Guide to Brixham

"Brixham is the most traditional of the English Riviera’s three towns. Originally a fishing port, it has retained this as its main industry despite the demise of Britain’s fishing fleet..."

During its history, the maritime venturers also turned to smuggling and the town was high on the list of the Customs and Excise officer’s watch list. French brandy was smuggled here as well as tobacco. Originally the town was split in two, divided by a marshy area. The hilly part was called Cowtown where the farmers lived and worked whilst the lower town was called Fishtown for obvious reasons. Today the town’s annual carnival is called the Cowtown Carnival remembering those early days of the town.

One of the most impressive ways to access Brixham is to take a boat trip across Tor Bay from Torquay. Whilst the bay can often be rough, even in summer, it’s a great way to get to understand how the fishermen and smugglers felt when they approached the port. Most of the trips include a stay of a few hours and a fish and chip meal made with locally caught fish.

In the harbour you’ll see an incredible scale replica of Sir Francis Drake’s vessel, The Golden Hind and can go on board to learn more about the original in which he circumnavigated the globe. Also near the harbour you’ll find Battery Gardens which housed the cannon that protected the south coast from attack in Napoleonic times but the gun emplacements there today are from the Second World War when Britain feared yet another invasion.

Brixham has a historic natural landmark in Berry Head. Originally an Iron Age hill fort due to its commanding position, the antiquity was destroyed during the construction of extensive defences to ward off attacks on navy ships anchoring in the bay during Napoleonic times. The buildings from that time still exist and have been converted into the visitor centre for those who come to see its wonderful natural life.

The terrain of the headland is such that it is one of the few thinly covered limestone soil areas in the country giving it a selection of rare plants and fauna. It’s also the home and nesting grounds for many sea birds including the largest roost of guillemots in the south.

Just outside Brixham is Woodlands Adventure Park, the largest theme park and zoo in the southwest. It has plenty of attractions to occupy old and young including tea rooms and a small garden centre. There are water rides and a trolley track ride for the thrill seekers.

Eating out in Brixham is largely centred around the harbour and is, as you’d expect, mainly fish based. That said, some of the better restaurants such as the Poopdeck or Beamers serve the locally caught fish in innovative and tasty ways. Nightlife is almost non-existent here with a drink in a pub preceded by a walk along the breakwater being the height of entertainment. For anything more exciting, Paignton or Torquay would have to be your destination.

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