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How to Holiday in Torquay – What To See & Do

Last updated on June 22nd, 2024 at 10:46 am

Thinking of having a holiday in Torquay? Then you’re in the right place.

Torquay is located in the English county of Devon and receives some of the longest hours of sunshine per day in the United Kingdom. Combine that with the palm trees for which it is well known and you can start to feel as though you might be somewhere more Mediterranean!

I enjoyed a short, 2 night stay in Torquay in Summer 2022 and it did not disappoint. Beautiful beaches, lovely gardens, a busy harbour, nice cafés and restaurants and an interesting history all mean that there is definitely something for everyone in this part of the English Riviera.

Here’s my guide on how to holiday in Torquay.

Peaked Tor Cove

Getting to Torquay

There are various ways you can get to Torquay:

Rail

One of the easiest ways to get to Torquay is by train. Services from London Paddington take around 3 hours whilst services from Manchester and Birmingham will take a little longer.

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I travelled by train to Torquay and would recommend it. Be aware however that the train station is not located in the town centre, although it is very close to the imposing Grand Hotel. The distance to the town centre isn’t that great, but if you have luggage, mobility issues or young children, a bus or taxi would be the way to go. Travel time will only be a few minutes. Otherwise, it will be a nice walk along the sea front.

Road

Torquay is located on the south west coast of Devon, south of Exeter and east of Plymouth. I did not drive to Torquay and therefore suggest using the AA Route Planner to plot your journey by car.

Bus

Taking a bus to Torquay is also an option. Check National Express for up to date timetables and prices. Although travelling by bus will be cheaper than train, it will likely to take longer so depending on how long you plan to holiday in Torquay, this may be a factor to take into account.

You may also want to check with local travel companies or agents as they may well be offering all inclusive holidays in Torquay  (i.e. coach and hotel).

Air

Exeter Airport is the closest airport to Torquay. It is possible to get to Torquay from the airport using public transfer, namely a bus to Exeter St Davids and train from there to Torquay. Alternatively, you could take a taxi or transfer, however these will be more expensive.

You can check transportation options on the Exeter Airport website.

Where To Stay In Torquay

There is an abundance of accommodation options in Torquay and the surrounding areas. Hotels, bed & breakfast stays, guesthouses, cottages, Airbnb’s, family friendly and dog friendly holiday parks….the list goes on!

I stayed in Green Corner Villa and it was lovely. You can research available accommodation options and book here:

A Bit of History

Torquay and its surrounding area have been occupied for centuries – hand axes found at Kents Cavern date from 450,000 years ago. Roman soldiers also visited the area following the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD.

Parts of Torquay are mentioned in the 1086 Doomsday Book and in 1196 Torre Abbey was founded.

The Napoleonic Wars kept many rich Brits from visiting continental Europe so they turned their attention to local destinations, such as Torquay, instead. Tor Bay, the bay where Torquay and nearby towns of Paignton and Brixham are located, became a large anchorage for the Royal Navy fleet which protected the country from invasion by Napoleon.

Torquay grew as a holiday resort throughout the 1800s, with the development of the railway having a huge impact.

Several famous writers also moved to the area – Elizabeth Barrett Browning in 1838 and Rudyard Kipling in 1896. Several other novels are said to have been written there and of course Agatha Christie was born in the town in 1890.

During World War One, Torquay was home to a number of hospitals for wounded servicemen and during World War Two the town was bombed. In 1948, the watersports events of the summer Olympics were held in Tor Bay.

Today Torquay is a thriving, popular holiday destination.

Image showing beacon Cove in Torquay
Beacon Cove

What To See & Do During A Holiday In Torquay

In addition to simply relaxing and enjoying the sea air, you should take advantage of what Torquay and its neighbours have to offer.

Here are my suggestions for things to do in Torquay and the surrounding areas:

1. Visit Torre Abbey

In 1196 six Premonstratensian canons from Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire founded Torre Abbey. By 1536 it was the richest Premonstratensian house in England, however in 1539 the Abbey was dissolved as part of King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The dissolution resulted in demolition of the church and other buildings and the removal of all items of value, including the lead off the roof.

Parts of the property unscathed by dissolution were converted into a house. Ownership changed hands over the years until acquired by the Cary family in 1662. They owned the house until it was bought by the Torquay Borough Council in 1930.

Today Torre Abbey houses various galleries where visitors can learn about the history of the Abbey and view various art works and antiques. There are also extensive gardens and the Abbey ruins to see, a gift shop and a café.

Adjacent to the house are the exterior grounds and the Spanish Barn. It was in the latter that 397 prisoners from the Spanish Armada were housed, hence its name.

Tickets for the house and gardens are £11 for adults and £4.00 for children aged (5-18). Under 5s are free. Check the official Torre Abbey site for up to date visitor information including ticket pricing.

Torre Abbey is also home to the annual Agatha Christie festival which celebrates the crime writer and her legacy. The 2024 festival will take place on 6-15th September.

2. Explore Torquay Harbour

No visit to Torquay will be complete without a wander around the harbour. Located a short walk from the town, the harbour is a busy place with almost 1,000 berths available so there’s plenty of lovely boats to look at!

Haldon Pier to the south and Princess Pier to the west act as breakwaters. Princess Pier was built in 1890 and is a popular spot, offering lovely views over Torre Abbey Sands (see below) and surrounding areas. It’s also popular with anglers and is a perfect place for a stroll (or to just sit and watch the world go by!).

3. Take the Ferry to Brixham

The fishing village of Brixham is located a short, 30 minute, boat trip across Tor Bay from Torquay. Tickets for the Western Lady Ferry can be purchased online or at Torquay harbour, however the ferry is seasonal so check before visiting.

In Brixham you can explore the harbour, wander around the village and relax at Breakwater Beach before your return trip to Torquay.

4. Hang Out on Torre Abbey Sands

Torre Abbey Sands is the main beach in Torquay. It’s a lovely stretch of sand and very popular with all holiday makers, especially those who enjoy making sandcastles!

5. Walk Part of the South West Coast Path

The South West Coast Path runs for some 630 miles around England’s south west peninsula. I am not suggesting you walk the entire route (although you can if you want!) but you will see markers for part of the route in Torquay.

Check the South West Coast Path site for walking routes through Torquay and the surrounding area.

6. Explore the Agatha Christie Mile

Crime novelist Agatha Christie was born in Torquay on 15 September 1890, a fact that the town is understandably proud of.

The Agatha Christie Mile was created with the help of Agatha’s daughter and launched in her centenary year. Fans of the author can follow the Mile and discover 7 special plaques dedicated to the Queen of Crime. In addition, the Mile includes various other sites that were significant during her life.

Pick up a leaflet from the Visitor Information Centre or view it online.

7. Eat Fish and Chips!

You can’t go to the seaside without indulging in some fish and chips (or in my case, fishcake and chips!). Torquay has plenty of lovely restaurants, however there’s something about buying fish and chips along the harbour and eating them al fresco that really makes you feel like you’re on holiday.

Image showing a fishcake and some chips! Eating fish and chips outside by the harbour is a definite must do during a holiday in Torquay

8. Relax in Princess Gardens

Located along the seafront you will find the lovely Princess Gardens, complete with water fountain, palm trees (imported from New Zealand!) and flower beds. The gardens are named after the 4th daughter of Queen Victoria, Princess Louise, who laid the foundation stone in May 1890. You’ll find Torquay’s Princess Theatre located in the middle of the Princess Gardens.

9. Ride the English Riviera Wheel

The English Riviera Wheel is located in the Pavilion Gardens, next to the Princess Theatre on Torquay’s waterfront. With a trip on the wheel taking about 12 minutes, you’ll have plenty of time to admire the views of Torquay and its harbour from 100 feet above.

Check the English Riviera Wheel site for up to date visitor information including pricing and opening times.

Image showing the English Riviera Wheel, a ferris wheel to ride during a holiday in Torquay

If You Are Planning More Than A Short Holiday In Torquay

If you are looking for alternative activities or you plan on having a slightly longer holiday in Torquay than I did, then, subject to the time of year you visit, you may want to consider including some of the following, popular activities, in your itinerary:

  • a visit to Babbacombe Model Village & Gardens, a 4 acre site with hundreds of miniature scenes, people and vehicles
  • a day trip to nearby Paignton, Totnes or Dartmouth
  • afternoon tea at the Imperial – this hotel perched on the cliffs appears in several Agatha Christie novels!
  • a visit to Torquay museum 
  • seeing a show at the Princess Theatre
  • a visit to Kents Cavern Prehistoric Caves
  • relaxing at Meadfoot Beach
  • a visit to Torquay’s Dinosaur World
  • a visit to Greenway House, once owned by Agatha Christie
  • enjoying various watersports, including kayaking and paddleboarding
  • a visit to Cockington Country Park, a 450 acre park with an historic manor house, thatched cottages, and 11th century church and lakes
  • join an Agatha Christie guided walk

Final Thoughts

I can highly recommend a holiday in Torquay! South Devon is a beautiful part of the country and Torquay one of the best places to visit. With an array of typical seaside town activities to enjoy along with some beautiful areas to walk, a fascinating history and plenty of food and drink options, Torquay has something for everyone.

If you need any further assistance in planning your Torquay holiday then do check my Resources page.

If you’re looking for other holiday destinations in the UK, then be sure to read my Bath, Windsor and Canterbury posts as these would be perfect places to add to your itinerary.

Image showing London Bridge Arch, a rock formation on the Torquay coastline. Walking along the coastal path is something to do when on holiday in Torquay.
London Bridge Arch

Disclaimer – Information correct at the time of writing but do check before visiting.

Disclosure – This post may contain affiliate links. That means that if you book something using them, I will earn a small commission but you will not pay anything extra. Thank you for supporting my blog.

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