Tor BayTorquay is the self-proclaimed English Riviera and birthplace of Agatha Christie. She spent 38 years summering in her mansion, the Greenway House, outside the city. Currently this mansion is being renovated into a museum, however you can still tour the gardens.

Buttressed by posh hotels, elegant houses, and a plethora of gardens, Torquay lies on the hills overlooking Tor Bay. One can take the self guided Agatha Christie walk, which is about a mile long. Pamphlets are available at the Tourist Information centre, located near the central harbor (signs clearly mark its location). The tour begins at the tourist centre but ignores several interesting addendums and lacks an actual guide to lead the way.

Start at Torre Abbey  (conveniently located 200 yards from the train station) (currently under-construction until July 2008) and visit the Agatha Christie Memorial. Be sure to leave time to explore the famous botanical garden. Look across the street at the Grand Hotel and you will see where Christie spent her first honeymoon in 1914.

From the Abbey, wander East towards the Marina.

From Torbay Road, the one and only main road, you will pass three of the exclusive but popular society buildings. The Cricket Club, Tennis Club, and Bowls Club all have greens with views of the water. On a good day you might see the locals dressed in white competing at all three places. These exclusive societies are often the subject of Christie’s social criticism.

Torquay

From the end of the Bowls Club walk along the water to the Princess Pier. In the Torquay Museum you can see a picture of a young Agatha Christie skating along this boardwalk in a large feathered hat. But do not just go for that novelty. The view at the end of the pier of both the water and the town is breathtaking.

After you admire the wonderful view of the harbor and the Riviera, make your way to the Pavilion. It is one of the only historic buildings still standing near the harbor so you cannot miss it. Recently it has been converted into a shopping mall, but during Christie’s day it was a popular theatre.

Old TheatreWalk away from the water to the Tourist Information Centre. In front of the West side entrance is the bust of Agatha Christie as shown on the right. You can spend some time browsing the ‘Agatha Christie’s Riviera Collection’ store. It has little to offer and is rather gimmicky. However, it does have a collection of her novels for sale.

Walk through the overhang to the other side of the building and there is a large plaque of Agatha Christie that marks the start of the official tour.

Walk down Victoria Par towards the opposite end of the harbor. You will pass lots of shops and restaurants worth browsing.  Some of the other shopping districts are not quite as nice or well located. Although they may seem a little overpriced, remember that there is nothing cheap in Torquay. If you have time, wander into the Hole in the Wall, it is Torquay’s oldest pub circa 1540.

At the end of Victoria Par you will pass Beacon Cove, the cove where Agatha Christie was rescued from drowning as a child.

From Beacon Cove follow Parkhill road for about 200 yards. Veer right on the South West Coast Path. This footpath has one of the best views of the water and the small rock formation just off the coast frequently has beautiful birds. This footpath takes you directly to Meadfoot Beach. During Christie’s generation men and women were not allowed to bathe together. Meadfoot, being female, was Christie’s favorite beach. At a leisurely pace this section of the walk should take ten minutes.

From the Meadfoot Beach take Meadfoot Road up the hill. At times you lose the sidewalk, but do not fret, it is always brief and the drivers are cordial. As you trudge up the hill you will notice beautiful houses with cascading gardens. If you have time wander in and out of one of the cul-de-sacs on your right because these gardens are particularly spectacular. Notice the elegant names of the houses and the different ways they are written out, the true sign of the aristocracy. Also off to your right is the Imperial Hotel, the setting for scenes in two of her books, Peril at End House and Sleeping Murder, However, it is very private like much of the town. As you climb higher and higher up the hill the view gets better and better so be sure to take a breather and look back.

CrescentAfter you have made your way up Meadfoot Road about 7 minutes, with no breaks, turn right on Higher Woodfield Road. This road pushes you away from the bustling coast and into the heart of the aristocracy. Stay along the road and you will find some of the most beautiful mansions. At the end of Meadfoot Road lies the magnificent Lisburne Crescent, a set of beautiful townhouses that stood during Christie’s day which are reminiscent of the famous crescents in Bath. These houses symbolize the opulent lifestyle that Christie so frequently critiqued.

As Higher Woodfield Road ends at Babacombe, take a left back down the hill. Within 300 yards you will find Torwood Garden Road. Take another left and you will find yourself in the beautiful historic gardens. As you wander through the park Christie played in as a child, the Torquay museum will be on your right. Visit this museum if you have time, but keep in mind the Christie exhibit is small and an hour will suffice. Be sure to notice the beautiful Georgian architecture and the occasional Norman townhouse.

Follow Babacombe, which turns into Torwood, down the hill back to the city centre. When you have found the clock tour circled by the roundabout the walk is finished and you are back at the marina and city centre.

 

© Copyright Christopher Chanock 2007