Torbay is the perfect venue for a domestic break - an ideal destination for heritage fanatics, sun seekers and clubbers alike
Also known as the English Riviera, Torbay is comprised of three small towns: Torquay, Paignton and Brixham. Each has its own character. Torquay, the largest, has the best nightlife and hotels. Most of the restaurants are in the centre, near the harbour, while most of the hotels are in Torre, which is adjacent to the centre. The districts of Wellswood, Babbacombe and St Marychurch, with their own shopping areas and attractions, are well worth a visit. Paignton has arguably the best beaches while Brixham is a delightful little fishing village with some excellent seafood restaurants.
Where is it?
On the south Devon coast, between Plymouth and Exeter.
Places to visit
Torre Abbey (www.torre-abbey.org.uk) is the jewel in Torbay’s crown. Built in 1196 on Torquay seafront by an order of monks known as the White Canons, it is the oldest building in the town. It was restored recently and wandering through its rooms is like looking back in time. Adjacent to the abbey is the infamous Spanish Barn, in which Sir Francis Drake imprisoned nearly 400 sailors captured from the Spanish Armada in 1588. The barn is now haunted by the Spanish Lady, whose young lover is said to have died there as a prisoner.
Kent’s Cavern (www.kents-cavern.co.uk), in Wellswood, Torquay, is a network of caves once inhabited by prehistoric man. The spooky atmosphere, complete with stalactites, stalagmites and caveman graffiti, is a delight for adults and children.
Anyone searching for heritage in a wider sense will not be able to resist Paignton Zoo (www.paigntonzoo.org.uk). This world-famous zoo boasts hundreds of different animals, from lions to lemurs and pandas to parrots. The crocodile swamp is fascinating, with three different kinds of crocodile and two kinds of python. If you’re lucky enough to be there at feeding time, it’s an experience you’ll never forget.
Goodrington Sands, in Paignton, is perhaps the best beach in Torbay. It boasts fine sand, beautiful scenery and the exciting Quaywest Waterpark, which the kids will love.
The main beach in Torquay is Torre Abbey Sands. Easily accessible and close to the town centre, this sandy beach is very popular. Oddicombe Beach is a sand and shingle beach. It is less busy because it lies at the bottom of a steep hill, but don’t worry; if you don’t fancy hauling your bronzed body up the steep incline, there’s a cliff railway to help you.
The Elephant (3-4 Beacon Terrace, Torquay; 01803 200044; www.elephantrestaurant.co.uk) is Torbay’s top restaurant. Head Chef Simon Hulstone is, to date, the only Briton to have won gold at the World Chef Awards in France. The menu has been designed to cater for all tastes. It is expensive, but sometimes you have to treat yourself!
Jingles (34-36 Torwood Street, Torquay; 01803 293340; www.jinglesrestaurant.com) is a great Tex-Mex restaurant that will have you reaching for your sombrero! The chimichangas are particularly tasty, and reasonably priced.
La Provence (135 Babbacombe Road; 01803 322664) is a smaller, quieter restaurant, serving authentic French cuisine. It has a wide range of dishes, mainly from the south of France, and its intimate atmosphere makes it the ideal place for a romantic meal.
Torquay has many pubs and bars and each offers something different. Park Lane (1 Torwood Street, Torquay; 01803 214446) is a trendy bar that is a favourite with the young.
The Cider Press (5-6 Braddons Hill Road West, Torquay; 01803 212338) is a lively pub with lovely cider and real ale. It regularly has live music, mostly rock.
Other pubs with the same heady mixture of good music and good beer are Molloys (20 Fore Street, Torquay; 01803 311825), which often has ‘80s music, and the Devon Arms (8-10 Park Lane, Torquay; 01803 292360), which features jazz bands.
The most popular nightclubs are The Valbonne (161 Higher Union Street, Torquay; 01803 290548) and Claire’s (41 Torwood Street, Torquay; 01803 292079).
Out of town
Thirty miles north of Torquay is Exeter, which has a beautiful cathedral and a fantastic new shopping centre.
The four-star Imperial Hotel is centrally located, within walking distance of Torquay town centre and the seafront.
The two-star Torcroft Hotel in Torquay, is just 10 minutes’ walk from Torre Abbey Sands.
The Ravenswood in Torquay offers pleasant bed and breakfast.
The tourist information centre can be contacted on 01803 211211.