Accommodation: The Palace Hotel
Travel: 4 hours from Hertfordshire (Car)
Considering it’s almost Halloween, we’re still experiencing quite good weather here in the UK. My friend mentioned that she was going to Devon for the weekend, and it made me think back to my trip to Torquay this summer.
Back in August, I thought I was all road tripped out until my family suggested a drive down to the south of England. We chose to visit Torquay, located in Devon. Fans of 1970’s British comedy and John Cleese may recognise the name as the home of Fawlty Towers! Arriving at the Palace Hotel (one of the biggest three hotels in Torquay) I got the immediate impression that not a lot had changed since the time of Basil Fawlty.
The location of the hotel was great, it had free parking, beautiful grounds (including tennis courts and golf course) and everything was clean and tidy. However, to say that the hotel was dated would be an understatement. Everything from the décor to the lack of wifi connection (shock horror) made me feel like I had entered a time capsule.
When you google ‘Things to do in Torquay’, one of the first things to come up is Kents Cavern. These caves are some of the best examples of prehistory in the country and contain insights into not only the amazing and almost alien like rock formations, but the lives of the animals and people who would have lived in it. The temperature in the caves is around 14 degrees Celsius all year round, which means it’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Tours cost £10 each for adults and last for around 45 minutes. As we were a little bit early for the tour, I decided to grab some lunch in the café. I had not been in Devon even half an hour before getting my hands on a pasty, and it most definitely did not disappoint.
Kents Cavern is made of Devonian limestone and was formed 2.5 million years ago. It is thought that humans inhabited the cave for as long as half a million years, making it Britain’s oldest home and a site as important as Stonehenge. Three types of humans are thought to have lived in the cave; Homo Heidelbergensis, Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens. The remains of prehistoric animals such as cave bears, woolly mammoths and cave lions have also been found in the caves. The earliest modern people to discover the caves appear to have been the Romans, as a number of Roman coins were discovered in parts of the cave.
Once the tour had finished, we made our way back into daylight and headed towards the harbour. On a fine day, the Torquay harbour front really does reflect its tagline as the English Riviera. You could easily forget that you’re in the UK with the multitude of fancy yachts and boats around.
We decided to board a ferry to Brixham, a small fishing village over in the district of Torbay. This journey took half an hour (£4.50 return), and we spent some time in the village eating chips while admiring the view and dodging greedy seagulls.
My dad and I share a love of planning, research and eating – so I’m always happy to leave things in his hands when we travel together. Tripadvisor rates ‘No. 7 Fish Bistro’ as one of the best restaurants in Torquay and it is conveniently located on Beacon Hill, just around the corner from the harbour (advance booking is usually required!). This restaurant serves an array of permanent menu items, but there are also boards all over the walls with the daily specials. My dad ordered a meal that encompassed three of the main dishes in miniature form; lemon sole with prawn thermidor, mini fish & chips and baked salmon with Moroccan spices.
I ordered a delicious monkfish tail, cooked very simply with sea salt and black pepper and topped with a butter sauce. I would highly recommend this restaurant if you’re looking for a high quality meal on the more expensive side (mains start at around £23).
The next morning we decided to get back on the road and visit Stonehenge (which you can read about HERE), because frankly the weather had taken a turn for the worse. This wasn’t my first trip to Torquay and so I knew there were plenty of other things we could have done if we had decided to stay longer.
Rainy day activities
- Kents Cavern
- The arcades
No trip to the English seaside is complete without a couple of goes on the slot machines. You know you’re not going to win anything, and you’re probably going to empty your wallet of loose change chasing that £5 that’s clearly been glued down, but for some reason it’s simply irresistible.
Not everyone loves a museum as much as I do, and so I was quite disappointed when my family failed to include this in our agenda for the weekend. This museum holds artefacts ranging from natural history, prehistory and ancient Egypt to local studies and a whole gallery dedicated to Agatha Christie.
Sunny day activities
- The beach
The beaches along the English Riviera coastline span for 22miles. There are at least 20 beaches and coves, ranging from the very popular to the very secluded. Whether you’re after a day of sunbathing and sandcastles or fishing and boating, there will be a beach that caters to your needs.
This place is just plain weird but you should probably go and visit it purely for its weirdness and the fact that it’s really famous. It’s like the Shia LeBoeuf of tourist attractions. I was taken here as a child and even back then remember thinking … wtf? This is essentially a model village in the middle of beautiful gardens, where scenes have been created in miniature form. It’s quite a nice place to take children who aren’t as warped as I was and the level of detail in the models has to be admired.
This place kind of does what it says on the tin. This pier was originally opened in the 19th century, it’s in the middle of Torbay town centre and has plenty of attractions to keep the whole family happy.
I hope my little summary of things to do in and around Torquay is useful – I wish you happy travels and good weather!
Thanks for reading,