Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Life's a beach in Torquay

Torbay attracts thousands of visitors each year in search of sand, sun and surf, and with 20 beaches and coves dotted along 22 miles of coastline, few go home disappointed.
There are good places to go diving, perfect sands for building great palaces, safe areas to swim, and plenty of room to lay out a towel and just soak up the sunshine.

Here are a few of our favourite beaches, although you can find out information about all of them at the Torbay Council website here

Babbacombe Beach, Babbacombe
A delightful little beach, popular with families and weekend visitors. Although there is limited parking on the steep road down to the cove, although there is a car park and level promenade at the bottom.

Oddicombe Beach, Babbacombe
Around a rocky headland from Babbacombe Beach, Oddicombe is accessible by the cliff railway and offers a secluded getaway from the crowds. Awarded a Blue Flag in 2008, you can easily spend a day on this shingle beach.

Ansteys Cove, Torquay
The perfect base for a clifftop walk, with a path leading out to Hope's Nose and the opportunity for some fabulous views over the bay. There is a cafe near the beach, and also a shop, deck chair and sun bed hire.

Corbyn Head, Torquay
Just a short walk along Torquay Road into town from the cottage, Corbyn Head is very popular with families because of its proximity to Torquay centre and also its many interesting rock pools.

Hollicombe Beach
Our favourite place to get away from it all, and the closest beach to the cottage. A short stroll down to Hollicombe Gardens and through the tunnel leading down to the beach and you could be in another world. Never busy, often deserted, this is a perfect place for a romantic stroll.

Broadsands, Paignton
A lovely crescent-shaped sandy beach, away from the arcades and noise of Paignton. Again, well placed as a base for coastal walks, and just a short distance from the pretty shingle beach at Elberry Cove.

Goodrington Sands, Paignton
With its long unbroken stretch of sand and an amusement centre right next door, Goodrington Sands is perfect for a family with kids to entertain. If somehow they do get bored, you can catch the small steam train from here along the coast.

Paignton Sands
With wide sandy areas either side of the pier and always with plenty going on, Paignton Sands is another ideal family spot. Hire pedalos, go for a swim in the shallow sea, or wander along the the picturesque and often overlook Paignton harbour for some fish and chips.

St Mary's Bay, Brixham
A bit of an open secret but worth the slightly difficult route down, St Mary’s Bay is a delightful sandy stretch of secluded sand.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Find fine dining

Torquay and the surrounding towns are fortunate to have some of the best restaurants and places to eat in the South West. With celebrity chefs, Michelin stars and so much choice, you are in for a culinary treat.
Here are two of our favourites, the Corbyn Head being just a short stroll from the cottage, while a trip to The New Angel will require one of you to drive.

The Orchid, Torquay
Situated on the first floor of the Corbyn Head Hotel head chef Daniel Kay’s eight years in charge have earned two rosettes, three RAC Ribbons and this year a place in the coveted Michelin Red Book. With wonderful views and only 24 covers this is an intimate and special place to eat.
Alternatively, let head chef Wayne Maddern cook you up a treat in the Harbour View Restaurant downstairs. With a four-course set dinner for under £25 and one of the best Sunday lunches in the Bay, you would be mad to walk past on your way to more expensive alternatives.
W: www.orchidrestaurant.net or www.corbynhead.co.uk
T: 01803 296366

The New Angel, Dartmouth
Definitely worth the short drive to the naval college town of Dartmouth where celebrity chef John Burton Race is in residence. Watch the chefs at work on the open ground floor, or eat in more relaxed surroundings of the first floor, or just enjoy cocktails upstairs. The menu, created by Burton Race, showcases the best of local and seasonal ingredients in a modern, French style. And if you miss the last ferry across the river there are six tasteful rooms located just down the street.
W: http://www.thenewangel.co.uk/
T: 01803 839425

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Something old, something new

Torbay has been attracting visitors in search of rest and relaxation since Victorian times when the phrase The English Riviera was first coined. In those days people came for gentle promenades along the beaches and coastal paths, a dip in the sea and to enjoy the wonderful views across Tor Bay.
Although you can still indulge in those very traditional pursuits, the English Riviera has moved with the times and fully deserves its long-standing reputation as one of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations.
Nowadays the three Torbay towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham offer so much more for the year-round visitor, ranging from internationally acclaimed tourist attractions to its many areas of special scientific interest.Whether you want a day out, an afternoon’s diversion, or just a great way to spend a couple of hours, Torbay has it all.
First, let's look at one of the longest-established visitor attractions in the whole of South Devon. In fact, Kents Cavern has been around longer than almost anything on Earth.
Recognised as the most important Stone Age cave in Britain, Kents Cavern has revealed more about palaeolithic Britain than anywhere else. Hand axes dating back almost 500,000 years have been found, as well as an upper jaw bone believed to be the oldest human remain in Europe! Visit http://www.kents-cavern.co.uk/ for more details.
Next, how about something which has only just appeared on the seafront, the balloon.
Newly-installed on Torre Abbey gardens, just off Torquay seafront, this spectacular attraction offers 360 degree views across the whole of Torbay from 400ft up. With up to four flights per hour when the wind is low, you should not miss this chance to see the bay as the seagulls do. Adults £14; concessions £11; children £8 (children under five are free).

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Near neighbour gone upper class

When you come to Torbay you don't necessarily expect top-class shopping facilities. There are many reasons to visit our beautiful corner of the world but these days you might be better off taking your shopping bags and credit card up the road to Exeter.
But there is more to this historic city than the lure of retail therapy.
A short drive north of Torbay, Exeter is the capital city of the county of Devon and is home to the magnificent Exeter Cathedral, which dates back to Norman times. The huge building dominates the centre of the city, and is flanked by ancient streets with wonderful restaurants and hotels.
Alternatively, take a free Red Coat guided tour to get a real feel for the history of one of the oldest cities in England, or simply drop in to the visitor centre and explore yourself.
Wander down to the Quay with its warehouses, bars and restaurants and take a walk along the Exeter Canal Basin where you can follow the canal for five miles to Turf Lock and the Exe Estuary Trail.
Exeter is rightly famed for its top-class shopping, which is due in large part to the 2007 opening of the Princesshay development, with over 60 shops including designer clothing stores and many cafes and restaurants.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Plymouth: ships, shops and chips

Right, we're nearly there! Today let's look at another famous seaside town, this time one with a proud and long naval tradition - Plymouth.
It was here that Sir Francis Drake famously played bowls while the Spanish Armada advanced on the channel, where the Beatles were pictured enjoying the views of the Sound at the height of their powers, and where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail in their search for America.
Today Plymouth, about an hour's drive from Torquay, is a bustling city, with a large commercial centre, proud naval history and fantastic views over the natural wonder of Plymouth Sound. There are many attractions for the visitor, and you will struggle to fit everything into one day if you try to do it all.
Many people head straight for the new shopping centre, based around the large indoor Drake Circus, with its major high street stores, and revamped city precinct. Alternatively, head to the historic Barbican, which dates back to the 16th century and contains many points of interest including the Mayflower Steps, the symbolic leaving point of the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620, and the Plymouth Gin Distillery, which offers guided tours (and tasting!).
Across Sutton Harbour is the National Marine Aquarium, which is a wonderful attraction for the whole family. It houses many impressive tanks with sharks, turtles and all the creatures found in the waters around our coast.
Overlooking the sea is Plymouth Hoe, made famous as the scene of Sir Francis Drake's game of bowls the day England was about to be invaded by the Spanish Armada. It offers superb views across Plymouth Sound and is home to the Royal Citadel, which offers a guided tour and still houses a battalion of marines.
You can also catch a ferry across to Queen Anne's Battery, with great views back towards the Hoe and also out to sea, or take a cruise up the River Tamar, past the Devonport Royal Dockyards, with its frigates and nuclear submarines.
As you can see, a visit to Plymouth might require some forward planning!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Dart over to Dartmouth

While we're looking at all the towns around Torquay, let's focus today on Dartmouth, a lovely little town steeped in history and well worth a visit.
Located south of Brixham, on the banks of the beautiful River Dart, Dartmouth's narrow, medieval streets full of galleries, restaurants and unique shops and beautiful aspect overlooking the picturesque estuary are a real treat for the senses.
Dartmouth has a rich seafaring history with its famous regatta and working port, and is home to the Britannia Royal Naval College which overlooks the town from a hillside above.
There are many sites of historical interest in Dartmouth, including the cobbled pavements of Bayards Cove and the English Heritage Dartmouth Castle, which sits at the mouth of the Dart Estuary. The castle is well worth a visit and you can even take a boat trip from the quayside at Dartmouth, which lands you a short walk from the castle entrance.
You can also take a pleasure cruise either upstream, where much of the renowned TV series 'The Onedin Line' was filmed, or along the coast to watch grey seals.
On land, the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway is another trip worth taking, with steam trains running for seven miles from Paignton along the coast to Churston and on through the wooded slopes bordering the Dart estuary to Kingswear.
With its excellent shopping, high-class restaurants and glorious views, Dartmouth is well worth the trip on the car ferry from the north, even if you have to wait a little while.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

About Newton Abbot

Right, so we've looked at the Bay, now let's move inland and have a gander at one of the area's famous market towns, Newton Abbot, which is about a 15-minute drive from Torquay.
Newton Abbot was originally two towns dating back to the 13th century which were eventually joined under one council until 1901, by which time the railways had arrived and workshops to repair locomotives and carriages were built. While the workshops are all gone now, the mainline station still offers travellers a quick route to London and the north.
Throughout its history Newton Abbot grew steadily to become a bustling commercial centre and market town. There was a weekly market in Newton Abbot as far back as 1220 but it has since closed and today the pedestrianised town centre offers an interesting blend of independent and high street shops.
Nowadays the town is most famous for the racecourse which sits on its north-western edge. Newton Abbot prides itself on being the leading summer jumping racecourse in the UK, and certainly offers a great day out. For more information visit www.newtonabbotracing.com