The coastal footpath between Beacon Cove and Daddyhole Plain is known as Rock Walk and only about a mile long, but it affords some of the best views in the bay, and if you continue downhill for a short distance you will then come to the impressive Hesketh Crescent and Meadfoot Beach.
This is a walk that people who don’t know it could easily miss, but even though it starts from just behind the Harbour it’s not long before you leave the crowds behind.
Beacon Cove lies next to Living Coasts which is a coastal zoo and aquarium belonging to Paignton Zoo. You can’t miss the ‘Hairnet’, as locals call it, and to find the footpath walk along the Victoria Parade side of the harbour and at the end turn up Beacon Hill, where on the right hand side is a brown tourist sign pointing the way to Beacon Cove.
A short walk brings you to the cove, where instead of the red beaches that Torbay is well known for, there’s a small, rocky grey limestone bay. Until 1903 it was a ladies-only beach and a favourite spot for the young Agatha Christie who lived not far away.
It was the Victorians that created this footpath so that they could quarry the limestone for use in the emerging holiday town, and limestone is the dominant feature all the way along this stretch of coastline.
At Peak Tor Cove this was put to good use where the Home Guard used the landscape to keep watch over the bay during World War II.
As you climb the path the views become even better, and whatever you do don’t miss a small detour off the main path to see a natural limestone arch which the Victorians nicknamed ‘London Bridge’.
The main path from here starts to give some exceptional views of Torbay and although there’s a bit of a climb to reach the limestone plateau of Daddyhole Plain you can always use the excuse that you’re photographing the view and not really taking a rest.
‘Daddy’ is an old Devon name for the Devil, who supposedly lived in a cave at the base of the cliff, hence the name Daddyhole.
From Daddyhole Plain the views also extend towards Thatcher Rock and the Ore stone, but even though this is where the Rock End Walk comes to an end, if you take the car-free lane downhill on the far side of the car park it will lead you down to Meadfoot Beach.
This shingle beach was formed from Devonian slates and shales and runs from Triangle Point around the bay towards Ilsham Valley.
If you can manage to ignore the luxury, but incongruous Kilmorie apartment block (I can only guess at how planning permission was granted for that), this quiet beach will provide a lovely spot to relax, as well as a safe place for bathing.
There’s a nice little café near Triangle Point, but if you prefer something a bit more upmarket it’s worth walking back towards the lane you came down from Daddyhole Plain and visit the Osborne Hotel in Hesketh Crescent.
This Regency crescent was built in 1848 for the influential Palk family and is a bit like Bath-by-the-Sea. These days the crescent is all part of the Osborne Hotel and in the summer their Brasserie opens up onto a terrace overlooking the sea where you can enjoy a drink, afternoon tea or something from the barbecue grill in what I consider to be one of the best locations to spend a quiet summer afternoon anywhere in the bay. It may not be as cheap as The Meadfoot Café but I reckon you’d be hard pushed to resist it all the same.
At the time of writing bus 64 will get you back to the harbour from Hesketh Crescent if you don’t fancy the walk back.