Babbacombe

Babbacombe

Babbacombe, although part of Torquay, has a totally independent feel to it. There are similarities such as a prom, harbour, beach and even a theatre, but generally speaking, it’s a much more reserved and low-key location than its larger neighbour.

The focal point is Babbacombe Downs, which at 300 ft. above the sea below, offers commanding views around Lyme Bay towards Dorset.

On a clear day it’s possible to see as far as Portland Bill, so where better to just lounge around and enjoy the view, perhaps with some fish and chips from Hanbury’s in nearby Princes Street. As tempting as that might be, it’s probably better to work up an appetite first, and a short walk around Babbacombe will not only do just that, but will also provide you with quite a few things to see and do along the way.

Babbacombe Downs

If you’ve got kids in tow, a good starting point is the Model Village which has been giving pleasure to holidaymakers since 1963.

As someone who’s not normally into attractions like this, I decided to pay it a visit because it’s been one of Torquay’s most visited tourist destinations for years, and to write about Babbacombe without talking about the model village would be like going to Cairo and not mentioning the pyramids. Ok, that might be stretching it a bit far but you get the gist.

It was obvious from the time I walked in that this place was full of people of all ages, with and without kids, and whether you’re into model villages or not, you would have to be having a bad day if you weren’t impressed with the setting, the attention to detail and the amount of work that has gone into this labour of love over the years. Not only that, it’s constantly changing to keep up with the latest trends and events and on Summer evenings the whole place is lit up. To quote one visitor “Three seniors walked in and three kids walked round”. It does seem to have that affect somehow.

Not far from the Model Village is a path that zig-zags down to Oddicombe Beach, but it’s more fun to catch the Cliff Railway which has carried hundreds of thousands of people up and down the cliffs since 1926.

The ride doesn’t last long but it doesn’t cost the earth either and is all part of a holiday experience. 2019 prices were £2 one way and £2.80 return, and definitely worth the extra 80p if you intend returning directly back up to the top, believe you me.

The Cliff Railway

In my opinion though it’s a better idea not to go straight back up because it’s worth having a look at what’s on offer down at sea-level first.

The beach is pebbly and not ideal for paddling but it’s still worth chilling out for a bit at the Three Degrees West Café Bar and Bistro. A word of warning though – don’t get too close to the cliffs next to the beach because they are prone to landslides as you won’t fail to notice.

Oddicombe Beach

What I do recommend though is a walk along the footpath to Babbacombe Harbour. It’s not far, and at the end is the Cary Arms, which is a bit more luxurious since it was taken over by Peter de Savary, but still a great spot to chill out with a long cool drink on a hot summer’s day.

Where the car park is now situated was the spot of an infamous murder back in 1884. John ‘Babbacombe’ Lee was sentenced to hanging for killing his wealthy female employer. Three times they tried to hang him and three times they failed. Consequently, he was given a life sentence instead and eventually walked free. Ever since, he’s been known as the man they couldn’t hang.

Babbacombe Harbour
Oddicombe Beach from the Cary Arms

There are a few alternative ways to get back to the top. The shortest is the road from The Cary Arms which is bad enough to drive up let alone walk. Alternatively, there’s an easier route up through the woods. If, on the other hand, you don’t want anything too strenuous you can always walk back to the Cliff Railway. I wouldn’t recommend the road if I’m being honest.

By way of interest, near the top of this switchback road is the former Babbacombe Cliff Hotel, which prior to that was a private manor house belonging to a family member of Oscar Wilde’s wife, and where they came to stay in 1837. While he was here he wrote ‘A Woman of No Importance’, and whether there was any significance to that title or not I doubt, but his wife might well have fitted that description because his love of Babbacombe was only matched by his love for other men, and in particular, Lord Alfie (Bosie) Douglas, who would join him while his wife was away.

It was Bosie’s father, the Marquis of Queensberry who made allegations of Oscar Wilde’s sexuality which ultimately led to his incarceration at Reading Jail.

Whichever route you take, you’ll end up back on Babbacombe Downs, where, if you were one of those people who used to enjoy Saturday nights watching ‘Seaside Special’ on the tely, then you might want to consider getting some tickets for the variety show that is still a perennial favourite at the Babbacombe Theatre.

The theatre has been running since the 1930s and people who did seasons here when they were just starting out include Bruce Forsyth, Ted Rogers and Roy Hudd.

Believe it or not, 83-year-old Roy Hudd is performing again here in 2020, but it has to be said that the venue caters to smaller audiences rather than any specific type of audience.

Whether you’ve gone to see a show or not, you’ve probably worked up that appetite by now (unless you’ve given into temptation on the way round) and there are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from; but maybe you would simply prefer to end the day with those fish ‘n chips you deprived yourself of earlier and just sit here and admire the view – and who could possibly blame you for that?

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28 thoughts on “Babbacombe

  1. Alli Templeton

    Hi Malc, at last I’m grabbing an opportunity to catch up a bit with my favourite blogs. Sadly, owing to enormous pressures and hassles I’ve had to give blogging up altogether so far this year, but I’m hoping to keep going – even if it’s only rarely – for a while at least. I really enjoyed reading about Babbacombe – and seeing pictures of some blue skies amid all these horrible storms! That’s one heck of a landslide on Oddicombe Beach – I wouldn’t want to live very close to that. And I’m intrigued by the murder story and the man they couldn’t hang. I have some recollection of learning that if someone somehow evades death after three execution attempts they are deamed to be innocent by divine intervention and let free. So either in his case there’s some truth in that, or he had some clever trick up his sleeve which he used to his advantage – but it’s chilling to think that he may have walked free after murdering his lady employer. Great post, as always.
    Hope you’re well and the year – if not the weather – is being kind to you so far. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      Sorry to hear that you’ve not been able to blog for a while. I miss those treats, but perhaps you’ll be able to come back to it sooner than you think. I’ve been trading water a bit myself.
      I think John ‘Babbacombe’ Lee had a trick up his sleeve to escape the gallows somehow but I’m glad you enjoyed reading about it.
      Normally my glass is half full, but at the moment it’s half empty, but I could do without it being topped up by all this rain. I trust everyone’s well in the Templeton household.

      Reply
      1. Alli Templeton

        I’m so sorry to hear your glass is half empty, Malc. That’s not good – we’ll have to top it up with mead! Do feel free to drop me an email if a sympathetic ear/eye would help. It’s the same here, really, and yes, the seemingly endless rain doesn’t help at all. I’m really missing venturing out on nice long walks.
        I’m hoping to get a post out next weekend, but we’ll have to see how this week goes – and it’s half term too.
        It’s been lovely catching up with your blog, anyway. Your writing is very engaging and I’m always inspired by your posts. 🙂

        Reply
        1. Easymalc Post author

          Just when I’m wondering why I bother to write these blogs you send me a comment like this – and then I realise that they’re not a complete waste of time after all. I’m not sure that those words are deserved, but I’ll take them all the same. Thank you 🙂
          You know I feel the same way about your offerings, which is why it’ll be good to see you back writing again – and I’m not saying that just to be nice. They really are good.

          As for my glass being half empty it happens to all of us at some time doesn’t it? It’s really nice of you to offer a sympathetic ear, and it goes without saying that the same applies to you if you should feel the need to unburden yourself. A trouble shared is a trouble halved as they say.

          Hopefully the clouds will soon lift and the sun starts shining again, both metaphorically and meteoroligally speaking 🙂 In the meantime, I haven’t got any mead to open up, but there’s a bottle of wine in the cupboard and a bottle of ‘Proper Job’ cooling off in the garage, so that’ll be a good start. Thanks Alli 🙂

          Reply
          1. Alli Templeton

            Glad my timing was right! And it really does mean a lot to know you really enjoy my humble offerings too. Even if I can’t do much in the blogsphere at the moment, it’s still good to know it may be worth my while keeping going on some small level. Thanks for your support. 🙂

            And yes, half empty glasses are a part of life for most people nowadays. It’s hard to feel otherwise sometimes. Still, until the clouds lift, I’m here if you need a friend, and a good bottle of something nice will always help. 🙂

            Reply
            1. Easymalc Post author

              Thanks Alli. The good news is that the sun has made an appearance today, but there are still a lot of black clouds around

              Reply
              1. Alli Templeton

                There are indeed, but you know what they say about clouds and silver linings. I’m sure there must be some like that up there too. 🙂

                Reply
  2. Fergy.

    Another great page, Malc.

    I am so glad you mentioned Babbacombe Lee as his story is the basis for one of my favourite Fairport Convention albums. Have you ever heard it?

    I cannot believe Roy Hudd is still treading the boards at his age, good for him.

    Reply
      1. Fergy.

        It was a “concept” album which were popular then. It was mostly the idea of the late Dave Swarbrick (RIP) who had found a book about John Lee in some old bookshop and was fascinated by him. Well worth a listen and it is on Spotify so you can have a listen for free. It’s also on Youtube if that suits you better.

        Reply
  3. toonsarah

    This looks like such a lovely place to explore, especially in the fine weather of your photos. The model village photos took me back to childhood visits to the one in Eastbourne (incidentally I took my own very first photo there and still have it – my father sad at the time that I had a good eye 🙂 ) and to Beckonscot. I would enjoy riding the cliff railway and having a drink in the Cary Arms for sure!

    Reply
    1. Easymalc Post author

      Thanks for popping into Babbacombe Sarah. It’s worth coming here just for the views alone – with, or without your camera 🙂

      Reply
  4. starship VT

    Great write up, Malcolm. You always find the most interesting places and Babbacombe is stunning (minus the landslide). Beautiful in summer with the sun and views from the cliffs or from the waters edge; and, I admit, I like the Model Village quite a lot!

    Reply

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