A hint of the Mediterranean on the shores of Tor Bay
Torquay, Paignton and the old fishing port of Brixham combine to make Tor Bay one of Britain’s most popular areas for seaside holidays. The huge sand-rimmed bay began to attract well-to-do visitors at the end of the 18th century, when wars made the fashionable Grand Tour of Europe impossible. Today its pleasures range from sleek speedboats to salt-caked trawlers, from funfairs and nightclubs to secluded coves accessible only on foot.
A 5 minute walk from the car park, down a steep but well-surfaced lane, leads to this cliff-flanked cove of coarse sand and fine shingle. The beach is overlooked by a small shop and a miniature promenade.
There are opportunities for many types of seaside recreation. Self-drive powerboats, floats and pedalos may be hired, and there is good fishing from the shore.
PETIT TOR BEACH
The most ‘secret’ beach in the Tor Bay area is a shingle cove below cliffs of red, creeper-covered sandstone. The 10 minute walk from Petit Tor Road, where there is limited parking space, includes a steep woodland path. There are no facilities on the beach.
Babbacombe was a popular little resort, patronised by royalty, when Torquay was nothing more than a sleepy fishing village. It wasalsoa haunt of smugglers, whereduring a raid in 1853 the excisemen found 153 casks of contraband spirits. A 1 in 3 hill corkscrews down from the clifftop to a crescent of sand, which is sheltered by a stone breakwater, and completely covered at high tide.
Across the bay, Oddicombe Beach is lined by cliffs where dark red sandstone contrasts with pale limestone. The sandy shore, backed by a row of neat huts, is served by a cliff railway. Rowing boats, motor boats, floats and canoes may be hired.
A short but steep walk from Anstey’s Cove Road plunges down to this rock-and-shingle beach which the sea covers at high tide. Redgate Beach, no more than 100 yds away, has sand and shingle between flat rocks, and is sheltered from the north by a spectacular cliff. Motor boats and floats may be hired there.
Kent’s Cavern, within easy walking distance of the car park, was inhabited in prehistoric times and has many beautiful rock formations.
Grassy slopes sweep steeply down from the beautiful Ilsham Marine Drive to the low, rocky headland which marks the northern end of Tor Bay. Shingle coves nestle between expanses of flat rock, which are ideal for anglers. The headland has Devon’s biggest kittiwake colony, and is a resting place for migratory birds. The walk down from the road takes about 5 minutes.
A stone sea-wall and steep slopes clad with shrubs shelter this beach, whose sand vanishes beneath the sea at high tide. It is overlooked by Daddyhole Plain, a clifftop plateau with a car park and panoramic views of Tor Bay.
The coming of the Great Western Railway in 1848 enabled Torquay to exploit its natural assets and develop into one of England’s best-known seaside resorts. Devotees included the poet Lord Tennyson, who hailed Torquay as ‘the loveliest sea village in England’.
Palm trees and other subtropical plants flourish in the mild climate, enhancing the almost Mediterranean atmosphere of the spacious harbour. Hundreds of yachts and cabin cruisers are moored there, together with day-trip boats offering cruises as far afield as the Channel Islands. East of the
One of the most powerful sailing vessels for its size ever built, the Brixham trawler was developed in Brixham late in the 18th century. It proved so- successful that Brixham became the premier fishing port of Britain. When the rich fishing grounds of the North Sea were discovered early in the 19th century the Brixham trawler was the prototype for the huge fleets of trawlers that became established at Hull, Grimsby, Fleetwood and Lowestoft. Today, only a few of these 75 ft vessels remain, used as vachts. harbour, Beacon Cove and Peaked Tor Cove have shingle beaches and clear water ideal for divers. To the west and south are the town’s main beaches – Torre Abbey Sands, Corbyn Beach and Livermead Sands, where a marked lane is set aside for water-skiers.
Torre Abbey was founded as a monastery for the Premonstratensian Order of Canons in 1196. The buildings later fell into ruin, but parts of them were converted into a Georgian mansion in the 18th century. The house was bought by the town in 1930, and is now an art gallery. Near by is the Spanish Barn, a medieval tithe barn where prisoners from the Spanish Armada were held in 1588. Cockington, on the western edge of the town, is a picture-postcard collection of traditional cottages. Many have thatched roofs and some date from the Middle Ages.
There is a wide range of seaside attractions. Sea and river cruises and fishing trips are available. There are indoor and outdoor swimming pools, an aquarium and clubs for sailing, para-gliding, sub-aqua diving, water-skiing and windsurfing. Rowing boats, sailing boats and motor boats may be hired. A carnival is held in July, and there are regattas and powerboat races.
Paignton’s snug little harbour, packed with pleasure craft during the holiday season, is a colourful reminder that this busy resort was just a fishing village until well into the 19th century. Its early patrons included Isaac Singer, the sewing-machine millionaire who built Oldway Mansion in the 1870s. It has rooms inspired by the Palace of Versailles, and is now a civic centre set in attractive grounds. Parts of St John’s Church are Norman, and Kirkham House in Mill Lane dates from the 14th century.
The beach of reddish sand is backed by a low sea-wall and crossed by one of the West Country’s few piers. Space is at a premium at high tide, but the beach shelves gently and is safe for young swimmers and paddlers. The sands stretch northwards for 1 mile from the harbour to Hollicombe Head.
Paignton is the northern terminus of the Dart Valley Railway Company’s Torbay and Dartmouth Line, which runs steam-hauled trains to Goodrington, Churston and Kings-wear. The town’s large zoological and botanical gardens cover 75 acres.
Seaside attractions include boat trips and fishing. There is an aquarium, a sailing club, a windsurfing school and an indoor swimming pool. A carnival is held in July.
One of Tor Bay’s most popular beaches, Goodrington has half a mile of sand, bounded to the north by a stone-faced seawall. From the car park the beach is approached through a small park with a boating lake.
A long, concrete sea-wall curves round this beach of shingle-scattered sand reached by a road that passes beneath a Dart Valley Railway viaduct. A 5 minute walk over the cliffs from the car park leads to Elberry Cove, one of the two Tor Bay beaches where water-skiing is permitted from the shore.
On the outskirts of Brixham, this small, shingle cove is tucked in at the feet of steep, tree-clad slopes and cliffs of dark red sandstone. Its neighbour, Churston Cove, also has a shingle shore.
Narrow streets squeezed between attractThe old buildings run steeply down to the harbour that has been Brixham’s focal point since the Middle Ages. The town was England’s major fishing port for 300 years, and trawlers still mingle with scores of private craft. The harbour’s most eyecatching feature is a full-size replica of the Golden Hinde, the surprisingly small ship in which Sir Francis Drake sailed round the world in 1577-80. This replica was converted from a 1940s fishing trawler; it is moored by the old Market House, built in 1800, which now houses the British Fisheries Museum, devoted to the history of the industry.
Near by, a statue on the quay commemorates the landing of Prince William of Orange, the future King William III, on November 5, 1688, and recalls his vow: The liberties of England and the Protestant religion I will maintain.’ The museum at Bolton Cross, in the centre of the town, has a section illustrating the history of the Coastguards.
Seaside attractions include an aquarium and an indoor swimming pool. Boat and fishing trips can be arranged, and motor boats can be hired. There is a regular ferry service across the bay to Torquay.
There are good views across Tor Bay from this shingle beach, which lies on the north side of Brixham’s breakwater. Low tide exposes pools between angled tablets of rock. There is an open-air swimming pool at the eastern end of the beach.