On Holiday in the Bay, Torbay, Devon

PUBLISHED: 17:29 27 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:33 20 February 2013

On Holiday in the Bay, Torbay, Devon

On Holiday in the Bay, Torbay, Devon

With miles of beaches, museums, attractions and easy transport links, the holiday towns of Torquay and Paignton offer endless options for great family days out. Trudy Turrell discovers that you don't need to be a holidaymaker to enjoy it all

On Holiday in the Bay

With miles of beaches, museums, attractions and easy transport links, the holiday towns of Torquay and Paignton offer endless options for great family days out. Trudy Turrell discovers that you dont need to be a holidaymaker to enjoy it all

Since Victorian times, the railway has been taking visitors to Torquay and Paignton in order to enjoy the beautiful sheltered beaches of Torbay. The new Brighton of the South West, Torquay flourished, and throughout the Victorian period the area saw the construction of fine holiday villas, hotels, a pier and promenade, Torquay Pavilion and streets of fine shops, leaving a legacy of wonderful buildings and parks that are their own attraction today. The mix of fine architecture and great facilities from theatres to swimming pools, as well as the areas fabulous natural environment make Torquay and Paignton a wonderful destination for a few days away or just a great day out. For anyone with children and six weeks to fill with fun, budget-friendly days out here are a few ways to enjoy the Bay.

Leave the car at home

Or if you bring it, park it for the day. Torquay and Paignton are blessed with one of Devons most frequent and picturesque bus routes the 120 and it runs right along the edge of the seafront. Youll have a grand tour of the beaches and be able to hop on and off as you please, from beach to town and back. Alternatively, take the train, if only to arrive at Torquays Victorian station, which has the feel of a Miss Marple film set; Agatha Christie fans will know that the Queen of Crime lived in Torquay and at Greenway near Paignton for many years and had many links with the towns. Thanks to a handy guide, you wont need to be Poirot to discover them! See englishriviera.c.uk/agathachristie

Take your bucket and spade

Preston and Paignton beaches are lined with colourful beach huts and have miles of sand for castles. The sea is shallow and calm, warmer than beaches beyond the Bay, and ideal for swimmers young and old. Youll find traditional wooden tea huts selling ices and trays for the beach, and if all that sea air has worked up an appetite, Id recommend fish and chips from Richards Fish Caf in Seaway Road. Paignton Pier, first opened in 1879, still provides good old-fashioned fun. From the amusements inside to dodgems, crazy golf and trampolines at the end, a stroll along its length is worth it for the views alone. Opposite on Paignton Green is a new Geopark Playpark. Designed around the regions geological history (it has international status as a geopark), imaginative play equipment reflects geological periods, allowing toddlers to swing on a trilobite, older ones to climb a carboniferous mountain-shaped net. It should tire them out even if they dont grasp the geological story!

Swimming in the rain

Sadly, English summers are not all sunny days, and the sea can sometimes prove too chilly. At Torquays English Riviera Centre, you can enjoy the best of the beach indoors! A gently sloping pool, wave flume and regular wave sessions offer an afternoon of fun without the chill factor. rivieracentre.co.uk

Get afloat

You dont need to own a yacht to explore Torbays waters. The Torquay-Brixham ferry runs every 25 minutes and offers a scenic half-hour trip right across the bay. Stay as long as you wish; its a bargain day out at 5 per adult, 3.50 per child over five for a return ticket. A longer loop of the bay, viewing scenic harbours on the look out for dolphins, seals and anything thats wild, is offered in a Seafari Cruise from Torquay. Trips run three times a day and cost 25 for a family ticket. See greenwayferry.co.uk, or call 01803 882811 for both trips.

Back to the future

Visit Torquay Museum and you may just bump into a Star Wars stormtrooper! A summer exhibition, Sci-fi at the movies, features many of the sets and props from films, including Star Wars, Terminator, Star Trek and more. Equally fascinating are the real-life stories of Torquays Victorian explorers and the chance to see Britains oldest human fossil, from nearby Kents Cavern (kents-cavern.co.uk). Its a reasonable 16 for a family and theres a programme of great childrens activities throughout the summer, too. Torre Abbey, set in lawns behind Torquay seafront, offers a glimpse into monastic life. Its the most complete medieval monastery building left in Devon. It also hosts changing exhibitions of local art. Children go free with a paying adult (5.85) and will love to have a go at making a brass rubbing theres a big selection to choose from.

Secret Beaches

If you fancy a quieter spot to the popular town beaches, there are plenty of beautiful coves off the beaten track, but also just a short stroll or bus ride away. Torbays coastal geology is internationally recognised and in recent years has been designated a geopark. Soaring limestone cliffs or Old Red Sandstone, which gives the earth and sand a rich, red hue, offer impressive backdrops to a day at the beach. Heres a few fabulous coves to try...

From Broadsands between Paignton and Brixham walk over the grassy headland to shingly Elberry Cove. Stroll another mile towards Brixham and youll reach the secluded Churston Cove.

The far end of Preston Beach is a rockpoolers paradise, with an old causeway between deep pools its a top spot for crabbing, too! At low tide you can walk around to Hollicombes sandy bay and red sandstone stacks.

Go to the farthest curve of the bay to Babbacome Beach, Torquay. For just 1.90 you can descend its 240ft cliff in less than two minutes on the original 1926 cliff railway.

I also favour the coves of Ansteys and Oddicombe a fabulous walk on the coast path between.

Or visit Torquays famous Kents Cavern once home to sabre-tooth tigers and Neanderthals then wander down the valley and through Lincombe Woods until you reach the wide sweep of Meadfoot Beach. Marvel at the tiny offshore Isle of Hopes Nose as you walk its length and head back towards town.

Free and Easy

School holidays can be costly, as every parent knows, but the English Riviera has so many opportunities for family days out that are virtually free. Here are my top tips...

So long as the sun shines, head for the beach. Pack a picnic, the cossies, buckets and spades and everyone will be happy. Head there early and enjoy breakfast as you watch the tide go out. Gather a few friends for a game of rounders after tea or to make a giant sand sculpture. Try the beach as a childrens party venue and return home to a clean house!

Instead of shelling out on another attraction, try one of Torbay Coast and Countryside Trusts beautiful sites (see countryside-trust.org.uk). Occombe Farm on the edge of Paignton has 2km of nature trails, cattle, piglets, alpacas and hens to see, touch and learn about, a fabulously inspiring organic kitchen garden and a wonderful caf and farm foods shop. Open all year, entry is free and there are often special events too. Follow the green lane behind Torquays bustling seafront to journey back in time to the thatched village of Cockington. Impossibly pretty (but busy in summer), with tea rooms and gift shops, youll still find 460 acres of rolling lawns, gardens and woodland surrounding Cockington Court. Browse the manor house and take tea overlooking the lawns or find the diminutive chapel and demonstration organic garden. There are around 20 different artists and craftworkers to visit in the Stableyard and new Seachange Craft Centre. Many of the crafts on sale are produced on site so you may see glassblowing or blacksmithing, canoes being made, rocking horses restored or get the chance to chat to the makers of herbal creams and lotions or sewing kits as you browse.

To see the lights, take a walk by the water. Torbays seafront is ringed by coloured lights and kids adore a walk after bedtime! Torquays Royal Terrace Gardens (known as the Rock Walk) were restored in 2010 and a walk through the palms and up its new illuminated staircase will stun them into silence for a while!

Finally, dont miss the spectacular Paignton Regatta fireworks on 14 August. Theyre part of a week of activities and events, from 11-19 August.

Latest from the Devon Life