If you’re looking for a holiday focused around seaside resorts, idyllic coves, warm weather and good vibes, then traditional wisdom dictates that, as a Brit, you’d have to hop on a plane or ferry to find it.
But in a holiday season defined by airport chaos, lost luggage and crippling queues at UK ports, British holidaymakers are starting to look a little closer to home for their kicks, with the resorts and coves of the English Riviera a particularly charming choice for continental-feeling vibes on these shores.
Should you not be familiar with this rather grand title, the English Riviera simply refers to a 22km stretch of coast and countryside in South Devon comprising the seaside towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham. Sometimes referred to as Torbay, this area’s unique combination of coastline and countryside has earned it UNESCO Global Geopark status, one of just 140 geoparks globally.
Interest sparked? Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that within a relatively confined space, Torbay has so much to offer; here are 7 things to do on your trip to the English Riviera this summer.
Swim At The Shoalstone Seawater Pool, Brixham
There’s nothing quite like a swim in the sea to invigorate the senses. Aside from it being the quintessential beach holiday pastime, sea frolicking boasts many health benefits, including “improved circulation, a better mood, and even an increased life expectancy”.
However, when the tides turn and squally skies invite white horses, it’s not always safe (or, let’s face it, inviting) to enter the water. Enter Seawater Pools – a memorable place to swim and the ideal way to benefit from the revitalising physical and mental qualities of swimming in the sea, all in a safer, confined environment.
Shoalstone Pool is a 53 metre seawater swimming pool situated right on Brixham’s sea front. There’s only a handful of these left in the country, and between May and November the pool is open 7 days a week for swimming. Lifeguarded between the 28th May and 3rd September and open from 10am to 6pm, this is a marvellous, unique place for a summer splash. They close the pool fortnightly to clean it, so do check before you visit to avoid disappointment!
Pleasure Seeking On Paignton Pier
No visit to a British seaside resort is complete without a gentle stroll along the pier. Indeed, piers are a quintessentially British thing, synonymous with leisure and holiday, and offering something akin to a time capsule of Britain’s past.
Victorian pleasure piers are symbolic of a bygone era. Today, there are only a handful of traditional seaside piers left and Paignton is one of them, giving visitors a nostalgic trip down memory lane as they tread its hallowed boards.
Here, you’ll find the usual attractions; the sounds of seaside amusement games ringing, coins (and dodgems!) crashing and children laughing. All in all, it’s a good old-fashioned, kiss-me-quick style of pier; colourful, noisy and lots of fun. We love it.
When you need refuelling, stop off at Paignton Pier Chippy. They also offer traditional fish and chips, as well as English breakfasts with 100% pure pork sausage and free range eggs. Lovely stuff.
The Dartmouth Steam Railway, Paignton Station
A trip on a steam locomotive is another very British seaside experience, allowing you to step back in time and imagine what these places were like in their heyday.
The guys at Leisure Time, who offer coach trips to Paighton, tells us that “the arrival of the railway in 1859 brought crowds of visitors and the town quickly became a favourite tourist destination for the Victorians.” Fascinating stuff.
It’s still a favourite of ours today! While only 7 miles long, the Dartmouth Steam Railway is arguably one of the country’s most scenic heritage railways. For the best views, sit on the right-hand side of the train leaving Paignton.
Eat At One of These Seafood Restaurants
There is no shortage of seriously sensational seafood restaurants on this stretch of coast. Brixham, in particular, is one of England’s fish-friendly favourites, with some of the freshest stuff in the whole country.
While you’re in Brixham, head over to Shoals, a favourite of seafood ambassador Mitch Tonks. The seafood restaurant overlooks Brixham’s saltwater lido and is run by a local fish merchant family.
The Elephant in Torquay Harbour was the first (and only) restaurant in Torquay to be awarded a Michelin star which it has maintained for 18 years. The restaurant has its own 96 acre farm that supplies much of the produce here, with seafood also taking pride of place on a seasonally changing menu.
Still in Torquay, a bowl of Brixham mussels washed down with some local wine is a must, and the place to do this is the Wine @ 7 wine bar which offers a stunning vista over Torbay. The bistro also serves local oysters on their snack menu and over 95 wines… Heaven!
Brixham Fish Market Tour
Want to know where all that fresh fish you’ve been eating has come from? Then go on a Brixham Fish Market Tour and take a look behind the scenes at England’s largest fish market.
This coastal town can trace its fishing history back as far as the 14th century. Around 40 different species of fish land here every morning and the fast flowing waters of Devon are especially ideal for flatfish and shellfish should you be wondering what to eat later.
While most of its catch gets transported to London and abroad to France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain, you can of course enjoy the freshest fish, right here, right now.
Finish your tour off with a fish breakfast at Mitch Tonks’ Rockfish restaurant, situated right next door to the market. If you want to experience coastal life, then an early morning trip to the fish market is the way to do it.
Are you a fan of Agatha Christie? Well, reachable by steam train from Brixham, you’ll find Greenway, Agatha Christie’s treasured holiday home.
Agatha Christie called Greenway ‘’the loveliest place in the world’’ and you’ll find her home just as her family left it, full of trinkets and collectors items from her past.
Since she spent so much of her time here, Greenway inspired a few of Agatha’s Murder Mysteries. As the National Trust explain, “Christie’s book which was most clearly influenced by Greenway was Dead Man’s Folly. In this story Greenway house, garden, Boathouse and local area are all described to a T, so much so that in 2013, ITV filmed their adaptation of Dead Man’s Folly here”.
The house is open daily from 10.30am-5pm with the last entry at 4.30pm.
Sun, Sea & Bumper Boats At Goodrington Sands
The aforementioned steam train passses through Goodrington Sands, another one of the loveliest places in the world, as far as we’re concerned.
The beach here is divided into the South and North beach, and has everything you need for a traditional day out by the English seaside. So, that’s lots of things to do with the kids, especially, including bumper boats – the aquatic version of a fairground bumper car – on Goodrington boating lake.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to get bumped and spun round by other boats, you can take a more relaxing cruise in a swan boat on Goodrington lake. There’s also crazy golf, go-karts, and kayaking, too.
What an action-packed, endlessly entertaining place to visit!
And if you’re keen to turn this into a larger exploration of this corner of England, then check out these 5 places to holiday in southwest England!