Tuesday, 28 April 2009

May Day fun fayre

If you're in Torquay for May Day, make sure you don't miss the May Day Fayre at Cockington Court. The fun starts on May 4, at 10am.
Cockington Court is set in 450 acres of beautiful parkland complete with thriving craft centre, tea rooms and stables.Visitors can enjoy exploring the trails and walks around the grounds and lakes. Or take it easy with a horse and carriage ride and discover the doomsday village of Cockington with its thatched cottages and old forge. For the inquisitive, watch the wonderful demonstrations by skilled Torquay craftsmen in the craft centre. See the glass blowing or watch the blacksmith at his forge, browse through local artwork whilst watching the artists at work in the gallery. Take a journey back in time in the walled rose garden or learn about the craft of organic gardening in the kitchen garden.Feeling peckish? Then enjoy a spot of lunch at the excellent Cockington restaurant, or just bring a picnic along and enjoy the space.
See the Cockington website here for directions and more information.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Go and meet the animals

One of the best days out in Torbay is a visit to the zoo. Forget those old-fashioned throwbacks where there is not enough room for the animals with big bars between you and them.
The zoo is situated just off the main ring road connecting Torquay to Paignton, and welcomes thousands of visitors each year.
Paignton Zoo was founded by Herbert Whitley, a shy, eccentric, millionaire, and was opened to the public in 1923. Torbay Zoological Gardens, as it was known, included monkeys, bison, zebras, baboons and many birds. Entry was one shilling for adults and sixpence for children. From the earliest times education, conservation and botanical themes were important.
The zoo is now an education and scientific charity dedicated to conserving our global wildlife heritage and inspiring in its many visitors a life long respect for animals and the environment.
The zoo is home to thousands of amazing animals and plants. Walk through a world of wonder – visit the desert, cross the savannah, explore the forest and trek through the tropics. Use your senses to discover the wild world: look around, listen out – you’ll even need your sense of smell! Find out about conservation and the world’s endangered species.
Paignton Zoo is a great day out for everyone. As well as the thousands of animals, there’s a miniature train ride, a wobbly jungle bridge in Lemur Wood, indoor and outdoor play areas, keeper talks and feeding times, places to eat and places to sit – all packed into 80 acres of natural habitat.
Check out their website here

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Oldway still pulling crowds

Torbay is not just about fabulous beaches, it has some pretty interesting history too.

One of the most fascinating days out you can spend on the English Riviera is at Oldway Mansion, a little oasis of calm and splendour tucked away behind the main road linking Torquay to Paignton.
A visit here is a trip to the the place where Isaac Singer, whose name adorns sewing machines around the world, entertained his colourful friends and where his son, Paris, danced with the beautiful Isadora Duncan.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Around 1871 the Fernham estate in Paignton was purchased by Isaac Merritt Singer, the founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. The old buildings on the site were demolished and he commissioned a local architect, George Soudon Bridgman[1] to build a new mansion as his home. Isaac Merritt Singer died on 23 July 1875, shortly before work on the original mansion was completed.
Paris Eugene Singer, Isaac Singer's third son, supervised the alterations at Oldway Mansion between 1904 and 1907. The rebuilding work was modelled on the Palace of Versailles, and the eastern elevation of the building was inspired by the Place de la Concorde in Paris. The interior of the building is noted for its grand staircase made from marble and balusters of bronze. The ceiling of the staircase is decorated with an ornate painting based on an original design for the Palace of Versailles by the French painter and architect Joseph Lebrun. The ceiling is a replica painted by Carl Rossner, who studied the original by Lebrun before creating the reproduction.
Above the staircase there is a large painting entitled The Crowning of Josephine by Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David. The original was sold to the French government in 1946 and now hangs in the Palace of Versailles. Today there is a replica of the painting hanging in its place. The reproduction is a colour print which was unveiled in 1995.
The gallery on the first floor is a reproduction of the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, and is floored in parquet. The gallery leads into the ballroom, which contains walls of gilt panelling and mirrors. Above the fireplace there is an oil painting of Louis of Bourbon dating from 1717.
Oldway Mansion is set in 17 acres (69,000 m2) of gardens, which are laid out on an Italian theme by the French landscape gardener Achille Duchesne. Beneath the eastern elevation of the building is the maze, which consists of dwarf box hedging and flower beds. To the south of the mansion there is the grotto garden where a waterfall passes over a rocky cave into a pool below. The grounds of the mansion contain many sub-tropical plants and shrubs.
Opposite the main entrance to the mansion is a large round building known as The Rotunda. This was built in 1873, and was used originally as a horse riding pavilion and exercise area. Isaac Merritt Singer gave this building the nickname of "The Wigwam".
Paris Singer is noted for his love affair with the dancer Isadora Duncan, who died in a road accident in 1927. Following the end of their relationship in 1917, Paris became an American citizen and went to live in the United States. This was done partly for tax reasons, and after 1918 Oldway Mansion was no longer the permanent home of the Singer family.
During the period of the First World War from 1914 to 1918, Oldway Mansion was transformed into the American Women’s War Relief Hospital. The Rotunda was converted to house rows of beds for the wounded soldiers being brought back to England from the trenches of France and Belgium. Queen Mary visited the hospital in November 1914.
Oldway Mansion became the Torbay Country Club in 1929. During this period tennis courts and a bowling green were added to the grounds that can still be seen today.
During the Second World War from 1939 to 1945, Oldway was used in the war effort by housing RAF cadets training to be aircrew. In 1943 Oldway was damaged in an air raid, along with many other buildings in Paignton. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the mansion in 1943 .
Paignton Urban District Council purchased Oldway Mansion from the Singer family in 1946 for the sum of £45,000. It is estimated that around £200,000 was spent on building the mansion. Today the building is used mainly as council offices and for civil marriage ceremonies. There are also offices for the BBC local radio station Radio Devon in the building. The mansion and its grounds can be visited free of charge by members of the public, and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Torbay. The mansion has a small museum with exhibits linked to the building's history, including antique Singer sewing machines. Oldway Mansion is a Grade II listed building.
In recent years the cost of maintaining the building and gardens has increased considerably, leading to the suggestion that they should be sold and turned into a casino or apartments. This suggestion has been controversial, since local residents argue that the mansion was sold at a reduced price on the understanding that it would be open to the public.

Entry to the house is free and there is a small exhibition in the foyer

Friday, 17 April 2009

Easy to pass, shame to miss

There are plenty of places to visit in and around Torbay, but sometimes you might just drive on through without realising the charms of the various towns and villages. Here are some of our favourite little places to visit, maybe not for a day, perhaps not even for an afternoon, but certainly worth the trip and a shame if you miss them.

With a brand-new shopping centre, plenty of good restaurants, a restored docks area for walks along the river and many sights of historical interest, including a wonderful cathedral, Exeter has it all for a great family day out. Just half an hour away by car but also well connected by bus and rail services from Torquay.

A small village with good pub that is busy in the summer, located between Paignton and Brixham by the River Dart. You can walk down to Galmpton Creek. Agatha Christie lived near here at Greenaway

Famous for its Golf Course you can walk down to the sea from this small village between Brixham and Paignton. Railway Station on the main road for the Dart Valley Railway. Location map

Stoke Gabriel
A pub, nice church, a Sunday drive out of Torbay, turn off the A385 Paignton to Totnes road just after Paignton, or get lost in the lanes, an adventure!, by turning off the ring road between Paignton and Brixham. You can get to Galmpton from Stoke Gabriel.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The hottest ticket in town

Visitors to Torquay have for years visited the theatre, enjoying the delights of many a varied shows. By far the biggest and most popular theatre in Torbay is the Princess Theatre, which currently has comedian Rob Brydon appearing.
The Princess Theatre first opened its doors on Wednesday, June 7, 1961. Top of the bill on the opening night were the late, great Tommy Cooper and the legendary Morecambe and Wise.
The theatre was built by Torbay Council as the main feature of the redevelopment of the Princess Gardens area on Torquay seafront. The theatre replaced a marquee which was erected annually to house light entertainment.
Theatres in seaside resorts are traditionally known for their annual Summer Season consisting of light entertainment and family variety shows and Torquay is no exception. In the past the Princess Theatre has seen artistes such as Jim Davidson, Jethro and Jimmy Cricket making regular appearances. However Summer 2002 saw a change from the traditional line-up to a six-week run consisting of two West End musicals Grease and Chicago. Summer 2003 saw a similar offering, featuring the Blues Brothers, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Boogie Nights, with musicals proving to be a popular choice for the local people of Torbay as well as the holidaymakers. The same sort of program runs to this day, with the odd major solo star turning up for a sell-out show.
For more information check out the Princess Theatre website here

Friday, 10 April 2009

Choo, choo, choose your train

Torbay has a rich rail heritage although these days you would never guess. There are some pointers hidden away behind the scenes, if you look hard enough, such as the old station just off Torquay Road which is now an art studio.
But for those of you who crave a day on the rails, there are two very good attractions near to the cottage which will satisfy even the most diehard trainspotter.

Dart Valley Steam Railway
Travel Torbay's spectacular coast and the beautiful River Dart by steam train from Paignton to Kingswear, then on to Dartmouth by passenger ferry. Combine this with a circular river cruise on a boat train service, or cruise up-river to Totnes and take an open-top bus back to Paignton for a complete day out on the Round Robin service. www.paignton-steamrailway.co.uk/

South Devon Railway
Travel an historic line between Buckfastleigh and Totnes. The line closed to all traffic in 1962 with the South Devon Railway Trust taking over the running of the line in 1991. http://www.southdevonrailway.org/

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Less can still mean more in Torbay

You will want to eat out when you come to Torquay, but you don't have to break the bank to have a good time. Here are some of our favourite places to fill up for less than you might expect.

Hanbury’s Fish & Chips, Babbacombe, Torquay
South West fish and chip shop of the year for four years and consistently one of the best places to enjoy one of our national dishes in the area. Enjoy your meal in the relaxed restaurant with varied menu or indulge in the great British institution: takeaway.
W: http://www.hanburys.net/flash.html
T: 01803 314616 (restaurant), 329928 (takeaway)

Edwards Brasserie
A popular local haunt with a varied menu, specialising in steaks and fish dishes which are sure to satisfy a big appetite.
T: 01803 290855

Kim Long Restaurant, Braddons Hill, Torquay
A Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant right in the middle of town with great views over the harbour. A relaxed, friendly place to eat.
T: 01803 291577

Ocean View Brasserie, Torquay
Husband and wife team Neil and Justyna Fanous opened Ocean Brasserie in July 2004 before which they gained experience in some of Europe’s top establishments, including Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant in Padstow. Here they offer a menu making use of the excellent local produce available with a strong bias towards seafood from Brixham and Plymouth fish markets.
W: http://www.oceanbrasserie.co.uk/
T: 01803 292359

Friday, 3 April 2009

Lots to see, lots to do

You're spoilt for choice in Torquay if you like living things - with one of the best zoos in the country as well as a brand new visitor attraction at Living Coasts, and the prehistoric majesty of Kent's Cavern. Here is a brief guide to each of them, but for best results why not just go and experience them for yourselves.

Kents Cavern
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 www.kents-cavern.co.uk for more details.

Paignton Zoo
One of Europe’s finest zoos, focusing on conservation and habitat. Visit the new gorilla enclosure, enter the crocodile swamp, or just take a trip on the Jungle Express, there is so much to see and do here. Visit www.paigntonzoo.org.uk for more details.

Living Coasts
A coastal zoo right on Torquay seafront, offering visitors the chance to experience the wildlife of our shores with birds and mammals in specially-designed naturalistic habitats, as well as some more exotic creatures, such as those found in the new mangrove exhibit. www.livingcoasts.org.uk/