Guide to Torquay

"Torquay takes its name from being the quay serving the ancient village of Torre and was important initially as a fishing port and then for transporting the local limestone for Victorian construction work..."

Torquay’s history stretches back much further though to 40,000 BC perhaps. Remains found in the town’s world renowned Kent’s Cavern, show that Torquay was one of the earliest settlements of modern humans in Europe. Today visitors can tour the caves with the help of a guide and see not only the traces of early humans but also that of the wild animals that lived in the caves and a mass of beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.

Most people come to Torquay for its beaches and it has these in abundance with all the major ones having Blue Flag Awards for cleanliness and facilities. Whilst the biggest is Torre Abbey Sands, a more attractive and less crowded beach can be found at Babbacombe, which has its own cliff railway, a cable car that saves the often 30% gradient climb over a mile up from the shore to the cliff tops. Oddicombe has a similar climb but unfortunately no mechanical means of getting to it other than walking or by car although parking is very limited at the bottom.

Torquay’s Natural History Museum is a little dated inside and looks like it’s still in the Victorian era but it has a fascinating collection of all things Torquay including Roman coins and other articles that show the presence of the Romans in the area although they built no permanent settlement, the closest being Exeter. There are also many finds from Kent’s Cavern as well as early examples of the local, highly prized Watcombe Motif Pottery.

Despite being highly urbanised in places, Torquay has many fantastic walks to entertain the fit. The cliff top walk from St Marychurch to Maidencombe has stunning views of the Lyme Bay coast and passes over Walls Hill, a site of special scientific interest where rare orchids grow. The adventurous can scramble down the treacherous track to Longquarry Point and see the few remaining bits of evidence of the loading of limestone onto barges for the journey into Torquay and Paignton where the stone was used in the local buildings.

From another unusually named place – Daddyhole Plain, you can walk down ‘Rock Walk’, past the Imperial Hotel and on to Torquay harbour. The walk snakes through informally planted gardens clinging to the cliffs and gives great views over to Brixham. In front of Torre Abbey, formal gardens surround sports facilities including pitch and putt, tennis and bowls and at night the gardens, along with those that link to it passing the Princess Theatre, are illuminated in garish coloured lights, giving it an unearthly feel.

Shopping is generally what you’d expect in most towns although the Pavilion and Fleet Street shopping arcades have a nice range of boutiques selling unusual items and designer clothes.

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