I arrived at the city of Torquay and spent some time by the harbour before going to my hotel. It was a sunny day in mid-April and the city had just began to recover from the effects of the pandemic. The harbour was relatively quiet with just a few tourists taking pictures of the beautiful boats and yachts moored there. People were enjoying the outdoor cafes and restaurants, some of whom were still wearing masks. This is the birthplace of Agatha Christie, born here in 1890. The city has a great history of development, being labelled the ‘Seaside Metropolis’. This modern Torquay offers stonework cliffs and sandy shores running along the high cliffs of the coastline as far as Brixham and Paignton thus creating the English Riviera. But Torquay’s highlights extend beyond the lovely sea and sands.
I arrived at the Meadfoot Bay Hotel conveniently located less than a mile from Torquay harbour and just a few minutes’ walk from Meadfoot Beach. This boutique hotel has 15 comfortable, stylish and individually themed rooms set within a Victorian villa. My room had a private terrace and a lovely large bathroom with a walk in shower as well as a traditional free-standing bath. Manager Mario welcomed me, checked me in and arranged for my luggage to be taken to my room. I was on the top floor and there is no lift. However, I found it a good exercise to climb the narrow stairs but it wouldn’t be ideal for elderly or disabled guests. The room was very airy and cosy. The hotel has gone through an extensive refurbishment programme to turn it from a guest house to a chic boutique hotel.
I dined in the hotel’s Brasserie. It’s a popular spot not only with the guests but also locals and boasts some of the best cuisine along the coast. The menu focuses on local produce and the aitress guided me through the details. To begin I ordered crisp fried red mullet with Kimchi vegetable salad, Thai basil and ginger emulsion. It tasted so good and looked very special. For the main course, I ordered a butter-roasted fillet of halibut. I also selected two sides of kale with olive oil and pine nuts plus new potatoes with lemon and parsley butter. The food was utterly delicious, mouth-watering and savoury. As I still had space for dessert, I ordered spiced sticky carrot cake with caramelised walnuts and vanilla ice cream. I ended my dinner with mint tea. The staff were friendly, efficient and made the whole experience memorable.
The next day, after a good breakfast, I began my tour of Torquay by visiting the site of Torre Abbey. This 12th century monastery is one of the most important historical and archaeological sites in South Devon. The abbey’s building and gardens have been turned into a magical museum and educational centre that incorporates art and creativity. Unfortunately, the medieval abbey is closed on Mondays so I didn’t get a chance to explore the interior. After a wander around the exterior of the abbey and its gardens, I headed to Torre Abbey Sands, Torquay’s main beach to breathe the fresh sea air and relax for a while.
Next on my must-see list was the beautiful Cockington Country Park which is only a mile north of Torre Abbey. The parkland is 450 acres of rural countryside packed with pretty lakes, a Manor House, an 11th century church and a cottage village, which transported me back to medieval times as I strolled around. While in Cockington Park, I walked through a rose garden and then found myself surrounded by artisan workshops including a blacksmith, a glassmaker and a carpenter. There was also a flower shop and a selection of artistic innovative gift makers whose products, among others, could be seen displayed in the Cockington Craft Centre.
I enjoyed my 48 hours in South Devon getting a glimpse of what the English Riviera has to offer. It is crammed with attractions including some ancient caves, beautiful beaches and picturesque landscapes.
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