Even though Torbay is generally thought of as an urban area next to the sea, it doesn’t mean to say that the South-West Coast Path isn’t worth following around the bay. I would agree that it wouldn’t make sense to follow it all the way around, but there are some lovely stretches of coastline between Torquay and Brixham, and I reckon this one from Torquay Harbour to Meadfoot Beach is one of them.
The footpath between Peaked Tor Cove and Daddyhole Plain is about a mile long and known locally as Rock End Walk, but to make it easier to find I’ve decided to start the walk from the Victoria Parade side of the harbour where it meets Beacon Hill.
As you start to walk up the hill, you’ll see a brown tourist sign that leads down to Beacon Cove. Unlike the red sandstone beaches that this part of Devon is well known for, this is a small rocky limestone bay, which until 1903, was a ladies-only beach and a favourite spot for the young Agatha Christie. Next to it is the now empty ‘hairnet’, which before the Covid-19 pandemic arrived, was the home of seabirds and other marine life that made up Paignton Zoo’s Living Coasts. There’s no access onto the coast path from Beacon Cove, so you’ll need to walk back up onto the road if you venture down here.
From Beacon Hill continue onto Parkhill Road and the Imperial Hotel: The official coast path goes straight past the front entrance to the hotel, after which, if you keep bearing right you should find yourself above Peaked Tor Cove. The uninterrupted view right across the bay towards Berry Head was put to good use by the Home Guard during WWII as a secluded mine watcher’s post, where in the event of a sea-borne attack, mines on the seabed could be detonated from the pill-box that is now used by horse-shoe bats.
Beacon Cove, if you remember, was a ladies-only beach and you might like to know that Peaked Tor Cove was the gentlemen’s equivalent.
The cliffs along this part of the coastline are made up of limestone, some of which were quarried for expanding the town after the railway arrived. As you walk along the path away from Peaked Tor Cove make sure you don’t miss the slight detour which offers a good view down to a natural limestone arch nicknamed London Bridge.
The main path from here starts to give some exceptional views of Torbay and although it’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 take 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.
ORIGINAL POST – FEB 2019
LATEST UPDATE – NOV 2020