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Torbay

The English Riviera

We look set to have one of our better summers this year, and the English Riviera is a great place to enjoy the sunshine and the sea. Running from Torquay in the North via Paignton to Brixham in the south, the east facing bay provides a sheltered microclimate, a fact emphasized by the palm trees (actually originating from New Zealand rather than Araby) found in abundance along the Esplanades and harbours here.

Nature has been generous with the sands around Torbay, and with the geology – pretty cliffs and strange cave systems, celebrated now at the English Riviera Geopark. If nature started the job, mankind has progressed it – Torquay can claim to be the UK’s first resort, with long experience of catering to visitors. And there is a happy lack of uniformity within the small area, Brixham remaining a significant fishing port (with all that means for local restaurants), with characterful narrow streets and cottages just a few miles from the chic of Torquay.

Those with a thirst for luxury might look no further than The Imperial Hotel in Torquay, a five-star establishment that seems to have been dropped in from Nice or Cannes, though The Hotel Gleneagles with views over Anstey Cove is equally tempting, and The Grand on the seafront looks like Hercule Poirot should be a guest – unsurprisingly, as Agatha Christie set various stories in the town. The Summerhill Hotel in Paignton is another place rooted in the Victorian era of solid and elegant comfort. For those who enjoy stepping a bit further back in time architecturally for their luxury accommodation Churston Court Hotel near Brixham is a 12th century manor house with 21st century comforts.

There are some hotels with a difference in the area too: Bishop’s Court Hotel in Torquay with pool, tennis court and even 10-pin bowling; or the train-themed Great Western Hotel in Paignton (not too far from the preserved Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway).

Many of us prefer the informality of a proper British B&B for our seaside trips, and Torbay offers enormous choice here: places like Seacroft Guest House in Paignton, and Carrington Guest House in the same town; or The Bahamas Hotel or Mariners’ Guest House in Torquay. There are many many more run by owners experienced in providing holidaymakers with excellent accommodation close to the varied amenities of the area, and at very reasonable rates.

Self-catering is another option many travelling to the coast prefer, especially those with young families: Brixham Holiday Park and the beautifully landscaped Torquay Holiday Park offer one self-catering route; places like All Seasons Holiday Apartments in Paignton another. And in a region famed for its pretty cottages that holiday style is tempting too: agents like Welcome Cottages, Helpful Holidays and Farm and Cottage Holidays offer a wide choice both in the seaside towns and in the countryside beyond. For those who like nothing better than spending their holidays under canvas or in their caravan the area has plenty to offer too: Manor Farm Campsite and Widdecombe Farm Tourist Park in Torquay, for example, or Byslades International Touring and Camping Park in Paignton.

Wherever you stay you’ll want to get out and about on the English Riviera: enjoy the ferry linking the three towns; digging-up in the sands; tasting the local cider in the many historic pubs; or, equally cultural, studying the story of the area in spots like Torre Abbey, Torquay Museum and Brixham Heritage Museum. Alternatively you may just prefer to stroll along the promenades like Hugh Laurie did when playing Bertie Wooster for TV – pretending to be in the South of France, which with the sun, the comfort and the palms was perhaps no great stretch.

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