Exploring the English Riviera

by Asako Maruoka /
Asako Maruoka's picture
Oct 26, 2013 / 0 comments

Have you heard of the English Riviera? It’s a great nickname for Torquay, a coastal town located in Devon, along the English Channel (and the surrounding area). Why the English Riviera? Well, there are 9 beautiful sandy beaches, high water quality, a unique microclimate (including palm trees), literary treasures, and relaxing places to stay in Torquay. It’s also the home of Agatha Christie, and Fawlty Towers. Torquay also falls within the UNESCO-supported English Riviera Global Geopark. Interested? Read on!


Exploring the English Riviera

Torquay - Livermead Head. Seen from the sea
Adapted from Wikimedia Commons: David Stowell



How to get to Torquay

Take the train! You can hop off at Torquay Station, or at Torre Station (be sure to ascertain where you need to go before exiting, of course).

Drive! My favorite, with the beautiful roads and majestic scenery greeting you at every turn. If you’re heading southwest from Bristol, take the M5 to Exeter, and then the A38/A380 down to Torquay.

Fly? If you’re flying in, head to Exeter International Airport.


Corbyn’s Beach.

Corbyn’s Beach. Photo: Wikimedia Commons: David Dixon


How to get around Torquay

There are local buses, your own car if you brought it, and, of course, your own two feet (paddling, if in the water). Maybe a boat, if you’re lucky…


Fishing Nets and Crab Pots, Torquay

Fishing Nets and Crab Pots, Torquay. Photo: Wikimedia Commons: Barry Lewis


What to see


Oh, Torquay, how do we love thee? Let me count the ways…



Torre Abbey Sands

Torre Abbey Sands. Photo Wikimedia commons: David Dixon


9 beautiful beaches: Maidencombe Beach, Watcombe Beach, Oddicombe Beach, Babbacombe Beach, Anstey's Cove, Meadfoot Beach, Torre Abbey Sands, and Corbyn Sands. And, of course, all the attendant watersports and beach activities.


Babbacombe Beach

Babbacombe Beach. Photo: Wikimedia Commons: Nick Potts


Kents Cavern Prehistoric Caves, one of the UK’s most important stone age sites (and home to early man for almost a million years!).


Living Coasts – a marine zoo that showcases penguins, otters, seals, fish, and more (including birds! At a marine zoo!). Definitely a hit with kids.


Bygones Museum. Oh yes, I love museums. This one includes a real Victorian street (with sounds and smells!), as well as items from many different eras. Worth a visit, especially on a rainy day.


Bygones Museum, Torquay

Photo Wikimedia commons: David Hawgood


Ride the English Riviera Wheel – an enormous Ferris Wheel that allows you to see the area from on high. Located in the Princess Gardens.


Torquay Wheel

Photo Wikimedia commons: ianmacm


Agatha Christie walking tour (or a bus tour). Yes, she lived here, and many of her books were inspired by this area. Walk along the Agatha Christie Mile to see important landmarks to her. Maybe you’ll be inspired to finish writing your own book (you know you have just those last few chapters to bang out…).

Need more Agatha Christie? Head to the Torquay Museum, which covers everything local, from fossils and archaeology to local writers…


Agatha Christie plaque at Torre Abbey

Agatha Christie plaque at Torre Abbey. Photo Wikimedia commons


Babbacome Model Village – yes, a tiny village with animated scenes. If you’re an engineer (or are traveling with kid), be sure to save time for this cool park. Reviews are high - everyone loves it!


Babbacome Model Village

Babbacome Model Village. Photo Wikimedia commons: Hole in the Wall


Torre Abbey – one of the best preserved medieval monastaries in Devon and Cornwall. It recently underwent renovations, and has a garden, walking trails, heated greenhouses, and more.


Torre Abbey

Torre Abbey. Photo Wikimedia commons


You might also want to just kick back, enjoy the beach and the water, and head to a local restaurant or pub each night – people have been doing that for hundreds of years.


Oddi the Hot Dog - Oddicome Beach

Oddi the Hot Dog, Oddicombe Beach. Photo: Wikimedia Commons: Derek Harper


But perhaps no one has said it as well as Scotsman William Topaz McGonagall (1825-1902), in his poem,


Beautiful Torquay

All ye lovers of the picturesque, away
To beautiful Torquay and spend a holiday
'Tis health for invalids for to go there
To view the beautiful scenery and inhale the fragrant air,
Especially in the winter and spring-time of the year,
When the weather is not too hot, but is balmy and clear.

Torquay lies in a very deep and well-sheltered spot,
And at first sight by strangers it won't be forgot;
'Tis said to be the mildest place in ah England,
And surrounded by lofty hills most beautiful and grand.

Twas here that William of Orange first touched English ground,
And as he viewed the beautiful spot his heart with joy did rebound;
And an obelisk marks the spot where he did stand,
And which for long will be remembered throughout England.

Torquay, with its pier and its diadem of white,
Is a moat beautiful and very dazzling sight,
With its white villas glittering on the sides of its green hills,
And as the tourist gases thereon with joy his heart fills.

The heights around Torquay are most beautiful to be seen,
Especially when the trees and shrubberies are green,
And to see the pretty houses under the cliff is a treat,
And the little town enclosed where two deep valleys meet.

There is also a fine bathing establishment near the pier,
Where the tourist can bathe without any fear;
And as the tourists there together doth stroll,
I advise them to visit a deep chasm called Daddy's Hole.

Then there's Bablicome, only two miles from Torquay,
Which will make the stranger's heart feel gay,
As he stands on the cliff four hundred feet above the sea,
Looking down,'tis sure to fill his heart with ecstasy.

The lodging-houses at Bablicome are magnificent to be seen,
And the accommodation there would suit either king or queen,
And there's some exquisite cottages embowered in the woodland,
And sloping down to the sea shore, is really very grand.

You do not wonder at Napoleon's exclamation
As he stood on the deck of the "Bellerophon," in a fit of admiration,
When the vessel was lying to windbound,
He exclaimed - "Oh, what a beautiful country!" his joy was profound.

And as the tourist there in search of beautiful spots doth rove,
Let them not forget to enquire for Anstey's Cove,
And there they will see a beautiful beach of milky white,
And the sight will fill their hearts with delight.

Oh! beautiful Torquay, with your lovely scenery,
And your magnificent cottages sloping down to the sea,
You are the most charming spot in all England,
With your picturesque bay and villas most grand.

And, in conclusion, to tourists I will say,
Off! off to Torquay and make no delay,
For the scenery is magnificent, and salubrious the air,
And 'tis good for the health to reside there.





Hope's Nose, Torquay
Hope’s Nose. Photo Wikimedia commons: Derek Harper