Seaside Fun: Things to Do in Torbay
Torbay: Paradise on the coast... if you avoid Basil Fawlty
It's said that when they die, all good doggies go to Devon. But the prospect of an angry hotel owner played by John Cleese isn’t our idea of doggie heaven. That said, the parks and beaches across Torquay, Paignton, Brixham and everywhere in between make for a pup’s paradise. OK, we’ll stop talking about dogs, because it’s statistically unlikely (although still possible) that you’re taking your dog (or anyone else’s) on holiday.
The sweeping green countryside and stunning beaches are, as it happens, also fit for humans. It’s one of the warmest and sunniest parts of the country, and has been nicknamed the English Riviera. Whether or not that’s supposed to be ironic probably depends on who you’re talking to and whether their cups of tea are half-full or half-empty. In any case, it’s packed with plenty of coastal activities that’ll keep the whole family entertained. Here’s the official Plum Guide list of things to do in Torbay.
Hang out in Torquay
So, it’s perfectly reasonable, if you’re not British, that you didn’t quite get the John Cleese hotel reference. It was about Fawlty Towers, a 1970s sitcom based in a hotel in Torquay. If you do happen to be a fan of the show, you’re in for a disappointment: it wasn’t filmed here. If this is the first time you’ve heard of it, then you probably don’t care, unless you have a sense of victimhood so strong that you’re gutted about missing out on a thing you didn’t know existed five minutes ago.
Cleese and the Python group did visit in 1970 to film bits for Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and their stay at the Gleneagles Hotel is said to have inspired him. So, at least you can visit that. Oh wait, no you can’t, it’s been demolished.
So what can you do in Torquay? Luckily, loads – it's a seaside paradise and one of the best places to visit in Devon. Enjoy the Mediterranean style and palm tree-lined avenues, before working on your tan on the Torre Abbey Sands. Take in the views of the yachts from the Beacon Cove and stroll along the rocky coastline. For something a little more secluded, head down to the Hollicombe Beach or the Preston Sands.
On a rainy day, visit the Torre Abbey Museum to learn about the spectacular complex dating back to the 12th century. Learn about this well-preserved monastery and check out the medieval and Georgian chambers and corridors. The adjacent Abbey Park has a set of formal gardens, while the edifice also has a vast collection of art. Other highlights include the Meadfoot Beach and the Torquay Museum.
Spend the day at the Paignton Zoo (and see the town)
The Paignton Zoo is one of the highlights of the region. If you're travelling with family, it should definitely top your list of things to do in Torbay. Hang out with the rhinos, pandas and other rare creatures, as you move between the various habitats. Check out the tortoises, alligators and snakes among the horrible scaly things, and then start a fight with a tiger or lion.
When you’re done with the zoo, it so happens that the town of Paignton is right next door. Wander along the coast of this resort, soaking up the views of the water. Head out along the pier and find a spot to sunbathe on the beach. The colourful beach huts are part of the English Riviera tradition. Bring the kids to the Splashdown Quaywest, visit the Kirkham House and walk out to the Fairy Cove on the Roundham Head promontory.
Head to Brixham
For something a little more quaint and secluded, check out the town of Brixham. It's made up of a hodgepodge of colourful buildings seemingly stacked on top of each other, connected by meandering alleys overlooking the water. Amble along hand in hand with whomsoever (great word) you happen to be hand in hand with at the Berry Head National Nature Reserve. This promontory (we’ve used that weird word twice now, it’s becoming part of the zeitgeist) juts out into the sea and has an elegant lighthouse at the end.
Visit the Greenway House, where mystery writer Agatha Christie used to live. Lay down a blanket for a picnic on the Breakwater Beach and climb aboard the Golden Hind Museum Ship. Back on land, visit the Brixham Heritage Museum to learn all about the region’s history. You’ll pick up some interesting facts to tell the folks back home on your return (if you remember any of it).
The South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Sounds a bit up itself doesn’t it? It’s like calling your kid Aphrodite or Einstein or something. So, its beauty better be pretty darn outstanding. To be fair, it’s quite spectacular, with its undulating coastline and views of the water. Meadows and agricultural areas that glow bright yellows and browns make a patchwork of the bumpy area, with nature trails meandering this way and that. Your knees will buckle long before your enthusiasm for this beautiful area begins to wane.
We’ve not even begun to scratch the surface when it comes to things to do in Torbay. So here’s a quick run-down of some highlights you can’t miss. Delve into the Kents Cavern Prehistoric Caves and stomp through the Babbacombe Model Village like an angry giant. Practice your swing at the Torquay Golf Course, check out the activities at the Torbay Leisure Centre and relax in the Clennon Gorge.