Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Torbay, Britain

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - With recession-beating “staycations” in vogue in Britain, the Torbay area in Devon -- the self-styled “English Riviera” -- is enjoying a boom.

A view of the seaside path towards the Cary Arms on Babbacombe Beach in Torbay, July 18 2009. REUTERS/Julie Mollins

The region centers around the southwestern resort of Torquay and takes in Paignton and the fishing village of Brixham. Here are some suggestions for visitors:


6 p.m. - Kick off the weekend by mingling with Paignton locals in the Waterside Inn pub while enjoying a pint and traditional pub fare.


11 a.m. - Visit mystery writer Agatha Christie’s Georgian holiday home Greenway House on the River Dart in Galmpton, near Brixham. A painted frieze in the library serves as a reminder of its requisition by U.S. admiralty during World War Two. Finish up a tour of the garden and grounds with a light lunch or tea in the cafe.

2 p.m. - See spectacular pastoral views from the terrace of High Cross House on the Dartington Estate in nearby Totnes. The furnished International Style structure designed by Swiss-born architect William Lescaze was built in the 1930s as a home for the first headmaster of Dartington Hall School, which is now a charity estate for the advancement of the arts, social justice and sustainability.

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4 p.m. - Wander through medieval Dartington Hall, purchased by Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst in the 1920s as a site for an experiment in rural regeneration and the promotion of arts and crafts. British artist Henry Moore’s reclining 1946 sculpture “Memorial Figure” is on view in the landscaped gardens. Stop for a drink at the White Hart.

7 p.m. - Dine at Jasmine Thai Restaurant on Winner Street in the historic part of Paignton, and watch the flames shoot out over the hob as the cook whips up dishes in the open kitchen.


10 a.m. - Explore historic Torre Abbey, founded in 1196 as a Christian monastery, renovated over the years and now a gallery and museum with a greenhouse and outdoor gardens. The art collection includes work by English artist William Blake and paintings illustrating the Torbay area, including “The Exiles’ Departure” by Cornish-born painter Thomas Luny. It depicts Napoleon’s 1815 transfer in St Mary’s Bay near Brixham to the ship that took him into exile on the island of St Helena.

1 p.m. - Lunch at the Babbacombe Cliff Railway Cafe in Torquay.

2 p.m. - Take a thrilling ride on the 1926 Babbacombe Cliff funicular Railway to the beach below. Walk along the edge of the water to the upscale Cary Arms gastro pub and sit outside on the seaside terrace for a drink. Don’t miss the last cliff railway journey back to the top.

6 p.m. - Head back to Paignton for a homestyle Italian meal at family-owned Quo Vadis restaurant.


11 a.m. - Take a guided tour of prehistoric Kents Cavern near Torquay, billed as the oldest recognizable human dwelling in Britain. Five flint axes found in the caves are dated at 450,000 years old and a piece of jawbone is estimated to be between 35,000 and 40,000 years old. It is thought to be from an early modern human.

3 p.m. - Take a trip to Totnes and have Sunday dinner at the King William IV Hotel pub, said to be haunted by the ghost of a former cook named Bill.

Editing by Steve Addison