10 hidden gems in Torquay
Sun, sand and bustling beaches may not be the first things that come to mind when you think of the United Kingdom. However, if you head to England’s south-west corner to learn English in Torquay, you're in for a pleasant surprise.
Part of what’s known as the English Riviera, Torquay is truly one of England’s best-kept secrets, full of hidden gems, history and colorful character that has inspired unsuspecting visitors for decades. From the center of town to the idyllic coastline, these 10 hidden gems in Torquay are worth checking out.
1. Kayak, paddle and swim through hidden coves
If you’re into watersports — or want to give them a try — nowhere else in the UK beats the English Riviera. It’s watersports heaven, with countless little coves, caves and cliffs lining the seven-kilometer bay. In fact, Torquay has some of the most scenic and sheltered beaches in Europe, making it both a beautiful and safe spot to explore no matter how much experience you have.
At Oddicombe Beach, rent a kayak, paddleboard or pedal boat, or book a beginner’s sea kayaking course from Sea Kayak Torbay to get started. Another small, secluded and beautiful beach is Anstey’s Cove, which has some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the area.
2. Enjoy the vibe at Blue Walnut Café and Cinema
You could easily spend an entire day in this vibrant and versatile café. Get in early for a classic English breakfast — study and people-watch over a book and a latte during the day, and return later for film screenings, poetry recitals, live comedy and art. The menu is produced locally in this eclectic and cozy spot, which frequently draws a lively and creative crowd.
3. Stroll or cycle through magical Scadson Woods
Scadson Woods is the perfect place for a long, slow weekend walk or a mountain bike ride. With 13-acres to explore, these woods make you feel like you're a million miles away from town. Check out WeDo eBikes in Torquay center for every kind of bike hire option, and be sure to pack a picnic basket.
4. Read real-life stories of smugglers and the ‘Queen of Crime’
Not only is Torquay a former pirate hideaway, but it also happens to be the hometown of renowned ‘Queen of Crime’ writer Agatha Christie, the best-selling author of all time (rivaling only William Shakespeare himself). It’s a point of pride among locals that has created a fascination around the real-life stories she was inspired by.
If you’re into Netflix true-crime dramas, don’t miss The Real Crime Museum on Torquay Harbor. The museum digs deep into real-life crime stories from long ago, telling true tales of gangsters, bank robbers and pirates — all from within a museum housed in an eerie underground World War II bunker. It’s a far cry from the tranquil, safe and serene Torquay we know today.
5. Go ‘coasteering’ along rocky Riviera cliffs
For truly fearless outdoor adventurers, coasteering is the perfect way to spend an action-packed afternoon. A combination of ‘mountaineering’ and ‘coast’, it involves swimming and climbing along coastal cliff walls amidst the crashing waves. Sound like your kind of thing? Well, western Britain’s rocky coastline makes it the world’s ideal location for guided coasteering tours. To get your adventure started, Goodrington Beach is a great place to start and where you’ll find outdoor adventure guides to show you the ropes.
6. Try traditional Cornish pasties at England’s oldest pasty baker
Ask anyone around here and they’ll tell you that no trip to the area would be complete without trying its most famous food — the Cornish pasty. First created in the neighboring county of Cornwall, the traditional dish made of puff pastry, potato and onion has been made by Warren's Bakery since 1860, making them the longest-serving pasty craftsmen in the world. People are often surprised by how delicious these things are, so be sure to give them a try.
7. Get messy hands at Poppins Pottery
This cozy creative spot hosts regular workshops for beginners who want to create and paint their very own pottery. Whether on your own or in a group, it’s incredibly satisfying learning how to transform wet clay into colorful mugs, plates and dog bowls. The owners here are experts at showing you how it’s done, making an afternoon at their relaxing garden studio the perfect way to pass the time on a rainy day while creating a personal souvenir to bring home.
8. Experience what life was like over 100 years ago
One of the most unique sites of the area, Bygones is a museum that casts you back in time to see Torquay as it was over a century ago. Its immersive recreation of cobbled lanes, quaint shops and flamboyant fashion characterized Victorian England during the late 19th and early 20th century. As an independent, family-run attraction for generations, Bygones attracts curious crowds eager to feel what life was like in times gone by.
9. Swim or surf on Meadfoot and Hollicombe Beach
While the northern coast of Devon is more popular among surfer crowds due to its preferable winds, the south Devon beaches are perfect for surfing beginners who want calmer waters to start off with. Refreshingly relaxed, Torquay’s Meadfoot and Hollicombe beaches are both a ten-minute bus ride from Torquay center and are ideal for when you want beginner-friendly waves all to yourself.
10. Stop for scones in idyllic Cockington
Scone — do you pronounce it to rhyme with “bone” or with “gone”? This fierce debate has been raging among English-speakers for generations. However you say it, there’s no doubting the deliciousness of these quintessential English cakes topped with jam and cream (though not necessarily in that order — google the other raging regional debate between Devon scones and Cornwall scones).
Weaver’s Cottage Tea Garden is the perfect place to enjoy this classic afternoon tea experience — a hidden gem tucked away on the outskirts of town in the charming English village of Cockington, complete with stone cottages, fragrant rose gardens and car-free calm. Lovely.
Check out these ten hidden gems of Torquay and prepare to fall in love with the English Riviera.