Not surprisingly, the harbour area is the main area of activity in Torquay, and has both an Inner and Outer Harbour.
The Inner Harbour is the main focal point and, just as you might expect, includes a variety of shops, bars and restaurants, as well as boats. Thanks to the pedestrian Millennium Footbridge that connects the Old Fish Quay with the South Pier, it’s possible to complete a circuit of the inner harbour without re-tracing your steps; and underneath the bridge is a cill which allows water to remain inside the harbour regardless of the state of the tide.
During the day, seagulls permitting, wandering around the harbour makes for a pleasant pastime, and there is also the opportunity to catch the ferry over to Brixham if you fancy a different harbour to wander around.
If you’ve brought Aunt Maud with you, it’s probably best to pack her off back to the hotel before the clubbing crowd turn up, especially on weekend nights during the summer. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I would have been joining them, but these days, like Aunt Maud, I find myself going home around the same time as I used to be going out.
The Outer Harbour, protected by Haldon and Princess Piers, is home to Torquay’s Marina, and therefore more suited to sailors than clubbers.
For anyone who just wants a quiet stroll away from the Inner Harbour, then where Victoria Parade meets Beacon Hill continue straight on along Beacon Quay.
Just before the entrance to The Harvester restaurant is a memorial to the 4th U.S. Infantry Division who departed here for Utah Beach in Normandy on 6th June 1944 – D-Day. The Embarkation Ramps are still here and for many years American veterans came over on the anniversary of D-Day to pay their respects to those who didn’t return, but I don’t believe any of them are able to make it any more.
Although most people won’t realise it, there’s an artwork along the quayside which starts with lights in the shape of a cross that lead towards a semi-circular ring, which I’ve come to call the ‘Quay Ring’. These lights run along the boardwalk and incorporates a message in Morse Code, but what it says I’ve no idea: Even if I was an expert in Morse Code, I’m not even sure that I would be able to decipher it because half the lights aren’t working most of the time anyway, which seems to defeat the object somewhat.
Walking on past the Harbour Master’s office to the end of the quay would have brought you to Living Coasts, the coastal arm of Paignton Zoo – but that was before Covid-19 arrived.
Although I’m not a great lover of seeing creatures of any description in captivity, it still seemed a sad day somehow when this large outdoor aviary called it a day in June of this year (2020). It was very popular, but obviously not popular enough to be able to keep going financially: Even I paid a visit here a few years ago, and although my opinion hasn’t changed, I recognise that a lot of good conservation work was done here as well. In the meantime, the area will no doubt become desolate until a viable alternative can be found.
The location of Living Coasts is where Beacon Quay meets Haldon Pier, but if you intend walking along to the end of the pier just bear in mind that unlike the Inner Harbour, you’ll need to re-trace your steps. Princess Pier is tantalizingly close, and it’s a shame that there isn’t a bridge to complete the circuit, but that’s how it is for most harbours.
The quickest way to get across to the other side of the Outer Harbour is to retrace your steps back over the Millennium Footbridge, but there’s nothing to stop you walking all the way round around the Inner Harbour either. Whichever way you go, you’ll end up at the Pavilion, which in recent times has become a battleground between developers and conservationists, with the council somewhere in the middle.
After years of wrangling, it appears that the conservationists have won, but in the meantime the Pavilion has closed up and become somewhat forlorn. The latest news is that it could be part of a new investment plan, but I think everyone will agree that the quicker it happens the better. It’s an absolute crying shame to see such a lovely building fall into disrepair.
Next to the Pavilion are Princess Gardens, which are named after Princess Louise, the 4th daughter of Queen Victoria, who laid the foundation stone for the gardens in 1890. Don’t feel guilty if you haven’t heard of her because I hadn’t either.
Amongst the manicured gardens is a lovely ornate fountain, which is often surrounded by English Language students from the continent who descend on Torquay during the summer months. Sometimes the atmosphere is very laid back and sometimes it’s not – it all depends on when you’re here.
Walking past the Riviera Wheel, and along the prom through Princess Gardens, is one of life’s simple pleasures; and if it wasn’t for Covid-19, the Princess Theatre would still be going strong. Princess Pier, on the other hand, has constantly taken a battering from the elements and it’s been a struggle for the council to keep finding the funds to keep protecting the Outer Harbour. I hope they do because the pier is also the departure point for the pleasure boats that operate out of Torquay.
The Harbour and Princess Gardens have always been the Queen of the Riviera’s crown, but there’s no denying that there are a few gems missing at the moment – but it also has to be said that there are still a few left as well.
ORIGINAL POST – JAN 2019
LATEST UPDATE – OCT 2020