English Riviera: What to do in England’s answer to the South of France – staycation tips

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The English Riviera has an exotic name that attracts droves of tourists every year. 

Referring to the Torbay area in South Devon, the Riviera is located around the key locations of Brixham, Paignton and Torquay.

The coastal area got its name in the Victorian era, when Brits realised a stretch of South Devon coast could rival with the French Riviera, and nabbed the name.

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The similarities between the South of France and South Devon are not limited to a name.

The English Riviera boasts great costal views, a warm climate, and Italianate homes and gardens that bring a Mediterranean resort style to the coast.

With 22 miles of coastline and multiple blue flag beaches, the Torbay area is the perfect seaside staycation spot.

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Most famous of the towns on the English Riviera, Torquay is hosting the International Agatha Christie Festival in September this year. The festival celebrates best-selling author Agatha Christie, who called Torquay home, and set some of her famous books in the area.

Visitors who can’t make it to the festival can still follow the English Riviera’s Agatha Christie walking trail and experience a literary-themed visit of the area.

The trail takes tourists around some of the landmarks associated with the writer.

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Burgh Island and the seaside village of Bigbury on Sea in the South Hams were the inspiration for the novels Evil Under the Sun and And Then There Were None, while Kents Cavern inspired The Man in the Brown Suit.

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Torquay has also long been associated with cult TV show Fawlty Towers, even if it never filmed in the English Riviera. The hotel that inspired Josh Cleese is no longer in town, with the building sadly demolished.

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The English Riviera’s main attractions, apart from its cultural significance, are the beach and its coastal location.

For a sandcastle, Torre Abbey Sands is unbeaten. The beach won the “best sand to make a sandcastle with” award in 2014.

Babbacombe Downs, meanwhile, has the highest cliff top promenade in England.

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With 20 beaches to choose from, visitors are spoiled for choice.

Oddicombe Beach has been a Blue Flag beach for 33 years and was a Seaside Award winner in 2020.

Another Blue Flag beach, Meadfoot Beach was a Seaside Award winner in 2019, and is only a mile from Torquay Harbour.

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Goodrington Sands is one of the most popular beaches in the region, and for good reasons. The sandy beach has clear waters and is the home of water adventure park Quaywest Water. It also offers the option to go kayaking, coasteering, rock pooling or snorkelling.

READ MORE: UK ranked in the global top 10 for ‘best beaches’

Visitors looking for a more active staycation, can go on one of the English Riviera’s numerous coastal walks.

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The walks range in difficulty, from a stroll alongside the beach to the South West Coast Path, created by coastguards on the lookout for smugglers. 

The warm climate and Mediterranean architecture of the English Riviera go hand in hand with the tropical and sub-tropical plants and palms that can be found at Torre Abbey Museum.

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