Mention Torquay and I immediately associate this British seaside town with the much loved British comedy “Fawlty Towers” which was set there. As a Kiwi child of the 70′s I grew up on British humour and No.1 in our household was Fawlty Towers (1975,1979). The sitcom was based on a fictional hotel, run by it’s moody and frustrated hotelier Basil Fawlty, his nagging wife Sybil, their hapless Spanish waiter Manuel, and other characters. John Cleese, star and co-creator of Fawlty Towers, got his inspiration for the hit comedy when he stayed at Torquay’s Gleneagles Hotel with his Monty Python colleagues. Even though only 12 episodes were ever made “Fawlty Towers” still has a huge fan base and the hotel has occasional Fawlty Tower Dinner Shows which are very popular.
Torquay is situated on England’s south-west coast, in an area also known as the English Riviera, and is 3-4 hours drive from London. Because of it’s unique geological, historical and cultural heritage, the English Riviera became one of the UNESCO’s approximately 100 Global Geoparks in 2007. The Torquay area has a semi-tropical micro-climate which allows the likes of palm trees to grow and makes it an attractive destination for holidaymakers. Torquay is home to Kents Cavern, a system of caves and caverns that stone-aged people’s lived in for some 700,000 years. In 1927 a prehistoric jaw bone was found in the cavern. Known as Kents Cavern 4, the bone has been estimated (by carbon dating) to be approx. 40,000 years old and is the oldest known fossil of a homo sapiens. The caves have stalactites and stalagmites, and also contain fossils of now extinct mammals like the woolly rhinoceros and cave lion. Kents Cavern is open to the public. You can see more of Torquay’s fantastic geological features by taking a boat tour along the beautiful Torbay coastline. Another must-see is the nearby cliff-top village of Babbacombe, which has stunning scenic views of the coastline as well as numerous walks, including one down to the beach below.
Torquay was the birthplace of famed crime writer Agatha Christie. She grew up there and also lived in Torquay for a considerable portion of her adult life. Many of her famous novels, and subsequent films and TV adaptations thereof, were set and filmed in and around the Torquay area. Fans of Agatha Christie love to visit the area where she drew so much inspiration for her writing. The Torquay Museum also contains many personal items of the writer and a lot of memorabilia.
Other favourite family-friendly attractions in Torquay are the Living Coasts Zoo and Aquarium, the Babbacombe Model Village which depicts British scenes through the centuries, and the Babbacombe Theatre.
The family will also love a day out on the steam train ride between nearby Paignton and Dartmouth Visitors. The Dartmoor National Park is only a short drive from Torquay and provides unique scenery and many hiking opportunities. There are quaint and interesting villages that border the moor, including Drewsteignton with it’s historical pub the Drew Arms. Widecombe-in-the-Moor is famous for it’s annual Widecombe Fair (second Tuesday in September) and the folk song of the same name which includes the lyric “uncle Tom Cobley and all”.
Torquay has a lovely harbour. Visitors love to stroll along the waterfront where there still some examples of Victorian-era architecture such as the Torquay Pavilion and the Friends Fountain which add to the town’s character.
photo credit: Torquay Palms and