Riviera rediscovered

PUBLISHED: 11:17 07 July 2014

Busy Brixham Harbour

Busy Brixham Harbour


What’s making South Devon’s English Riviera so attractive to investors right now and why are international visitors on the increase? In the latest of our year-long series backing the work of Visit Devon, we take a look at a region on the rise

Agatha Christie’s residence GreenwayAgatha Christie’s residence Greenway

The English Riviera is a 22-mile coastal strip that is home to the towns of Torquay, Paignton, Brixham and Babbacombe, all set round a beautiful horseshoe-shaped bay. Long established as a popular tourist resort, in recent years the English Riviera has started winning award after award, culminating in recently being named the UK’s top seaside resort and third best destination in the UK by TripAdvisor.

Its natural beauty is undisputed; the whole area is a UNESCO-recognised Global Geopark and its sheltered waters and hidden coves are perfect for days out and family holidays.

Carolyn Custerson, the English Riviera Tourism Company’s Chief Executive, says: “Over the last few years our links with Agatha Christie, the world-famous Queen of Crime have attracted worldwide attention and overseas visitors to Torquay are now running at 17%.

“Visitors love the Agatha Christie Experience, which includes travelling by steam train and riverboat to Christie’s stunning riverside residence – Greenway - on the Dart and following the Literary Trail around local places that feature in her novels.”

Visitors love the Agatha Christie ExperienceVisitors love the Agatha Christie Experience

New Arts Council funding has meant that the annual Agatha Christie Festival (14-21 September) is being relaunched as an international literary festival with a brand-new base at historic Torre Abbey.

The current passion for good food and identifying the provenance of produce has created huge interest in Brixham’s Fish Market, which has the highest value catch in the UK and supplies some of the best restaurants in London and Europe every day.

Another key factor in the English Riviera’s growing appeal is the excellent progress of the major new road into the resort, which is due to be complete at the end of next year. This is in addition to the nationwide publicity received by the rebuilding of the jaw-droppingly beautiful train line into the area at Dawlish.

New hotels and restaurants are now queuing up to be part of Torquay’s future, with significant inward investment already underway. The stunning new Abbey Sands development just opposite Torquay’s main beach will offer some of the most spectacular views in the country from its luxurious apartments and will include the prestigious restaurant group Le Bistrot Pierre.

"Visitors love the Agatha Christie Experience, which includes travelling by steam train and riverboat to Christie’s stunning riverside residence"

Other expected developments include Harbour Hotels’ proposed new holiday complex on Torquay’s beautiful harbourside where a gleaming collection of yachts are clustered, plus a plan to transform Torquay’s Palace Hotel into a major five-star hotel and leisure complex. Celebrity chef, fishmonger and restaurateur Mitch Tonks is also planning to open a new restaurant on the harbourside at Torquay.

After the latest Trip Advisor accolade James Kay, a TripAdvisor spokesperson, comments: “These awards are based on millions of reviews and ratings by those that really matter - travellers themselves.

“Torquay’s strong showing, the highest of any town in the UK, is testament to the unquestionable appeal of this seaside destination.”

And there’s lots to do on a visit to the area with probably the highest number of attractions of any resort, a year-round programme of festivals and events and a big collection of theatres offering great performances including West End Shows.

The brand-new Riviera Fringe Festival has been announced for 5-12 July. Billed as the ‘Edinburgh Festival of the South,’ the new festival will bring the best-established and emerging talent to the Bay. Some of the country’s top comedians will be performing and the week-long festival will be packed with culture, music, family shows, magic, street theatre, acrobats, jugglers, art exhibitions and dance.

Children will be in seventh heaven from 18-23 August with a whole week devoted just to them as Children’s Week comes to Paignton Green.

This is the UK’s longest running children’s festival and is definitely worth a visit.

Torbay Royal Regatta and Torbay Week Sailing brings top-class sailors as well as visitors from far and wide from 22-28 August. Torbay has been used as a venue for prestigious sailing competitions for years and famously hosted the 1948 Olympic sailing.

There will be a big programme of activities for landlubbers plus the Red Arrows (6pm on 24 August) and a wonderful fireworks display (25 August).


Did You Know?

Guillemots – Berry Head National Nature Reserve in Brixham is home to the largest breeding colony of guillemots on the south coast and every summer visitors can watch the amazing spectacle of hundreds of chicks making the death-defying jump off the 200ft cliffs into the sea.

Lord Churston’s Bathhouse - Beautiful Elberry Cove near Paignton boasts the fascinating ruins of the 18th century bathhouse where Lord Churston used to take a dip. Elberry Cove is also the scene of one of Agatha Christie’s ABC murders and is just a few miles from Agatha Christie’s home at Greenway.

Kents Cavern is one of Europe’s top prehistoric Stone Age caves with an extensive labyrinth of spectacular and easily accessible caverns open daily all year. A 41,000-year-old jawbone discovered here is the oldest human fossil ever found in Britain.

Further afield…

Away from the Riviera, look out for these festivals in the county this month

Tiverton Balloon Festival, 11-13 July

An exciting ballooning and aerial extravaganza taking place on at the combined Tiverton High School and Petroc campus on Bolham Road, Tiverton EX16 6SH. More than 30 balloons are planned to take to the skies.


Somersault Festival, 17-21 July

Described as a five-day summer camp of music, adventure and outdoor living in the heart of the South West. Aside from the two headline acts Jack Johnson and Devon resident Ben Howard there are tons of other musical acts to see and things to do such as surfing, rock climbing, mountain biking and canoeing.

This isn’t your typical festival - go to Somersault festival if you’re into boutique glamping and extraordinary food. This year’s Campfire Feasts are being cooked up by Fifteen Cornwall, Nathan Outlaw, Pitt Cue Co and The Ethicurean.


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