Thursday, 26 February 2015
Walk 128 Torquay to Brixham (Devon)
(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)
Map: L/R 202
Distance: 11 miles or 16 km approx
Terrain: road, pavement and coastal path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: 12 bus from Torquay Harbour goes frequently between the two towns.
Follow the seafront in Torquay to The Princes Pier. This was built between 1890-1906 and once had an entertainment complex at the end. Torquay looks out on to Tor Bay – the British fleet was anchored here during the war with France. Officers wives and families came to live in the town and hastened its development.
I found Torquay to be a most welcoming place even though holiday makers are known in these parts as ‘grockles’ ( not sure exactly what it means but it doesn’t sound too complimentary). Look out for the palm trees flourishing here helping to give the area the title ‘The English Riviera’.
Torquay Pavilion, once called The Palace of Pleasures, is near the attractive promenade gardens. Look out for the memorial of Agatha Christie – the museum further back in the town is well worth a visit if you want to find out more about her strong connection with Torquay. Follow the walk around to Torre Abbey Sands then Corlyn’s Beach. Torre Abbey, which is back from the seafront, is a mainly 18th century house with art gallery and museum. It also has a 14th century gatehouse and 12th century barn where Spanish Armada prisoners were locked up.
Take a time to look back at the main part of Torquay. The white buildings have been likened to the layers of a wedding cake. On the way out of Torquay is a small beach called Institute Beach but I can’t find an explanation for this name. The walk from here is on the main road before rejoining the beach road after Hollicombe.
Continue round to the beach huts at Preston Sands and a view to Paignton ahead. As you approach Paignton Sands – the pink sands appear to turn redder as the tide comes in. Paignton developed quickly as a resort when the Torbay and Dartmouth railway opened to passengers in 1859. There is more about this steam railway, now run by volunteers, in the next walk.
Alongside the promenade at Paignton is a huge grassed area providing a great space for people when the tide comes in. On the way out of Paignton is a colourful terrace of holiday accommodation. To the south of Paignton is the 780 ft. long pier built in 1879. The pavilion at the end was famous for performing Gilbert and Sullivan with the original D’Oyly Carte Company. The pier head was used as a defence during the Second World War. It was revived in 1980 and has thrived since then.
Look out for the impressive Paignton Club at the end of the promenade. This building with its Doric columns was built as a Gentleman’s Club in 1884. Women play more of a part these days! Continue the walk around to Paignton Harbour. Established in the 18th century this was once a thriving fishing port. Now there is a mixture of uses including leisure and fishing trips. The viewing platform which overlooks the harbour is a good place for a rest.
Walking up and out of Paignton look out for Oldbury Mansion, this was built by the sewing machine king, Issac Singer – the building is said to be modelled on Versailles. Further round is Fairy Cove which is a popular little bay with families. Follow the walk around Roundham Head and down to Goodrington Sands. The coastline here alternates between bay and headland. This is mainly because of the difference between hard Devonian limestone resistant to the sea and the softer red sandstone which erodes easily.
The path around Saltern Cove has been diverted to follow the rail line – if you are lucky a steam engine may appear. The walk from here around Broadsands and Elberry Cove is pleasant enough. Fishcombe Cove is a secluded place accessible only by a steep path and is just outside Brixham. On the way from here into Brixham I was stopped by a man who wanted me to visit his free tank museum. I felt a bit guilty about saying no but needed to catch a bus back from Brixham.
Brixham is the final part of Torbay. Look out for the statue of William of Orange who landed here in 1688 to begin The Glorious Revolution. There are many, many boats in the harbour reflecting the fact that Brixham was the country’s leading fishery in the 1880s. More about Brixham in the next walk.
Photos show promenade gardens, Torquay; Institute Beach, Paignton; The Paignton Club; Fishcombe Cove near Brixham