Home / articles / A Virtual Tour of South Devon – part 1, Torquay

A Virtual Tour of South Devon – part 1, Torquay

Torquay inner harbour

I have said recently that I will post some more photos of the area in which we live and so I am starting with the town of Torquay, one of the three towns which together make up the Borough of Torbay, named after the bay around which the towns are situated.  The other towns are Paignton and Brixham and I will post about those another time.  Torbay is on Devon’s South coast, and enjoys a mild climate (well, milder than most other parts of the British Isles.)

Here you will see Torquay’s inner harbour, perhaps the most picturesque part of the town.

This photo was taken before there were pontoons in the harbour, and boats bobbed at anchor rather than being in what I refer to as a boat park!  Much prettier, I think, but of course with pontoons, more boats can be accommodated.

There is a bridge between the inner and outer harbours, with sluice gates, so that there is always water now in the inner harbour and boats can come and go freely, even at low tide.  When craft are not wishing to leave or enter harbour, pedestrians can walk across this bridge

This view of the harbour was taken from the Big Wheel which is erected each summer on the sea front.  Here you can see the pontoons for the boats, all neatly lined up like peas in a pod

Torquay became a holiday resort during the Napoleonic Wars, the town expanding from the 1840s when the railway from London reached the nearby market town of Newton Abbot.  While Torquay is not known primarily for its architecture, this  doesn’t mean to say that it doesn’t have some excellent buildings.  The Harvey brothers, local builder/architects, built at least two terraces:  Lisburne Terrace and Hesketh Crescent. I don’t have any photos of Lisburne Terrace but Hesketh Crescent is truly elegant:

The island in the Bay (in the photo above) is called Thatcher Rock.  It is only inhabited by birds. Oh, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with our late Prime Minister, Mrs (later Baroness) Thatcher.

A short distance from the harbour, and with lovely views of the Bay, is the much older Torre Abbey (photo below).   “A community of white canons, Premonstratensians from Welbeck Abbey, lived here until the Dissolution, when the abbey was converted into a private house.  In the 18th century it returned to Roman Catholic hands, when it became the home of the Cary family, who consecrated a church in a former guest hall.  It was the Carys who entertained Nelson when he came here in 1801; they lived on in a house set on the side of the monks’ refectory until 1929, when they sold I to Torquay Corporation.  It has now become the town’s art gallery and museum,” says historian, Shirley Toulson.

Torre Abbey (in the background in this photo) is a lovely place to visit and also for children as there are some inter-active displays which are informative as well as fun (the above photo was taken, of course, in spring.)  There is a fine collection of paintings and other items of historical interest, including Torquay pottery.  The Spanish Barn (explanation below) is the stone building on the left in this photograph.

The Children’s Holiday, c1864 by William Holman Hunt

The Spanish Barn is a former tithe barn built at the same time as the abbey in the early thirteenth century, since when it has been known as the Spanish Barn after it was used for fourteen days to hold 397 prisoners of war from the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Around the sea front there are various gardens, and I especially like the garden close to the harbour which has a splendid Victorian fountain which is about to be dismantled and renovated as it has begun to tilt.  But I expect it will be back in place before the summer season 2018.

Behind the fountain you can see the town’s war memorial and the white building in the background is the Princess Theatre, built in 1961.

Here is a formal Edwardian-style sunken garden, close to Torre Abbey, and which is always well-maintained

Another view of the sunken garden, taken on another occasion with different planting

Not a garden, but just a wall in one of the streets off the sea front, but I took this photo as it shows a fine display of Valerian which grows wild in Devon, and in such profusion that it has become known as ‘Devon Pride’.  The colours range from white to deepest cerise.  Not everyone likes this invasive plant, but I am not one of them; I think it’s splendid and enhances grey stone walls.

Here is a road near the harbour where there is a terrace of Regency houses, in one of which Elizabeth Barrett Browning stayed in 1838.  For those who are not familiar with Regency architecture, strictly speaking this period covers only the years 1811-20 when the Prince of Wales (later George IV) served as Regent, but in decorative arts and architecture terms it usually describes the period from the 1790s to 1830.  You could say it’s Georgian with embellishments, such as wrought ironwork (as in the houses above) and verandas.

Torquay is lovely at any time of the year, from spring to winter.  The photo below was taken in autumn a few years ago, on one of our strolls  around the harbour.

As you leave Torquay, heading towards Paignton, you pass many of the hotels which now line the seafront.

The Grand Hotel, where Agatha Christie once stayed

I have only scratched the surface of this seaside town, known for it’s mild climate and pretty harbour, but there is so much to offer visitors here, from the lovely beaches to the parks and gardens, the town’s Museum (not shown here), the art gallery (Torre Abbey), and Living Coasts sea life centre.  This is not an advert for the town, but just to show readers in other countries the area in which I live.

Until next time.

About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. I have not read this post yet as I want to do that when I have a little more time, but scrolling through the pictures – oh how beautiful! Someday, I just have to come to England and see all these lovely sites you show on your blog.

    • Margaret Powling

      Glad you like my photos (chosen for many hundreds) of Torquay, Jeannine. I will show Paignton and Brixham in due course, and then spread wider afield, to Dartmoor perhaps and to Shaldon and Teignmouth just along the coast. What I think anyone from abroad would find here in the UK is that there really is something for everyone – mountains and hills, coasts and beaches, towns and villages, all with their own special character and style. For example, in Suffolk on the East coast of the UK in an area known as East Anglia, the cottages are traditionally painted Suffolk pink, a really deep pink, whereas here in Devon, they are traditionally white-walled and thatched, or of granite, and in Kent they have clapboard which is painted, akin to New England in the USA. And of course the UK is known for it’s wonderful historic houses, churches and cathedrals (here we have a wonderful Decorated Gothic Cathedral in the country city of Exeter.)

  2. What lovely photo’s very cheering to look at as it is cold and dark here at the moment.

  3. What a beautiful place. How special to live there.

  4. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    Of course I know your area very well being a Devon Maid, we have had some lovely weekends there, the gardens are absolutely gorgeous, everything so neat. You are truly blessed to have such beauty on your doorstep.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, you will know the area, Marlene, as a Devon Maid, as you say. Today we have been to Torquay and driven home along by the sea and it was lovely, even on a dull day.

  5. What an interesting post, thank you Margaret, I have never been to Torquay, having only driven through Devon to head further west, so all new to me. I too liked the summer photos, it is bitterly cold here in East Anglia today with infrequent snow showers but it lifts the heart to think about those warmer days!

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I’ve no doubt it’s colder in East Anglia, Elaine, than here in relatively mild South Devon although when we went out today the external temperature as drove along the ring road to Torquay registered 3C in the car, and now, the sun having done down, it’s much colder, perhaps just above freezing. We love East Anglia, how we wish it were closer! We love the coast around Aldeburgh, Southwold, Walberswick, Orford, but it’s a long drive from Devon and as we’re older we know we can’t do this in one day as we used to, but perhaps next year we might, stopping off halfway at a B&B, you never know.

      • Yes, believe so as we have a current temperature of zero with a windchill of minus 4, bbbrr, I am staying nice and cosy though, a cup of ovaltine, a mince pie and the Christmas Food channel, perfect!
        There are so many beautiful places in the United Kingdom, one of our daydreams is to spend a summer touring the whole of the UK coast in a motor home, how wonderful would that be. I do hope that you get to visit East Anglia again, I think stopping off halfway would be an excellent idea and would break the journey up nicely.

        • Margaret Powling

          I didn’t know there was a Christmas Food channel on TV! You learn something every day, ha ha! Oh, I’d better not watch that, Elaine! I don’t need encouragement to eat!
          That is an excellent idea, to tour the whole of the coast in the UK in a motor home! But in the meantime, East Anglia would be a lovely place for us to visit again.

  6. These photos are marvelous, Margaret. Such beautiful blue skies and colorful flowers. I think the architecture is wonderful, especially the Crescent. England always appears cared for so well. Off to read your latest post. You’re on fire! I can hardly keep up! :O) But I’m loving all your posts, and your new dresses are very pretty, too!

    • Margaret Powling

      I’m so glad you approve of Torquay, Bess. Parts of the town, like towns throughout the world, have rougher areas and are not as well cared for, but this is inevitable although undesirable. But the good outweighs the bad, I think, and regardless of the changes of business – the shops were ‘better’ when I was a child, with lovely smart shops in Torquay where there are now pound stores and fast food outlets, but that’s progress, I suppose! Much of England is well-cared for, but councils have a fight on their hands against fly tippers (people who dump rubbish where they shouldn’t rather than at the town’s recycling centre) but in the main, we still have a truly magnificent country. Small wonder that so many people wish to visit the UK and not only that, live here.
      Regarding the dark blue dress, I have returned it! While it was a very nice dress but it was wishful thinking that it looked good on me, so I shall continue my search for something a little more flattering.

  7. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    Lovely, lovely photographs of an area for which I have great affection. Just a few weeks ago we walked around the inner harbour and across the bridge on a beautifully sunny early autumn day. The gardens look fabulous; your pictures definitely show them at their best. But my favourite photo? Hesketh Crescent…ooohhhhh, fabulous! I definitely need a walk along there on my next visit.

    • Margaret Powling

      Hesketh Crescent is lovely and it overlooks Meadfoot beach, a beach that few holiday makers know. Perhaps that should be my next Virtual Tour – out of Torquay towards Babbacombe via Meadfoot and Wellswood (where I visit the charity shop which supports the local hospice.) At Meadfoot, or just above Meadfoot, is the great white block of flats, Kilmorie, built in 1961 – apartments for the wealthy, with wonderful views of the whole of Torbay.

  8. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    A beautiful crescent AND overlooking a beach. I suspect the houses are a tad outside my price range. And there was I thinking of a little holiday property. Haha

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, Hesketh Crescent is in a lovely position, just over the hill from Torquay Habour but it seems a world away from all the shops and boats. I will be showing more of this area on my next virtual tour of Torbay. The central house in the Crescent is now the Osborne Hotel, and many of the other properties are offices and holiday apartments, I don’t think any are now private houses.

  9. Oh Margaret those photos are simply stunning. I adore the architecture of the fine buildings, the colours of the flowers and the formality of those beautiful gardens. I feel like I’ve been on a magic carpet ride with my own tour guide 🙂 I can see why your area is so warmly regarded by locals and tourists alike. I love learning about where other people live. Naturally nosey (spell check had changed that last word to ‘noisey’. Maybe it’s trying to tell me something).

    Well done for returning the dress. It looked lovely in the photo but as you (and others) say there is no point in wearing something you don’t feel good in. It will only hang in your wardrobe and you are much better off exchanging it for something you love and look good wearing.

    Another wonderful post and, as always, I also enjoy reading the many comments.

    ps. Oh 3 deg. C !! I’m almost jealous. Over here in my little part of Australia we are having 25-29 deg. C and such high humidity that I feel like I am permanently red-faced and frizzy-haired. When I’m hot I struggle to imagine feeling cold and vice versa….. First World Problem, I know xx

    • Margaret Powling

      It isn’t quite as cold today, Lara, and the wind has dropped, but it’s still winter-coat cold. But that might be pleasant for you, suffering from 25-29C heat!
      I’m glad you liked all the photos, too, Lara, and I will be posting more shortly; the next virtual tour will be just a stone’s throw from the harbour … but more in due course. I am a nosey person, too! Sometimes, when I see houses in magazines, especially if they show book cases, I get my magnifying glass and turn the magazine sideways so I can try and read the titles!
      I have had to return yet another item, an off-white Breton top with navy stripes. It is the same size (well, so it says) as the navy one, and when I put them together, apart from the sleeve length (the new one had very long sleeves, the navy one had 3/4 length sleeves) they were the same, but when I put on the off-white one it was just too baggy, and even the neckline sagged. I really couldn’t work it out why as they really were the same size, but already it has been packed up and posted. I’ve kept the new scarf though; as with perfume, they don’t need to fit!

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