Days out in and around Torquay-Our recommendations
Are you looking for ideas for days out in and around Torquay? Here are our suggestions of places to go and things to do to help our guests at Cockington Holiday Cottages. It is by no means exhaustive but includes places that we visit combined with positive feedback from previous guests.
Our guests mostly tend to be couples, sometimes with older children. We have a separate blog suggesting activities and days out with teenagers HERE
On The Beach
Who doesn’t love a Day out on the beach and Torbay has over 20 beaches and coves for exploring. The Top 10 are listed here.
Meadfoot beach is a firm favourite with the locals with plenty of parking nearby or you can access via the coast path. There are steep steps down to the beach which is sand and shingle and a great place if you like to swim. You’ll see all types of small craft such as canoes and paddle boards being launched off the beach so it’s great for a bit of people spotting too. The lovely Meadfoot beach cafe at the top has stunning views!
Babbacombe Beach can be accessed via a steep, wooded walk down from Babbacombe Downs or via the Victorian Babbacombe Cliff railway. A very popular beach with the lovely 3 Degrees West cafe and a gift shop selling buckets & spades etc. Watersports hire available in high season. Lovely walks can be enjoyed through the steep woodland with spectacular coastal views.
Goodrington Sands is a very popular, family friendly sandy beach near Paignton. It has many facilities: toilets, cafes, watersports & wetsuit hire, shops, pub/restaurant, amusement arcade and Splashdown Water Park. There are two large car parks. One end of the beach is dog friendly all year round.
Many beaches prohibit dogs from May to September so do check first.
On the Sea
Paddleboarding- A day out in Torbay without getting in or on the sea is an opportunity lost! It is lovely to be out on the water so how about learning to Paddleboard? Can you image pottering about on the sea on a lazy afternoon? Paddleboard hire is readily available at Goodrington & Broadsands beaches and may be available on some of the smaller beaches too.
Sea Kayaking- You can book a sea kayaking tour and discover the shoreline including sea caves, coves and coral! You might even bump into a seal along the way. A bit scary? Not at all- you’ll be in expert hands using stable touring kayaks and all equipment and clothing provided. Sea Kayak Torbay launch & land all over the bay, also offer sunset or sunrise tours and will even pick you up from your cottage so you don’t need to drive.
Teignmouth Ferry- WeFerry now offer a Torquay to Teignmouth ferry. This is a great opportunity to view the coastline from the sea. You can travel by sea both ways or take advantage of their Round Robin option and take the train one way. Teignmouth is a pleasant family friendly, seaside town with a long stretch of beach, promenade and pier. Great for stretching the legs and enjoying the sea air. The ferry docks on the ‘back beach’, the estuary beach dotted with beach huts that is well loved by the locals. There are lots of cafes, pubs and restaurants along this stretch. Weferry also offer fish and chip sunset cruises which are delightful.
Brixham Ferry- It only costs £5 return (at time of writing) on the Western Lady Ferry service and is 20-30 minute trip across the bay to Brixham. It is one of the most important fishing harbours, with a wide variety of catch, in the UK. During recent years, a brand new Fish Market was built here and you can go on (very early morning) tours. Brixham harbour is also very attractive and rivals any Cornish harbour for photo opportunities.
Brixham is the ‘Plaice’ for eating locally caught fish. The harbour area is well endowed with fish restaurants from fine dining to fish & chip takeaways or crab sandwiches. Take a meander around the harbour and visit the replica ‘The Golden Hind’ moored here, browse some of the harbour side shops then carry on walking towards the breakwater. This is a great place to spot the many seals that like to sunbathe. Just beyond the breakwater is breakwater beach. It’s a pebbled, sloping beach which faces West and is delightful late afternoon and into the evening with magical sunsets. Here the Breakwater Bistro is open all year round. It’s one of our favourite places to eat because of its location and great fish pie!
From here you can follow the road and footpath to the furthest Western point of Torbay, up on the headland at Berry Head. You can see the remains of a fort and enjoy panoramic views of the bay and out to sea. It’s a great place to spot Dolphins and a wide variety of seabirds and watch the little boats coming & going. Before heading back, stop in the Gatehouse cafe for hot drinks and a cake; you’ve earned it! Next to the cafe is a visitor centre full of interesting information including the history of Berry Head.
We have two excellent 18 hole golf clubs nearby in both Torquay and Churston and both accept visitors. The Churston Golf course looks particularly delightful with outstanding views over our beautiful bay.
If you fancy a spa day, I highly recommend the Aztec Spa in Torquay. They offer a wide range of treatments, a ‘Fire & Ice spa experience, and a most relaxing area post treatment to put your feet up, have a sleep maybe and enjoy a complimentary drink. If you want to make a day of it, they also have a small but complete gym, a ‘proper’ 25m pool as well as a warmer mediterranean fun pool, sauna, steam room and hot tub. Go on, you know you deserve it…
English Riviera Walking Tours. I have to admit, I haven’t done this before but it looks great. There are different guided tours and each takes between 1 1/2 to 3 hours. You could take the Agatha Christie tour and learn all about her life & work. Or how about the Beauty of the Bay walk? What a brilliant way to keep fit and learn something new. They go out in all weathers, so a good thing to do when it’s a bit cooler too.
Cockington Village and Country Park Less than 1 mile from the seafront and a lovely meandering walk along watermeadows right up to the outskirts of the village. Cockington village is famous for it’s preserved thatched cottages and a trip down memory lane for many. Enjoy a long & lazy lunch in the pub or the lovely Seven Dials cafe at Cockington Court (Manor House). Browse the village gift shops and watch artisans at work in the Sea Change art studios behind Cockington Court. Enjoy the vast bowl of parkland at the front of Cockington Court as well as the rose garden behind, the nearby lakes and acres of woodland trails. A calming place to relax in all seasons; the autumn is particularly spectacular.
SW Coast path– Brixham to Torquay-
You need walking boots or good shoes (do not attempt this in flipflops !) as there are steep areas to climb, a water bottle and suncream. Take your phone/camera as there are lovely views, small coves and long stretches of beach to enjoy. You might even fancy a swim or at the very least a paddle. Of course you can head in either direction but how about heading towards Brixham? My recommendation would be to walk one way and get either the ferry or boat in the other. I believe the walk is about 7-8 miles. Don’t forget Brixham is a fabulous place for a fishy lunch so you could plan that in too. The ferry runs between Torquay and Brixham harbour regularly throughout the day and is a fabulous way of seeing Torbay from the water. A 20-30 minute journey and great value too. The bus runs every 10 minutes (20 mins on Sundays) along Torbay road to and from Brixham.
For a great day out in Torquay and surrounding areas consider some of our fabulous attractions:
Babbacombe Model village– There are four acres of gardens with streams and waterfalls, villages, cities, a railway line & humorous scenes with over 13,000 model residents. There’s a fire eating dragon, inside and outside exhibits, a 4D cinema experience and don’t forget to look out for ‘Mockington’, a homage to our lovely Cockington. With the same entrance ticket you can return within 7 days and see the evening illuminations too.
Caves- Did you know you can step back into the Stone Age in Torquay? Kents Cavern is one of the most important Stone Age sites in Europe and one of Britain’s best showcaves! On your visit you’ll go back to a time when the cave was home to ancient humans, sheltering from extreme weather, making fires, shaping tools and hunting Ice Age animals. As you walk through the extensive labyrinth of caverns, you’ll be surrounded by 400 million year old rocks and spectacular stalagmites and stalactites. As well as their usual tours, they offer special events such as Cheese & Wine nights, Spooky tours for Halloween and Carols in the caves at Christmas.
National Trust Properties–
For a relaxed day out and an opportunity to explore our history and heritage why not visit an National Trust property? These are our favourites:
Castle Drogo was the last castle to be built in England. It was commissioned to be built by a self-made millionaire between 1911-1930. It was designed by famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, the same man that designed the Drum Inn in Cockington. Built of Granite, it stands high above the Teign Gorge with some fantastic walking trails all around, both high above the gorge or down to the river Teign. You can follow the trail to Fingle Bridge where you will find the Fingle Bridge Inn with lovely gardens by the river. The castle is gradually being restored and set for completion during 2020 but the castle has remained open throughout so you can see the restoration in action. The gardens are also beautiful and relaxing and should not be missed.
Greenway House is a National Trust property in Galmpton, near Brixham, and overlooks the river Dart. Whilst this property does have a car park, you have to pre-book it as they prefer you to find ‘green ways’ of getting there. The Paignton to Kingswear steam train has a stop nearby followed by a 1/2 mile woodland walk to the house. Alternatively, you could take a lovely drive to Dittisham, park up and take the little boat across the Dart. Or you could pick up a boat from Dartmouth. Greenway House was the holiday home of Torquay’s famous authoress, Agatha Christie and the setting of her novel Dead Man’s Folly. The family were great collectors and the house is brimming with their books, archaeology, Tunbridgeware, silver and porcelain. The garden was planted as a Spring garden so this is the best time to go and enjoy a meander around the beautiful riverside gardens. Don’t miss the boathouse down by the waterside.
Coleton Fishacre, a 1920’s country house set in stunning gardens that run down to the South West Coast Path with amazing views. Originally owned by the D’Oyly Carte family it features both glamorous Art Deco interiors and servants quarters. As with most NT properties it’s a lovely place for a spot of lunch or afternoon tea.
There is a magical sixteen sided NT house called A La Ronde, near Topsham.This house dates back to the 18th century and was designed to make use of the natural light throughout the day. It is filled with quirky, handmade creations by Jane & Mary Parminter, early feminists, inspired by their 10 year grand tour of Europe. Its perched above the Exe estuary and near to both the seaside town of Exmouth and the village of Topshop.
For a full day out why not visit one of Torbay’s top visitor attractions; Paignton Zoo. They do amazing conservation work around the world andPaignton zoois a fine example of a modern zoo. A full day out with lots of walking and a vast range of living creatures to see from Ants to Zebras; if you haven’t visited a zoo for a while then try Paignton. You won’t be disappointed.
Torquay Museum is the oldest museum in Devon. It has a range of permanent collections as well as regular visiting exhibitions. The many permanent collections include: Natural History, Archaeology and Ancient Egypt that includes the mummified body of a young boy. You’ll also find a gallery dedicated to the life and works of Agatha Christie, amongst others.
Bygones ‘museum‘ in St Marychurch is a difficult place to describe. It’s just ‘wacky’. The very modest entrance belies the size of the attraction within. There are 3 floors jam packed with genuine objects from 1837 to the 1950’s . On the ground floor you can discover a Victorian street scene with sounds and smells that make it really authentic. You can wander around the shops, and even visit the pub. Check out the sweet shop and the bakery and hear the street boy selling chestnuts. On the first floor there are more scenes of Victorian life with 8 period rooms including a terrifying dentist scene! Spot the things you remember from your Grandparents house and the well known brands of the past. Also on this floor is a 27 ton steam engine! On the second floor you can walk through the sounds, smells and scenes of a First World War trench which is really eerie. There are also working Victoria pier games including ‘What the Butler saw’, a working model railway and 1950’s displays. It’s certainly an odd attraction but well worth a visit. I guarantee a couple of hours amusement.
Torre Abbey Museum & Gardens are hidden gems, despite the fact they’re directly behind Torre Abbey Gardens on the seafront. Originating right back to 1196, this Ancient Monument has beautifully presented heritage rooms, galleries, art exhibitions, interactive displays, talking portraits and videos which bring the Abbey’s colourful history to life. The gardens are full of herbaceous perennials, roses & dahlias and the rare shrubs and trees that flourish in the English Riviera climate. The Palm & Cactus Houses contain tropical and sub-tropical plants including endangered palms from Kew gardens. Torre Abbey’s tithe barn was built around 1200 and is known as The Spanish Barn. In 1588 the Nuestra Senora del Rosario became among the first of the Spanish Armada invasion force to fall victim to the English fleet and the captured crew were held here. You can also pick up the Land Train from here and enjoy an audio tour of Torquay with it’s Hop On/Hop Off service
The Dartmouth Steam Railway and Riverboat Company offer this award winning day trip. Three towns; Paignton, Dartmouth & Totnes & 3 glorious modes of transport; steam train, river boat & open top bus. We’ve been recommending this day trip to our guests for 18 years and it’s still as good as it ever was. Usually starting in Paignton, you hop on a steam train for a glorious trip along the coast. Don’t forget to wave at all the families on the beach at Goodrington, I promise they’ll wave back. When you arrive at Kingswear station, you hop on the waiting ferry to transport you over the River Dart to Dartmouth with its art galleries, restaurants and cafes and stunning waterside backdrop. Later on, you catch the river cruise with funny and informative commentary up the River Dart to Totnes. The boat has a bar so you can enjoy a glass of wine or beer on your journey. Totnes, not to be missed, is the ‘alternative’ town in Devon with plenty of independent shops, pubs and cafes. You never know what you’ll see in Totnes but you’ll definitely see a hippie or two! After a stroll around Totnes, you catch an open top bus back to paignton.
The South Devon Railway is a seven mile former Great Western Railway branch line built in 1872. You can pick up the train at either Totnes or Buckfastleigh station but there’s free parking at Buckfastleigh station. The track runs along the stunning valley of the River Dart giving views over the river and lush surrounding countryside. Totnes is a fascinating town and the ‘alternative’ capital of Devon, full of unique shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs as well as the ruins of Totnes castle to explore with amazing views. During the journey, you can also alight at Staverton Village and enjoy beautiful riverside walks and maybe lunch in the local pub, The Sea Trout Inn. At Buckfastleigh station, as well as a train museum and cafe, is the home of Dartmoor Otters & Butterflies. The butterfly house is a tropical garden full of exotic flowers and foliage that the butterflies need to live and breed. Outside there a number of otter species and you can watch the otters being fed and listen to the keepers commentary. A lovely, chilled out day.
Torquay is well located for exploring further afield and the following recommendations make great days out.
The Eden Project is just 67 miles away and well under a 2 hour drive making it a perfectly accessible day trip. I’m told that travelling by train/bus is also perfectly feasible and a very pleasant journey. I would advise setting off early to avoid arriving at the busiest time because you don’t want to spend loads of time queuing. You want to get in and see all the beautifully laid gardens, the stunning Biomes, the exhibitions, performances and seasonal highlights. It’s an attraction for all ages on a grand scale.
How about a drive over beautiful Dartmoor National Park? Stunning scenery, places to park up & take a stroll, wild Dartmoor ponies, sheep and cows wandering freely. …Please drive carefully and slowly. It’s a big place and a destination in its own right, but it’s nearby and makes a great day trip. Lovely rural villages, ancient pubs, farm shops & cafes to enjoy. You can even visit Dartmoor Prison Museum which is surprisingly interesting, if a little disturbing! P.S. There’s a small tour operator called Unique Devon Tours and these guys know all the ‘off the beaten track’, interesting routes & stories.
Regardless of your beliefs it’s a very welcoming, calm and spiritual place, a perfect respite during the uncertainty of the times. BuckfastAbbey is 1000 years old but during the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 it fell into ruin. The church was rebuilt by exiled French Benedictine monks from 1882 onwards and amazingly just 4-6 monks worked on the build. It took 30 years to finish it. The stained glass window in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel is amazing. It literally makes your spine tingle! The Abbey is a working monastery where the monks live self-sufficiently as well as creating goods for sale & producing their own electricity. They welcome visitors from all over the world. There are 3 gardens that you can explore; the Sensory, Physic and Lavender gardens as well as the well stocked shop including honey and mead made by the monks. The restaurant offers a delicious selection of cakes and lunches; all made and served by the monks, of course. Well worth a visit which you could combine with a journey via steam train with the South Devon Railway or during a drive out exploring Dartmoor.
The Donkey Sanctuary is free to visit and just outside Sidmouth, 35 miles away, but a lovely place to visit on your way to or from Torquay. If you really love Donkeys you can even adopt one. Open 365 days of the year it’s a lovely place to visit and they have a cafe/restaurant so a great place to break your journey. They do have a webcam page if you fancy some remote donkey spotting.
The House of Marbles have been designing & making toys since 1973. They bought their current site which used to be Bovey Tracey Potteries in order to manufacture marbles. Today you can see a huge range of marbles in all sizes and colours as well as a number of interactive marble runs. Their largest one takes up a whole wall and is so large they use snooker balls instead of marbles! You can not help but stand and stare at this masterpiece. They also have a marble museum where you can learn all about the history of marble making.They make other glass items too and you can watch the craftsmen at work from the gallery. In addition to a whole range of traditional and unusual toys & games, they sell a modest range of homeware, stationery, confectionary and fashion accessories. A great place for gifts or to treat yourself. The old pottery restaurant on site, with inside & outside seating, is great quality and perfect for morning coffee, lunch or afternoon tea.
Of course you can drive, but it’s much nicer to ‘let the train take the strain’ from Torquay railway station as the track runs along the coast for long stretches. If you want to hit the shops asap, then Exeter Central is your stop. Alternatively, you can get out at Exeter St Thomas and follow the signs to the Quayside; a lovely place for coffee or brunch in a range of cafes. There are a number of curiosity shops here as well as The Tourist Information office. It’s a short walk from here to Exeter Cathedral and the town centre. As well as the usual range of high street shops, Exeter museum (free entry) and Exeter underground tunnels (not for the claustrophobic !) are near the centre too and both are well worth a look. There are plenty of restaurants, pubs and cafes for lunch and as you’re taking the train you could enjoy a long & lazy lunch. Enjoy.
Waterfalls- There are two lovely waterfalls within a 1/2 hour drive of here.
Becky Falls is on Dartmoor, not far from Haytor. It’s a mini attraction in it’s own right with a variety of animals to admire as well as a cafe and picnic area. There are lovely walking trails alongside the river and plenty of areas where you can scramble over huge bolders in the river. The naturally formed waterfall is over 70ft high and there are mini waterfalls to enjoy too. Dogs on leads are welcome.
Canonteign Falls are near Chudleigh. There is both a natural waterfall and the impressive, man made Lady Exmouth Falls, which stands 220 feet high (the highest man made waterfall in the UK). It makes you puff a bit walking to the top but you are rewarded with a viewing platform and magnificent views. By the time you make your way down and have wandered around the 7 lakes, you’ll be ready for a delicious cream tea in the cafe.
Finally- I hope you’ve enjoyed reading our suggestions for things to do. This is a popular holiday destination so there is plenty more to see and do as well as numerous events throughout the year. For more suggestions and events information take a look at the official English Riviera tourist board website.