Torbay Places to See

Torbay Places to See

Torbay  Places to See

Torbay Places to See

Torquay spreads itself across seven wooded hills and is fronted by miles of beaches and coves which are cupped in the sheltered waters of Tor Bay within the headland of Hope’s Nose, Lead Stone and Thatcher Rock to the north, and the 200ft-high cliffs of Berry Head to the south. Watcombe has its pedaloes, speedboats and coarse sand; Petit Tor is secluded but has almost no amenities and few people at the bottom of a steep ten-minute slope; sandy and shingle shore beneath red sandstone and white limestone cliffs at Oddicombe, which has a cliff railway; Babbacombe, next door, where smugglers and excisemen once had their disagreements, is at the bottom of a steep road; Anstey’s Cove has boats for hire, floats and canoes. Hope’s Nose is a headland which is low, rocky and home to kittiwakes by the score, and where Tor Bay begins southwards.

Torquay has a beach for every occasion (except surfing): Meadfoot Beach, Beacon Cove and Peaked Tor Cove are good for sub-aqua; Torre Abbey Sands and Corbyn Beach are the town’s two main beaches together with Livermead, which also has a water-skiing lane. Do see: Babbacombe has what is called a Model Village, a town in miniature with sound effects. Open Easter to mid October with evening illuminations. Kent’s Cavern, Wellswood, Open All Year, has stalagmites and stalactites and prehistoric remains.

Aqualand. Scorpion fish, sea-horses, logger-head turtles from Florida, even a piranha fish from the Amazon. Open April to October. Beacon Quay, Torquay Harbour.

Torre Abbey. Ruins of Abbey founded 1196. Open April-October. Abbey Gardens, Avenue Road. Also houses the town’s art gallery. Spanish Barn, in Torre Abbey grounds, is a fine example of a twelfth-century tithe barn. At the time of the Spanish Armada almost four hundred sailors were taken prisoner when their galleon Nuestra Senora del Rosario foundered in the bay and they were incarcerated in the barn. Legend has it that they were left to starve to death and that the ghost of a woman stowaway, who died with them, still haunts the lanes. Nearer the truth is that they were sent to Dartmouth and Exeter and eventually ransomed.

Cockington village is a horse-and-cart ride up from Livermead Sands to a street of thatched cottages, church, Mill Lake, seven-teenth-century manor, and the wooden stocks and wishing-well in Rose Cottage.

Paignton offers everything for a family holiday from very safe sandy beaches to special Children’s Weeks, normally in August, to marine gardens, pier, promenade, an amusement park at Goodrington, cinemas, theatres which in season feature TV stars and Torbay Leisure Centre. Also Kirkham House open April-September, fourteenth-century priests’ house, restored, and Oldway Mansion built in 1871 for the sewing-machine tycoon Isaac Singer who was shunned by America’s high society because of the number of illegitimate children he had from a string of mistresses.

BR now offers only limited excursions possibilities – to Exeter, Plymouth, Dawlish, Teignmouth and Newton Abbot, and the line beyond Paignton has been taken over by the Torbay and Dartmouth Steam Railway at Paignton, open Easter, mid-May to September. Steam locomotives will pull you through some of the country’s loveliest scenery to Kingswear. Paignton Zoo, Open All Year, is Britain’s only combined Botanical and Zoological Gardens. The Jungle Express goes slowly through the zoo. Torbay Aircraft Museum, Open All Year, at Higher Blagdon has a very good aircraft collection including ‘Red Baron and Fighter Aces of World War I. Berry Pomeroy Castle, a fourteenth-century ruin, is said to be haunted and Compton Castle, a fortified manor house, is regarded by some as Devon’s most spectacular fortress. Brixham has managed to hold on to its character as a fishing port and Brixham trawlers, which helped revolutionise the industry, were used all round Britain. The British Fisheries Museum in the harbour traces the history of the fishing industry. The Golden Hind, a replica two-thirds the size of the famous ship, lies moored in the inner harbour. The town itself is a pretty muddle of colourful houses. Reds and pinks mix with blues and greens, with narrow steep steps – all worth exploring and that is best done by taking the Town Trails. One leads you around the northern side of the harbour and the second wanders among the houses on the south side, including the strange Ye Olde Coffin House and a terrace known as Skeleton Row. For the more energetic the Torbay Coast Path has just been extended along the top of Elberry Cove from Freshwater Quarry. Berry Head is a conservation area where you will see some rare flowers and plants on top of the limestone cliffs, which are also home of one of the colonies of seabirds to be found all along this coast. Breakwater Beach is where a slipway was built for American troops to embark during the invasion of the Normandy beaches, and the lighthouse at Berry Head is not only the ‘highest but also the smallest and the deepest in Britain’.