Time to discover the English Riviera

As the UK begins to reopen we’re running a series of articles about where we can go. But as lockdown eases in different ways across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland we suggest you check the latest advice before travelling.

English Riviera palm tree travel poster

From July 4 many hotels, campsites and holiday cottage in England will be throwing open their doors.

The English Riviera is accessible and achievable for most of us and has said it’s ready to receive visitors, with a few helpful planning suggestions – like making online reservations in advance for attractions and restaurants during your stay.

Of course for those of a technical nature The Riviera doesn’t exist – or at least has no real, geographical location. But the part of the Devon coastline that includes iconic resorts like Torquay, Babbacombe, Paignton, Cockington and Brixham has long been popular with UK holidaymakers.

Meadfoot Beach, Devon UK © English Riviera
One mile from Torquay Harbour, Meadfoot Beach was a Blue Flag & Seaside Award winner in 2019 © English Riviera

The English Riviera is all about beaches and beautiful coastline but less than an hour’s drive inland you’ll find the wilds of Dartmoor National Park and some unusual, and even a little spooky, sights.

Legend says the granite rocks of Hounds Tor was once a pack of dogs turned to stone by a witch when they disturbed a magical ceremony. Reality is a little more humdrum as the site is that of a known medieval village on land farmed in the Bronze Age. The remains of 13th century stone longhouses can still be seen.

Berry Pomeroy Castle, Berry Pomeroy, Devon © Glen Bowman, Flickr
The most haunted castle in Britain? © Glen Bowman, Flickr

The ruins of Berry Pomeroy are reputedly haunted by grey ladies, odd lights, screams, cold spots and weird shadows. But history nerds and artists are also drawn to the spot for the beauty of the ruined Tudor mansion within the 15th century defences. The site is now managed by English Heritage.

And of course there’s the world-famous Buckfast Abbey, a Benedictine monastery whose tonic wine is known for its strength and additional caffeine boost. The abbey itself is peaceful and the grounds house two gardens devoted to herbs and medicinal plants.

Babbacombe cliff railway furnicular train in Torquay © John Englart, Flickr
Babbacombe furnicular railway © John Englart, Flickr

Back at the coast there’s the delightful Babbacombe Cliff Railway, opened in 1926 to transport locals and holidaymakers from Babbacombe Downs to Oddicombe Beach below.

One lovely feature is the fact they ring a bell at the Bottom Station 30 and 15 minutes before the last ascent, to give beach-goers ample warning to get back to the Station in time.

Kents Cavern Torquay © Paula Funnell, Flickr
400 million year old rocks and spectacular stalagmites and stalactites at Kents Cavern © Paula Funnell, Flickr

Kents Cavern in Torquay is reopening on Saturday 11 July so you’ll be able to step into the Stone Age once again. Walking through the labyrinth of caverns, you’re surrounded by 400 million year old rocks and spectacular stalagmites and stalactites. The perfect all-weather attraction the caves are a cool 14 degrees centigrade all year round, reputedly the warmest in Britain so no jacket required!

Anstey Cove Devon UK ©  English Riviera
A short stroll from Kents Cavern you’ll find Anstey Cove © English Riviera

Many of the attractions have been affected by coronavirus restrictions. For the latest information check out The English Riviera website

Paignton Pier Devon © N Chadwick (cc-by-sa/2.0)
Opened in 1879 Paignton Pier is still a top tourist attraction © N Chadwick (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Where to stay on the English Riviera

Most of us will continue to play it safe and, if we are fortunate enough to be able to take a holiday, look for plenty of wide open spaces, and accommodation that meets the new hygiene guidance.

Brixham harbour Devon UK © Host Unusual
Colourful Brixham Harbour on the English Riviera © Host Unusual

Self-contained and self-catering has got to be one of the best options, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be something special

Host Unusual has several properties in the region, including The Inspiration.

Who are Host Unusual?

Host Unusual is an eclectic accommodation showcase, bringing together some of the most extraordinary holiday lets on the planet.

Co-founder Alex Wilson explains. ‘Host Unusual is a much needed antidote to the ordinary. My colleague Dawn and I have been friends since we were teenagers and decided to join forces for our quest – scouring the globe and cherry-picking the most exciting hidden gems on the map.’

Whether it’s a fairytale treehouse, time-warp vintage pad, floating home on a lazy river, a converted bunker or an eco-retreat far from the city lights, Host Unusual wants to truly wow its followers. Their accommodation is unique, run by owners who share their passion for holidaying ‘out of the ordinary’.

They also believe in giving back to the travel community, partnering with the amazing Family Holiday Association, a charity that works tremendously hard to help families take a holiday they desperately need but couldn’t otherwise experience. For every location listed on Host Unusual, a percentage of their membership costs is given to the charity.

So do you hanker for a taste of the extraordinary with a mini-break in the heart of the English Riviera?

Brixham Harbour Devon UK © pxfuel
Your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, Brixham Harbour © pxfuel

Brixham is strewn with scenic activity, from stunning coastal walks, clear-water beaches, and pretty architecture in an array of fun colours. Life here has always centred around the harbour, where commercial trawlers jostle for space with day boats, all heading out to sea for the daily catch.

Outdoor entertainment includes the Buccaneers Way – a circular walk that offers stunning views, a bit of local history and a family-friendly treasure trail, an 18 hole golf course and a picturesque marina.

Golden Hinde replica, Brixham Harbour © Kev Bourne Pixabay
All aboard the Golden Hinde © Kev Bourne Pixabay

If you’re up for a longer hike, the gardens of Agatha Christie’s holiday home Greenways is a couple of hours walk away from the marina. Run by the National Trust the house is not yet open but the gardens and the setting for her murder mystery Dead Man’s Folly can be seen.

Want an overview of the English Riviera? Try the WeFerry Round Robin – a ferry trip from Brixham to Teignmouth then train to Paignton and ferry back from Paignton to Brixham.

With exceptional sea-and-harbour views from the private deck, a break at The Inspiration will cheer your soul as soon as you arrive. It’s a beautifully and securely secluded floating pod in Brixham’s friendly marina.

The Inspiration, Brixham marina Devon © The Inspiration

The boat is compact but with a deceptively spacious feel.

Interior of The Inspiration,Brixham Devon © The Inspiration

Furnished in a contemporary, ‘home-from-home’ style, there’s a comfortable living area, bedroom and kitchenette that form a convenient studio space.

Inside The Inspiration, Brixham harbour Devon © The Inspiration

Take your morning coffee out to the deck and watch the seals playing while you plan your day. Then maybe stroll along the promenade for shopping and coffee stops, grab a ferry to Torbay, visit Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind replica ship or take a five-minute walk to the nearest beach. After all that exertion curl up in front of the TV for movie night – the perfect way to end a hectic day of exploring.

The English Riviera is waiting!

Some images reproduced under Creative Commons licence

Where to next?
Holiday and Travel Competitions
Discounts and Deals
Postcard from Cornwall

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