fishermen were the first, and original, Trawlermen.
In the harbour, permanently moored as a floating museum and family attraction, you can find a full size replica of Sir Francis Drake's famous Golden Hind. It was Brixham Harbour where Drake bought the "Capitana", one of the vessels of the Spanish Armada Fleet, after capturing it, where he left it in the care of the Brixham fishermen. Also commemorated in Brixham Harbour is William of Orange, the Dutchman who sailed to England and arrived in Brixham with a large army of invaders. He succeeded in overthrowing the Catholic King James II and became King William III, his statue stands on the quayside to mark the spot where he first set foot on English soil.
Another claim to fame for Brixham is the hymn "Abide with me" which was written by Reverend Harry Francis Lyte, curate of All Saints church, shortly before his death in 1847. The hymn has become one of the most popular of all time, and is often used as a sporting anthem. Every evening the bells of All Saints church ring to the tune of Brixham's very own musical masterpiece.
Alongside the harbour in Brixham today lies Brixham Marina, a much more modern facility where many yachts & motor boats have safe moorings sheltered by the half mile long breakwater which protects the whole of the 108 acre harbour area. From the harbourside it is possible to book a variety of fishing trips or even a pleasure boat cruise around the bay or up the River Dart. Given its seafaring heritage it is entirely appropriate that Brixham is home to the Torbay Lifeboat Station, one of the busiest in the UK.
Nearby to Brixham is the National Nature Reserve (NNR) of Berry Head Country Park with its spectacular coastal scenery, tranquil surroundings and Napoleonic Fort, it is Torbay's most important wildlife site being home to a number of rare plants, an abundance of bird life, and rare bats which are resident in the sea caves below the cliffs.
Along the coast a little further is the National Trust property of Coleton Fishacre, and Arts & Crafts style property with Art Deco style interiors set in extensive clifftop grounds with a fantastic range of unusual plants, shrubs and trees. The property was built in the 1920's for hotelier, theatre owner and impresario Rupert D'oyly Carte and his wife Lady Dorothy and today is well worth a visit.
For those wanting to try their hand at archery Brixham is also home to Torbay's largest archery club, the Brixham Archers.
Further Afield Around Devon
The surrounding areas around Torbay are equally interesting, unique, picturesque and popular with plenty of coast, countryside, villages and towns to explore and enjoy.
Those who enjoy the great outdoors, fresh air and unspoilt natural surroundings are particularly well catered for in this part of the UK with Torbay enjoying a perfect location on the South coast of one of England's best loved and popular counties for outdoor pursuits. Not only are there a number of stunning coastal and rural locations around Torbay to explore, but there is also the huge expanse of of the World renowned Dartmoor National Park which is perfect for those who prefer the inland landscape of valleys, tors, rivers, reservoirs, lakes, woodland and heath.
For those interested in local heritage there are many historic sites in the region including a number of castles to explore such as Berry Pomeroy, Okehampton, Dartmouth, Drogo, Totnes and Compton, as well as many historic landmarks, standing stones and stone circles around Dartmoor.
From Torbay the two major cities in the county of Devon are also easily accessible, with both Exeter and Plymouth being reachable within a 40 minute drive from most parts of the bay. Both cities have recently modernised shopping areas; Plymouth has the newly built Drake Circus indoor shopping precinct as well as a large city centre shopping area, Exeter has the recently developed area of Princesshay incorporated within its historic city centre.
There are a good number of attractions particularly suitable for children nearby, Crealy Adventure Park just outside Exeter, and Woodlands Theme Park near Dartmouth are perhaps the largest and best known family days out, but there are many other alternatives such as Big Sheep, Combe Martin Wildlife Park, Milky Way Adventure Park, The Donkey Sanctuary, Pennywell Farm, River Dart Adventures and much more.
For culture lovers Plymouth has the Theatre Royal which frequently stages popular and well known shows, and the attached Drum Theatre which stages more innovative and cutting edge work from lesser known and upcoming talent. Nearby to both is Plymouth Pavilions which plays host to a variety of musical, comedy and other shows. Elsewhere Powderham Castle often hosts a number of outdoor musical events during the summer months, there are a number of music festivals held around Devon such as Chagstock, Beautiful Days, Teignmouth Jazz Festival, Lynton & Lynmouth Music Festival, Bideford Folk Festival and the Surf & Music Festival at Croyde.
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