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An Introduction to the English Riviera:
I’d never heard the term ‘English Riviera’ till I met some of the Visit Britain representatives on my recent trip on the Orient Express. The team from the English Riviera were unmissable because they were accompanied by none other than Hercule Poirot, who confirmed that he was indeed Belgian but enlightened me by telling me that he was created on the English Riviera. How very appropriate for one of our most charismatic literary personalities.
So I was delighted to take part in a press tour of the area. It’s a part of the South Devon that stretches from Babbacombe and St Marychurch through Torquay, Paignton to Brixham. It was a bit of a lightening tour and in the space of 24 hours we went on a steam train trip around the bay, took a ferry trip from Dartmouth to Greenway, visited Brixham and took a tour of Kent’s Cave. I’ve already written a bit about Brixham fish market and I am planning to cover Greenway, Agatha Christie’s holiday home and Kent’s Caves on separate posts because there’s just too much to write in this post, an introduction to the area.
I’m a regular visitor to Cornwall and have been since I was in my early 20s. So Devon is a county I drive through. Quickly. It’s at that point in the journey down when I just want to get there. And that’s a shame because it has some fantastic things to see and do. The English Riviera is designated a Global Geopark, one of only 8 sites in the UK and Ireland with this status. And, if you want to try coasteering or canoeing you will get a chance to see some of the most fantastic sea and shorescapes of England. If you prefer staying on land, well, a visit to Kent’s caves will give you some idea of the geological importance of the area.
Torquay, where we were staying, is a thriving seaside town with all the attractions you’d expect of a traditional English resort town. But, there’s an extra edge because many of the things you see have a connection with Agatha Christie – from the pier she used to roller skate along to the hotel where she spent her honeymoon night.
Brixham, by comparison, is a working harbour, where fishing is more important than tourism. But it still caters for the family market by running Pirate events and with the replica of the Golden Hind for young and old sea dogs curious about sea life with Sir Francis Drake.
And, in between, there are charming coves, beaches with rock pools, beach huts and other seaside things. All in a microclimate that defy the British weather to allow palm trees to flourish. If you visit, be sure to take the steam train trip along the coast, try your hand at crabbing (I watched and really wanted to have a go!) and catch the ferry across the bay.
I hope I will be back. There’s plenty that I didn’t see and plenty I’d like to try some more of. Although the area doesn’t have the same foodie reputation as the North Cornish Coast, there are some great restaurants, like Mitch Tonk’s Seahorse in Dartmouth and the Elephant in Torquay. And, with Brixham market, every fish restaurant has the opportunity to serve sublimely fresh local produce.