Saturday: What a gorgeous sight to wake up to; colourful houses nestling close to each other, spilling over the hills. Brixham is very pretty but also one of England’s busiest fishing ports, and we have seen trawlers and fishing boats continuously enter and exit the horseshoe shaped harbour.
We took the RIB in and moored it for the day on the visitors’ pontoon. Up on the quay we were greeted by the most amazing arrangement all along the harbour front: colourful flowers and imaginative displays by a local group.
We headed for The Golden Hind. Our first impression was how small she is. For a boat that circumnavigated the earth! It is, of course a replica, but it is full-size, and it gives you a very good idea of the cramped and very difficult conditions Drake and his men would have endured. We had a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide who was able to answer all our questions – lovely! We also learnt why toilets on boats are called ‘heads’ – as this was a slatted space right at the head of the ship. No protection or privacy provided!
We then walked towards the museum but happened upon The Curious Kitchen, a food place I’d heard of, so we treated ourselves to a very tasty and nutritious brunch, complete with green smoothie and turmeric latte! Fully invigorated we found the local history museum, only to be told they close early on Saturdays, so we only had 15 minutes. And most of that time was spent with a very passionate volunteer who was clearly very proud of their museum. But it was time well spent as she was a true local, and told us of her father who was a sailmaker providing the fishing fleet when they were still under sail, how James Callahan went to primary school here, and that Henry Francis Lyte, who wrote the words for ‘Abide with Me’ lived up in Berry Head House.
We walked past Berry Head House, now a hotel, only an hour later on our way to the headland at Berry Head. What amazing views! Apparently you can see 800 sq miles of sea here; an obvious look out point and a good place for yet another Napoleonic fort.
It also houses an iconic lighthouse, one of the smallest in the British Isles, requiring no further elevation than that given by the headland itself. It’s actually quite hard to believe that this titchy structure can be a lighthouse.
We returned to the harbour via the small pebbled beach, got our RIB and decided to explore Fishcombe Cove, close to where we’ve anchored. This cove is one of many protected places along the coastline in Tor Bay where sea horses live in the sea grass. We tried to spot them but no luck. But that really didn’t matter as we thoroughly enjoyed the calm and the sunshine in this beautiful cove.
Sunday: We headed back into Brixham, but this time to catch the Western Lady Ferry for a day in Torquay. It’s a 30 minute ferry ride, 3.5 miles straight across the bay.
We had heard that Living Oceans was not to be missed, so went there first. It was very well set up as a family outing, but for me it was a bit disappointing that there wasn’t more onus on the local marine life. But we saw both African and Macaroni penguins, Inca terns, Common Cormorants, Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Tufted penguins, Avocets, Seals, Otters, two species of Sea horses (but not the local kind) and various fish. The enclosures were imaginatively constructed and it was clear they were trying to imitate their natural habitats, but I felt truly conflicted as however well done, this was still wildlife on parade for humans.
Back out in the sunshine we walked up the hill, (easily done in Torquay!) and found an utterly beautiful coastal walk. Along the way we saw some truly spectacular homes with sea views to die for. On the way back down into town, we walked through an area which can only be described as well-to-do, and with the heat of the day and the pine scent along the streets, it was easy to see why this is called the English Riviera.
We toyed with the idea of taking the bus to Barracombe Miniature Village, but realised we wouldn’t get much time there as they close early on a Sunday, so instead we walked to Torre Abbey Gardens. There were some serious boules matches going on, which was really interesting to watch. One lady was incredibly skilled and hit the jack almost every time! We had wanted to go in to the gardens that have the poisonous plants a la Agatha Christie, but by that time we were tired, and when confronted with the need to pay more money to see things, we took the land train back to the harbour and went back to our boat home.