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What to do in Torbay all year round

PUBLISHED: 12:30 24 October 2013

A steam train at Paignton

A steam train at Paignton

Chris Slack

There’s still plenty to do in Torbay after the holiday-makers have packed their bags and departed

Roundham Head, PaigntonRoundham Head, Paignton

A stunning cliff top walk, a picnic by the harbour and three hours on a seesaw – that’s the beauty of Torbay.

This area of Devon has captured the hearts of generations because it offers peace and quiet and fun and laughter in equal measures.

There are plenty of places to get away from it all but if you feel the need to throw yourself down a giant inflatable slide, well, you can.

Our stroll around Roundham Head in Paignton was the perfect example of how to make the most of this glorious region.

Roundham Head, PaigntonRoundham Head, Paignton

Here, serious coast path walkers nod and smile at grandparents out for the day with the kids, who were clutching lollipops and cuddly toys they had just won on the arcades.

We began at Paignton Harbour, where the signs warn those of us caught in the holiday spirit to be careful because this is still a place of work for many people.

From there, we made our way up towards the cliffs at Roundham Head and gazed out to sea across Tor Bay. “Wow! You can see the whole world from up here!” exclaimed our five-year-old guide.

From there we made the (not very gruelling) descent down to a sea wall, lined with weekend fisherman, hoping to make their catch of the day.

“It’s just so peaceful here,” says Graham Oxley. Originally from Lancashire, the 66-year-old moved to Paignton in 1987 and never left.

He had come to fish for his supper but was still waiting for that elusive giant bass to bite.

“You can do as much or as little as you want really – and everything’s so close by. You can walk to Babbacombe for some nice beaches, or come over to Goodrington with the kids.”

Standing by the railings, watching the waves splash against the wall, we were all lost in the tranquillity of it all for a moment. And yet, I couldn’t help but notice the odd death-defying scream.

“What’s that?” I ask Graham, pointing to where the noise was coming from - a Spaghetti Junction-style mish-mash of waterslides.

“Oh, it’s Quaywest. I think it’s one of the biggest waterparks in the UK”, says Graham. “Plus there’s the arcades over at Goodrington Sands.”

We managed to tear our eyes away from all this entertainment and saw, in the distance, just behind the row of beach huts, a plume of smoke coming from the steam train that runs between Paignton and Dartmouth. The whole vista couldn’t be more traditional-British-seaside.

Of course, everything quietens down a little by the autumn but there is still plenty for everyone to see and do.

The locals know they’re on to a good thing.

“It’s lovely here all year round,” says Karen Howes. She is a member of the Torbay Rambling Club and has scaled and descended many-a-path along the area’s coastline.

“Out of season, if you dress appropriately, it can be quite stunning being up there by the water. Everywhere is so clean and the beaches are lovely, whatever the weather.”

Karen says people can do as much or as little walking as they want and still enjoy the beauty of the area.

“It all depends on your stamina. You can walk to anywhere, or else you can use your bus pass if you have one. You can walk from Brixham to Torquay, that’s seven miles. Or head to Churston or the village of Stoke Gabriel, that’s a very pretty little place with so much history.”

What’s her favourite walk? “It’s hard to pick one,” she said. “It’s all so different. Of course, I’m a bit biased because I live here but there is so much to see and do.

“There are a lot of things designed to attract tourists but there are also a lot of things to do that you don’t have to spend money on.”

In Paignton, we were just about coming to the end of our arduous (ahem) one-mile hike from the harbour to Roundham Head and back again. As with any walk, it’s best to have a reward to aim for. In this case it was a mammoth session at the fantastic Geopark on Paignton’s seafront for the younger members of our party and a well-deserved cup of tea and a gaze out to sea for the rest of us. Bliss.

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