Car-free adventures aroundTorquayDevon

Agatha Christie was born in Torquay in 1890 and the town’s landmarks feature in her mysteries. The palm trees and art nouveau pavilion, the elegant hotels and seaside promenades all feel like something from a novel. With a balmy south-facing microclimate in the shelter of Dartmoor, the area is known as the English Riviera and tropical plants flourish in the Victorian villa gardens. Torquay is an ideal town for a car-free break, with buses, boats and a mini-train, some fabulous walks, and two railway stations – with a great scenic ride along the coast on the way. Whether you’re taking the ferry to Brixham, the steam train to Greenway, or simply strolling by the sea, Torquay is the place to be.

  1. 3. Get the boat to piratical Brixham

    The Western Lady ferry service between Torquay and Brixham has been running since the 1940s. The half hour sea trip costs just £2 each way (£3.50 return) and you can get tickets on the spot from the ticket offices near the harbour. Of all the boat trips on offer from Torquay, this one is probably the best value.

    • The cream and blue boats run between April and October with more frequent trips in peak season.
    • The ferry leaves from next to the harbour bridge (North Quay) every half an hour or so at the busiest times (hourly in low season).
    • Coming back, boats leaves from Brixham’s New Pier. While you’re over there, you can stroll through the shops or hike the coast path.
    • Or follow the circular, two-mile Blackbeard’s Trail or the Buccaneers’ Way, with views of town, harbour and sea, both starting and ending the statue of William of Orange by the harbour. Thursdays in the school holidays are Pirate Day in Brixham’s Old Fish Market, with pirate-themed stalls and costumes.
    • Brixham’s other harbour-side attraction is a full-size reconstruction of the Golden Hind.
    • For fresh seafood, in Brixham or Torquay, head to Rockfish, serving fresh caught fish and local beer. Find out what’s been landed and chose it chargrilled or battered with salad or unlimited chips.
  1. 4. Open top buses

    It costs just £5 to get a Stagecoach Day Rover in the Torquay area and the routes on offer are spectacular.

    • In particular, the Hop 22 and open top 122 run north along the coast, passing Kents Cavern, to Babbacombe, where there’s a model village and cliff railway.
    • Heading the other way, they call at the Dart Valley Railway and Paignton Zoo. The cheerful yellow 122, painted with Zoo animals, runs every 20 minutes all summer, seven days a week.
  1. 5. South West Coast Path

    This 630-mile long distance route is justly famous as one of the world’s most beautiful paths. It’s also one of the more gruelling – walking the whole thing is the equivalent of climbing four Everests (in terms of ascent). But don’t give up: the 1½ mile section from Torquay harbour to Meadfoot Beach is a relatively easy smorgasbord of coastal delights past boats, birds and cliff-top gardens; it’s got a really great café at the end and a Monday to Saturday bus back every hour.

    • Start by the Harbour on Victoria Parade and climb Beacon Hill above the Living Coasts aviary, where you can see the penguins jumping into their pools.
    • Turn right beyond the Imperial Hotel to pick up the Coast Path, which runs along Rock End Walk, an old Victorian pleasure garden. Detour right before the steps for a good view of the natural archway in the cliffs, known as London Bridge.
    • The path leads through thickets of holm oaks and past the National Coastwatch Institute‘s visitor centre. Eventually, it leads down onto Daddyhole Road (Daddy is an old Devonian name for the Devil, whose “hole” was a limestone cave below the cliffs).
    • Turn right downhill for the Meadfoot Beach café, offering fine food and spectacular views daily until 4pm (and later on Wednesday, which is pizza night). The open sandwiches – from chicken and pesto to goat’s cheese and beetroot are particularly recommended.
    • You can walk straight back a mile or so up Meadfoot Sea Road into town or catch the 64 bus (not Sunday) from Hesketh Crescent, opposite the Osbourne Hotel.

     

Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount