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World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > United Kingdom > England > Torquay beaches, Devon

About Torquay beaches, Devon

On Devon’s south coast lies the ‘English Riviera’, so-called for its mild climate, long sandy beaches, and prevalence of palm trees. Queen bee of Devon’s resorts is Torquay (the fictional home of disastrous hotelier Basil Fawlty), which is favoured by an eclectic mix of families, pensioners and pub crawlers. Lower-key resorts in the area are Torquay’s picturesque neighbours of Paignton and Brixham, both of which ooze family appeal. Together, the three towns make up the larger holiday resort of Torbay, with over 20 beaches dotted along 35km (22 miles) of beautiful British coastline.

Beach:

Many of Torquay’s beaches are connected by the South West Coast Path, so it is possible to walk between them. Torre Abbey Sands, Torquay’s deckchair-dotted main beach, is separated from the harbour by limestone cliffs. It’s sandy, and safe to swim.

Nearby Babbacombe is a sand-and-shingle arc sat at the bottom of dramatic red clay cliffs, adjacent to the lovely shingle Blue Flag beach of Oddicombe. Both Torre Abbey and Babbacombe are accessible via the town’s stately 1920s funicular railway.

Gleaming gold Paignton Sands is another fine Blue Flag beach, with good facilities, while Breakwater has also been awarded a Blue Flag and has an open-air swimming pool.

Beyond the beach:

For something decidedly different, make trip inland to Totnes, 9.6km (6 miles) to the west of Torquay. It’s a centre for New Age culture and has some interesting places to visit, including the 1930s High Cross House (Dartington Estate) and Totnes Castle (Castle Street). There are some lush riverside walks, and you can take the South Devon Railway from here to the edge of Dartmoor.

Family fun:

You can spend hours on the sandy beaches in the area, which is what most people do, and there are plenty of seaside amusements in both Torquay and Paignton to keep nippers entertained. From Torquay, you can take boat trips to Brixham and Dartmouth (including one to Agatha Christie’s gardens at Greenaway). Torquay’s Living Coasts (www.livingcoasts.org.uk) is a spectacular coastal zoo that’s home to penguins and puffins, and is well worth a visit. Just down the road to Torquay is Kent’s Cavern (www.kents-cavern.co.uk), ancient prehistoric caves that children will enjoy exploring.

Paignton also has a Victorian pier, the award-winning Paignton Zoo (www.paigntonzoo.org.uk), which includes tigers, zebras and rhinos, and Quaywest Waterpark (www.quaywest.co.uk), with lots of rides and slides. There’s a model village in nearby Babbington. The trip from Paignton to Kingswear on the Paignton & Dartmouth Steam Railway (www.paignton-steamrailway.co.uk) is also great fun for all the family.

Exploring further:

Torbay is well located for exploring Dartmoor National Park (www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk). The area of moorland is stunningly beautiful and is scattered with wooded valleys and wind-swept tors – perfect for hiking. The area was also the setting for Sherlock Holmes’ novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Splashing out:

Food-loving Torquay boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant. Elephant, Beacon Terrace, (www.elephantrestaurant.co.uk) has flourished under the direction of head chef Simon Hulstone, Knorr chef of the year in 2008 and the only Brit to have won a gold award at the World Chef Championships in France.