"The three resorts that make up the English Riviera are quite different. Whilst Torquay considers itself the most genteel of the three, Paignton is definitely the place for fun..."
It’s everyone’s idea of a traditional English seaside resort with plentiful shops selling buckets and spades, kiss me quick hats and T-shirts and sticks of rock and candyfloss. The main beach here is Goodrington Sands but there’s also Preston Sands and Paignton’s own beach. Preston Sands has golden brown coarse sand and a gently slope into the sea. Paignton beach is similar whilst Goodrington has the added attraction of extensive rock pools visible at low tide. Beware though for the pools are the haunt of the Devil Crab – so called because of its red eyes. It has one of the strongest grips of any crab and its claws lock on its victim – including fingers and toes meaning a very painful nip that has been known to part joints!
Paignton is a terminus on the famous Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway – a very successful steam train that runs on its own line from Paignton to Kingswear, and ostensibly on to Dartmouth, which is unique in being the only operational railway station in the UK without a railway line going to it – travellers must alight at Kingswear and take the ferry across the River Dart to Dartmouth station.
Paignton is also the home of Oldway Mansion, today, part of the council buildings but formerly the home of Paris Singer, member of the Singer sewing machine entrepreneurs and lover of the rebellious American dancer Isadora Duncan. The mansion was remodelled by Singer on the Palace of Versailles to please Duncan. It originally had Jacques-Louis David’s huge masterpiece, The Crowning of Josephine above the staircase but the original was sold to the French government and now hangs in Versailles whilst a copy of the reproduction that replaced it still hangs in place in the mansion. Oldway even has a replica of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors, adding to the authenticity of the design.
For children, Paignton is also home to a great waterpark called Quaywest with some very exciting rides including ‘Kamikaze’, where the rider holds onto bars suspended over a near vertical drop before letting go and freefalling thirty metres into a run out track. Next to this is an only slightly less scary ride with a series of three flats that plunge into near vertical drops before running out.
Evening entertainment in Paignton can be either at the Apollo Cinema complex on the seafront which filled the vacant Festival Theatre building or for theatre goers, the town’s Palace Theatre is now the venue of choice. Restaurants in the town cater for families and are generally mid-market – if you want better range and quality, you’d need to head into Torquay.