An Impromptu Trip to Torquay

I unexpectedly acquired an extra couple of days of holiday and I thought it would be nice to get away for a night somewhere. My husband Dave and I love the West Country, and thought that Torquay would be a lovely place to revisit after spending a few days there a couple of years ago. The Grand Hotel situated right on the seafront looked great (if a little extravagant) but hey, why not! Whilst on the hotel website, I tried to book a sea view room, but showed they were booked up. Dave called and negotiated a great deal on a sea view family room for the same price as the double for £140. It sounds a lot, but it also included an excellent breakfast and use of the health club facilities.

When visiting the West Country  driving would be the usual mode of transport, but this time we chose to go by train to make the journey a bit more of an adventure. Taking the train would be so much more relaxing for Dave, as whilst he battled through the inevitable A303 traffic jams I would be sat in the passenger seat sleeping through half of the journey.  Having a ‘Two Together‘ Railcard saved us a third on the rail fair that ended up costing us £56 each return.

On Saturday morning, with our travel backpack, we boarded the train from Dorking at 8.30am.  The journey was comfortable and was very satisfying just being able to relax, read a magazine or just watch the world whizzing by. I would always recommend booking your seats especially at the weekend, as the trains can become a bit like a bun fight for places to sit. At 12.00pm we got off the train at Torquay after two effortless changes at Reading and Exeter.

We had arrived in the beautiful area of Torbay in Devon and is fondly known as the English Rivera because of the warm and sunny microclimate.

The Grand Hotel was literally across the road from the train station. We arrived a bit early for our room and therefore we were invited to use the leisure facilities of an inside and outside swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi and gym free of charge. The health club was situated downstairs from the lobby right next door to the busy spa, where a group of ladies were excitedly booking in whilst wearing their monogrammed bathrobes and slippers. We signed in and were given towels. The pool area was really well kept and we enjoyed the best part of two hours circulating between the pool, sauna and jacuzzi. We thought we had better get on with our day, as we were starting to turn into prunes!

Once showered (using the free shampoo and shower gel) we trundled back up to a busy lobby where a wedding party were gathering to go into one of the many large rooms where their wedding was being held. We saw the bride looking beautiful whilst ascending the stairs with her bridal party and a very excited looking dog complete with a diamanté collar and flower covered lead looking on. Their photographer was giving the group lots of instructions to achieve the ultimate group shot as the hustle and bustle of the hotel lobby continued around them. We reached reception to check in and grab our room key.

I was really hoping it wouldn’t be room 123 as I had read several dodgy Trip Advisor reviews. We got room 201. We made our way up the well worn staircase to the second floor and were very pleased to discover a large family room that included a large double and a single bed, a desk upon which a kettle and various teas and biscuits (the cherry chocolate ones were lovely) were begging to be used. The decor was nice. The lightly coloured wallpaper and  sumptuous heavy curtains in front of the beautiful bay windows went very well together. The bathroom was also tastefully decorated with period tiles on the wall offering a break from the usual clinical white walls you often get in hotels. The room also had a pair of comfy tub chairs and a coffee table strategically placed to take full advantage of the spectacular sea views over Torbay. Well worth paying extra for.

After chilling for a bit, and making the most of looking at the glorious view from our window, we went for a stroll. The weather was just starting to cool down as we wandered over the road to watch an intense game of Lawn Bowls. Before we knew it, half an hour had passed. Before we started to watch another game, we crossed the road to walk along the promenade. Torquay has such a beautiful sweeping Bay and I enjoyed watching the sun dance on the ripples as the tide was creeping ever closer to the shore. As we arrived at the twisty walkway over the road, we noticed a huge work of art that had been drawn using a rake in the sand. ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ it exclaimed. It sure had drawn a crowd of admirers as many people photographed the work from above and tourists chatted with the artist as a hat laying on the sand was adorned with coins of appreciation.

We carried on passed the artwork and approached a lovely looking restaurant called Pier Point. It was busy and you were able to sit inside and out. We sat inside and looked at the very full menu. I chose a meat platter to start, and wasn’t disappointed! It came with plenty of sliced meats, home made hummus, pesto, sun dried tomatoes and bread. My main was a delicious baked cod, clams and samphire with squid ink linguine in a creamy sauce. It was simply divine. We did look at the dessert menu, but to be honest the selection was very disappointing and we left it. It was a bit of a shame really.  By now it was pretty dark and as we strolled back to the hotel and under the strings of coloured lights along the entire promenade enjoying the warm evening. When we arrived back at the hotel, we enjoyed a complimentary coffee in the very well stocked bar. We could hear music coming from the ballroom where the wedding we saw earlier was being held and some of the guests were starting to trickle out to retire to their rooms. We weren’t too long behind them as the sea air had suddenly hit us both and took so we took ourselves off to bed.

We awoke to the sound of music and clapping from the street outside our room and when we looked out we could see dozens of people running past, it was the Torbay half marathon. It was strangely addictive and very therapeutic watching, but to be honest I was glad it was them and not me. After about half an hour watching the runners, I thought I had better get moving and thats when I discovered the terrible shower! Grand Hotel…. You were doing so well! The shampoo etc provided were great quality, but it just didn’t help when you are under a shower that felt like being under a watering can! It wasn’t long before Dave and I went down to breakfast. The breakfast was included in our stay and the selection was great. I had poached eggs on toast while doing a spot of people watching. It was easy to spot guests from the wedding the night before, as there was a selection of very bleary eyed guests. There was a vast selection of clientele, from the elderly to families to couples. The staff were attentive, and the food was well presented as well as fresh and delicious. The lazy morning continued once we had checked out, when we lazily strolled out of the hotel to watch the runners as they ran the second lap towards the finish in the neighbouring town of Paignton. The weather was really warm and I think some of the runners needed some extra help from the cheering crowds for motivation. On the top of a steep hill a pair of older gentlemen were singing various karaoke tracks. To be honest I think that some the runners purposely ran faster to get past the duo as they weren’t the best singers in the world! As the final runners trickled past we took one last stroll down the prom and I grabbed the opportunity to take some last minute photos as our time in Torquay was drawing to a close.

This South Devon town is such a gem of a place with the beautiful scenery and lovely weather to match, and I recommend you visit. The town wasn’t far to walk to and if you go towards the marina there are plenty of places to stop and soak up the sun, have a drink and watch the world go by. Torquay also offers tourists the chance to jump aboard the English Riviera Wheel with breathtaking 360 degree views almost 60 metres above The Princess Gardens. The Wheel offers a birds eye view of the English Riviera overlooking Torquay Harbour from a rare perspective. The Princess Theatre is a great place to see travelling West End shows as well as well known entertainers and tribute bands. Another place you might want to visit in Torquay is Living Coasts. Living Coasts is Britain’s only coastal zoo and well worth a visit.

If the Grand Hotel isn’t for you, there are so many other places to stay in this glorious seaside town. (We previously stayed at the reasonably priced Premier Inn on the seafront). Having such a handy railway station is great, as you can easily get trains to and from London and further afield, so why not give public transport a try? Going home was as easy as arriving and we got home just after 7pm. I loved my impromptu trip to the coast and I can’t wait for the next one.