"A Townful Of Incongruities!!" Top 5 Page for this destination Torquay by johngayton
Torquay Travel Guide: 206 reviews and 471 photos
The South Devon seaside town of Torquay is a place that totally defies categorisation, it doesn't fit easily into any of the ready-labelled boxes that come immediately to mind.
Yes it's a seaside town with all the bells and whistles: a harbour, a pleasant beach at low tide - no beach as such at high tide, amusement arcades, a Regency-style pavilion (a la Brighton), a small working fishing fleet, a seafront promenade and even a pier - albeit one that doesn't do anything these days apart from jut out into the sea.
Being the largest town in the area, which inland is mostly rural, it also has an alter-ego of being the centre for shops, services and entertainment and for my personal purposes comes in handy for cheap out-of-season hotels when I'm working around Exeter - I can get a decent hotel here for less than half the price of the cheapest city hotel and Exeter is only about 40 minutes, and a couple of quid, away by train.
Torquay has a history of inhabitation dating back to the Paleolithic Era - roughly 40,000 years ago - and despite its Premonstratensian Abbey, founded in 1196, being described in 1536 as "the wealthiest in England" was still a relatively minor settlement at the turn of the 18th to 19th century with a population of 838 in 1801. Its growth as a town only began in the early 1800's when the bay was used as a sheltered anchorage by the British fleet during the 1803-1815 Napoleonic wars.
The town's real expansion came with the arrival of the Brunel's Great Western Railway with Torre station being opened in 1848 and then Torquay station in 1859. Borough status was awarded in 1872 by which time it had already been described (in 1864) by the Western Morning News as "the most opulent, the
handsomest and the most fashionable watering place in the British Isles."
Following the award of borough status the town continued to expand and during the next 40 years or so many of its finest buildings were constructed including the Town Hall and the Pavilion.
The town escaped relatively lightly from German bombing during World War II - the town was only specifically targetted a couple of times with most of the war damage being done by bombers dropping their remaining bombs after their raids on Plymouth. Post-war the town, along with Paignton and Brixham, marketed itself as part of the "English Riviera" to attract domestic tourism and was often used as a budget filming location for scenes supposedly set around the Mediterranean.
In the 1960's and 70's the town planners, as with just about everywhere else in the UK, managed to blight the town's character with their concrete office blocks, shopping malls, high-rise apartments and multi-storey car parks. These sit uncomfortably with what was admittedly already a mish-mash of architectural styles but at least the extant mish-mash had the benefit of being developed during the town's era of prosperity.
Even today there seems to be an inconsistency to the developments. The spankingly new marina and harbour improvements sit next to the rusting and crumbling seafront promenade for which there seems to be no funding for repairs. And in fact this is now closed and fenced off "for safety reasons".
Torquay is, of course, on the Southwest Coastal Path, the 630 mile walkway that follows the diverse coastline between Minehead in Somerset and Poole in Dorset. Whilst the bay area itself is quite heavily developed you don't have to travel far to enjoy some stunning scenery.
To the east the path takes you through Babbacombe and up onto its downs where the trail follows the red sandstone clifftops before descending towards the harbour town of Teignmouth (where there are some great pubs).
In the other direction you can just take the bus, the Stagecoach #12, to Brixham if you want to skip the urban section - it takes about 40 minutes. From Brixham heading west offers some spectacular ups and downs before the descent into Kingswear and the ferry crossing to the historic naval port of Dartmouth (where once again you'll find some cracking pubs).
- Pros:Some Cracking Pubs
- Cons:Some VERY Naff Pubs
- In a nutshell:Ludicrously Incongruous!!
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