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Morning light on Tor Bay
Torquay Town Hall

Torbay or Tor Bay is a wide bay in the east coast of Devon, on the English Channel, and also the name given collectively to the largely conurbated towns and villages on its shoreline, of which the principal places are:

The bay faces east into the Channel and forms a natural harbour, bounded by headlands; Hopes Nose at the north and Berry Head in the south, where Brixham stands.

The Torbay towns are roughly equidistant from the cities of Exeter and Plymouth and are popular tourist destinations, Torbay's sandy beaches, mild climate and recreational and leisure attractions have given rise to the nickname of the "English Riviera".


Churston Cove, Brixham
Hopes Nose
Torquay palm trees

Of the three main towns around the bay, Torquay is in the north, Paignton in the centre, and Brixham in the south. These have become connected over the years, swallowing up villages and towns such as St Marychurch, Cockington, Marldon, Churston Ferrers and Galmpton.

The southern limit of Torbay is Berry Head, and the northern limit is Hopes Nose. Torbay's many geological features have led to the establishment of the "English Riviera Geopark"; as of July 2008, this is the sole urban geopark of the 53 geoparks worldwide.[1]

Because of the mild climate, Torbay palm trees are a common sight along the coast. However, this 'palm' is technically, botanically a lily, Cordyline australis, originating from New Zealand where it is known as cabbage tree due to its edible young shoots. These trees also flourish elsewhere in the United Kingdom. It is suggested that the popularity of cabbage trees in Torbay is attributable to their first being introduced to Britain in that region.


Both Brixham and Paignton appear in the Domesday Book of 1086 and Paignton was given the status of a borough having a market and fair in 1294.[2] The first major building in Torquay was Torre Abbey, a Premonstratensian monastery founded in 1196.[3]

Torquay's economy was, like Brixham's, initially based on fishing and agriculture, but in the early 19th century it began to develop into a fashionable seaside resort, initially frequented by members of the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars while the Royal Navy anchored in Torbay and later, as the town's fame spread, by Victorian society.

Paignton remained a small fishing village until the early 19th century; a new harbour was built here in 1837.

Torre railway station was opened in December 1848 and the railway was extended to Paignton in 1859 and to Brixham in 1861, which resulted in the expansion of all three town.

Torbay hosted the sailing events for the 1948 Summer Olympics.[4]

An open top bus advertising the "English Riviera"

Outside links


  1. Global status for Torbay (retried 7 July 2008)
  2. Parnell, Peggy (2007). A Paignton Scrapbook. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7509-4739-8. 
  3. Percy Russell, A History Of Torquay (Torquay: Devonshire Press Limited, 1960), p.19
  4. 1948 Summer Olympics official report p. 50.