The Seashore Centre is situated next to Goodrington Beach and Splashdown Quaywest, and is part of the Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust.
It's partly an Interpretation Centre and partly a base for staff to organise educational activities and conservation projects. It’s free to go in and everyone is welcome.
Torbay’s coastline has to try and cater for many different recreational activities from paddling, to water sports and fishing, but it also has some sensitive marine habitats as well.
Saltern Cove, not far from The Seashore Centre is a case in point, so much so, that it’s been designated an Underwater Nature Reserve.
Around the local coastline Seagrass beds are home to a diverse selection of marine life ranging from fish, molluscs, crabs, pipefish and sea horses. There are 2 types of seahorses found in UK waters, and Torbay has both. These Seagrass beds are particularly vulnerable because of their close proximity to the shore. The TCCT has helped to create the Torbay Seagrass Project which has surveyed and mapped these Seagrass beds. It also monitors other marine wildlife within the bay.
Apart from conservation projects, education is a very important part of the work carried out at the centre. Throughout the summer school holidays, activities such as rockpooling and snorkelling are on offer - and of course local schools are encouraged to participate in various projects. Adults aren’t left out either because there are also adult snorkelling safaris.
Inside the Interpretation Centre there are information boards relating to the Torbay coastline and its habitats including the Geopark’s rocks and fossils. There are also tanks with local marine life and a small team of people that are more than willing to help you with any questions that you may have. They’re a lovely dedicated bunch of people - and if you’re really lucky you may even see me in there on one of my afternoons that I help out as a volunteer.
The Seashore Centre is usually only open during the summer school holidays so If you're making a special journey I recommend that you ring in advance for their opening times. See below.
Broadsands is about halfway between Paignton and Brixham and has a more rural feel to it than either of them. Consequently there aren’t any amusements and other distractions here.
The beach is in a curving bay which is surrounded by both limestone and sandstone rocks making it both sandy and rocky.
If you like to have a safe bathing beach without the crowds then Broadsands won’t disappoint.
It’s also a great starting point for some lovely walks around the bay, both back towards Paignton and on towards Brixham.
It’s not completely rural but it’s in a lovely locality.
Perversely, there’s probably the largest car park for any beach in the bay here with some of the smallest numbers of people visiting. It’s Pay & Display of course but you’ll never be stuck to find somewhere to park. Alternatively take bus 12 to Windy Corner and walk down Broadsands Rd to the beach (approx 250 metres but don’t quote me)
The official name of the park at Goodrington is Youngs Park and I’m not sure if anyone really knows where that name came from, so to keep things simple for visitors I’m going to refer to it as Goodrington Park.
Situated adjacent to North Sands, the area where the park now stands has always been marshy ground. Hundreds of years ago there was a lagoon here which became known as May’s Pool. Kids were warned to steer clear of this ‘bottomless’ lake and the myth gained momentum in 1667 when a certain Richard Thorne fell from his horse and drowned. When it was decided to reclaim the land the pool was found to be just 2 feet deep. Today May’s Pool is the boating lake.
The park is a pleasant alternative to the beach if you don’t want to get sand between your toes, and if wildlife is your thing there’s a nice secluded part of the park run by volunteers of a local community group. Just a word of warning here though. This area is occupied by a fair number of swans and if you happen to be here after the cygnets have just been born then go careful because they are very protective towards their young.
The building that is now a hotel and pub was originally a hospital during the Napoleonic Wars and it’s believed that there are around 300 French sailors buried beneath the park. The area was consecrated ground which is why you may be surprised to see a lone granite headstone in the park known as the ‘Major’s Grave’. Being English and a major gave him privileges in death as well as life it would seem.
To get to Goodrington (or Youngs) Park take bus no. 12/12A from Paignton towards Brixham and get off at the Quay West bus stop near to the Clennon Valley Leisure Centre.
There is also ample Pay & Display parking if you’re driving.
If Paignton Beach is the automatic magnet for visitors then it could be argued that Preston Beach is the magnet for locals.
There’s absolutely no reason why visitors shouldn’t come to Preston Beach though, after all it’s only just around the corner from Paignton Beach.
The main reason why I would call it the locals beach is because locals own the beach huts that line the promenade and use them a lot. There are some to rent for visitors as well and the council charge by the day or week.
There aren’t as many facilities at Preston and although the sand is a bit coarser it’s still a good place to bathe and is normally perfectly safe. Having said that it’s probably the best beach for surfing in the bay.
If you're driving there is a car park in Colin Rd or if you're early or lucky enough you can have 4 hours free parking along Marine Drive.
Unfortunately there is no public transport to the beach.
Torbay has some 26 recognised beaches and Paignton has 8 of them, although I would argue that it’s 9.
Some can be busy and others more secluded, some are sandy and some are rocky. For obvious reasons the sandy ones are the busier ones.
Goodrington, it has to be said, is definitely one of the busier ones because, apart from its sandy, safe bathing beaches (there are 2 - North Sands and South Sands) it has some other attractions for families to enjoy - but that isn’t the whole story because it also has something extra special - rock-pooling.
It’s no accident that the Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust runs its ‘Seashore Centre’ from here because it’s a great spot for this fantastic activity for both kids and adults alike. I loved it when I was a kid - and I still love it now.
The adjacent Splashdown Quaywest Water Park is also very popular and if all this gets a bit too much for you then Youngs Park is just a few metres away.
The Paignton & Dartmouth Steam Railway is a popular tourist attraction which can be extended to include the 'Round Robin'.
People often mistakenly think that the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway starts from Paignton main line station but in fact it's a private enterprise and has its own platform and booking office on the Torbay Road side of the level crossing (see photo).
The journey from Paignton includes stops at Goodrington, Churston, Greenway and finally Kingswear. Greenway was a new stop in 2012 which is ideal if you want to visit Agatha Christie's House.
At Kingswear many people then take the ferry over to Dartmouth and return by steam train to Paignton.
The 'Round Robin' ticket though allows you to take the ferry over to Dartmouth, a river trip up the Dart to Totnes and then an open top bus ride back to Paignton. There's no doubt it's a great way to see the local area which you can do by starting your journey at Dartmouth or Totnes as well as Paignton. Check out the website below which has all the information you need and more.
If you like looking at old churches Paignton Parish Church won’t disappoint.
The Parish Church of St. John the Baptist, to give it its official name, is the 4th church to be built on this site. Firstly there was a Saxon church, then two Norman ones and then finally the one we see here today which was built between 1450 and 1500.
Although much of its original splendour has disappeared over the years, largely through over-zealous restoration, there are still some points of interest worth checking out.
The main entrance into the church is through a re-set Norman doorway. Inside and to your right is another Norman feature - the Font. It had been lost for 400 years, subsequently found, and relocated back here in 1930.
For me, the most interesting part of the church is the Kirkham Chantry further down on the right hand side. Much of the stonework has been damaged but it’s a pretty flamboyant feature nonetheless. The figures behind the altar are of Sir William and Lady Kirkham. Lady Kirkham is believed to have been the daughter of Chideock Tichborne who was executed in 1586 for his part in the Babington Conspiracy. This was the assassination attempt on Elizabeth I which would have put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne. The outcome, as we know, was the execution of Mary.
If you walk across the Nave you’ll see the Pulpit and although it’s been mutilated it’s worth making a note of it because pre-reformation pulpits are not very common in England. It was made in the late 15th century of Beer stone.
When you leave by the main West Door be sure not to miss the Treacle Bible in a glass cabinet nearby. It has a cloth covering it so you could easily miss it. This Bishops Bible of 1572 takes its name from a reading in the Book of Jeremiah - “Is there not treacle at Gilhead”
Why that sentence resonated with anyone I’m not sure but it is a rare book and worth checking out.
I reckon most people regard Paignton as just a Victorian seaside resort with all the fun of the beach, pier and amusements, and for the most part that’s true of course - but in actual fact Paignton’s history goes back much further than that.
Prior to the Norman Conquest, Peintona, was a Saxon burgh (enclosure) and then an Episcopal manor when the Bishops of Exeter acquired it around 1050.
After the conquest Bishop Osbern had a palace built here to help him administer the large manor. You have to remember that back then it would have taken the best part of a day to travel from Exeter to Paignton.
The palace had a defensive wall built around it - and to keep an eye out for potential trouble, mainly from the Vikings, a watchtower was built - and this is what the Coverdale Tower is.
The structure that stands here today is mainly 14th/15th cent, as is the wall adjacent to it on both sides, and built out of the red Permian sandstone that is so representative of Torbay.
The tower is named after Miles Coverdale who was Bishop of Exeter from 1551-53. He’s been accredited with being the first man to translate Tyndal’s Bible into English - and local folklore attributed some of his work on the bible being done here in the tower. That’s been proved not to have been the case , but it’s still known as the Coverdale (or Bishop’s) Tower.
A blue plaque on the wall shows that the Bishops relinquished the manor in 1549, so whichever way you look at it he didn’t translate the Bible while he was Bishop.
After the Bishops left there were several landlords - most of them absentee - and the palace fell into decay. It’s all back in church hands again these days, but if you want to see a part of Paignton that you might not have expected then head up towards Palace Avenue, the parish church of St. John and the Coverdale Tower.
Paignton started out as a fishing village but, unlike Brixham, its harbour never grew to any significant size, which is why I suppose a lot of people don't realise it's here.
The present harbour was constructed in 1839 and was used for importing coal from South Wales and exporting local cider and potatoes as well as the then well-renowned Paignton cabbage
These days pleasure craft dominate the harbour but you can take a sea angling trip if you fancy, as well as the ferry to Torquay and Brixham. Other popular summer trips include Dartmouth, Wildlife, and Evening Cruises. Gig Rowing and Diving are also popular pastimes around here.
There's a small beach in the far right hand corner called Fairy Cove and next to it is a small crab processing unit which takes delivery of freshly (and sustainably) caught Devon crabs and then does all the hard work before sending them off to be consumed elsewhere. If you climb the steps to the office upstairs they'll arrange for you to pick up a Dressed crab, or whatever you fancy. By the time you've paid for it and gone back down the steps it's ready and waiting for you.. It's a very friendly place and you'll be hard pushed to find a fresher crab at a cheaper price. If it's a nice day why not come prepared and bring a few slices of bread and sit back and enjoy a nice fresh crab sandwich overlooking the harbour. What could be nicer than that?
First opened to the public in 1879, Paignton Pier was financed by the local barrister Arthur Hyde Dendy.
The 780 ft long structure has changed over the years from being a place of song and dance to today’s amusement arcade with typical pier attractions of high-tech games, money-grabbing slot machines and bouncy castles.
Over the years seaside piers have had their ups and downs and Paignton Pier is no exception. It’s heyday may well have passed but it’s still pulling in plenty of punters. People of all ages still like to think they can beat the one-arm bandits and Dad still thinks he can pick up a fluffy toy for little Emily but rarely does - but what does it matter? - it’s what a day at the seaside is all about.
A traditional seaside resort like Paignton would, I think, be a sadder place without the traditional seaside pier - and I’m pleased to say that the one here in Paignton is still going strong.
Paignton Green, next to the beach, has always been a popular play area for kids and a new attraction has made it even more popular.
Based on the theme of the English Rivera’s Geopark status the free playground brings education and fun together.
The Devonian period is the toddler area, the Carboniferous period is for the juniors, sand and water symbolises the Permian period and the teens aren’t forgotten with a more adventurous play zone representing the Quaternary period.
Since it was installed in 2012 it’s been a huge success and a welcome addition to the Green. Sometimes I’m convinced that there are more kids playing in the Geoplay Park than there are playing on the beach.
Just because I live here I’m not going to pretend that Paignton Beach is one of the greatest beaches you’ll ever see, but it’s still a great beach for families to enjoy.
For starters it has a south facing aspect which means that if the sun’s out it will shine on Paignton Beach. What’s more Torbay experiences some of the highest sunlight hours in the UK.
On top of that it’s perfectly safe for swimming and has Blue Flag status with sand that makes the most perfect sandcastles.
With a pier and a brilliant free playground on the green behind it has everything that kids could want for a seaside holiday.
I used to come here when I was a kid many years ago and I remember enjoying it so much that I’ve come back here to live. That says it all really.
Paignton Pier is 780 feet long and first opened to the public in June 1879 and over the years has seen many changes. The pier was financed by Arthur Hyde Dendy, a local Paignton barrister and designed by George Soudon Bridgman. After many years of neglect in a major redevelopment project was undertaken this included the widening of the shoreward end to ensure a uniform neck. The pier is easily reached from the town centre and has many attractions including; Mega Slide, Crazy Golf, Beach Shop, Orbiter Dodgems, Cafe, Takeaway, Ice Cream, Rock and Sweet Shop, Ten Pin Bowling, Trampolines, Bouncy Castle, Snack Bar, Seafood Kiosk, Fresh Donuts, Burgers and Chips, Home Made Fudge Shop, Shooting Gallery, Remote Control Cars and Games for all the Family. The pier also has magnificent views of Torbay.
When British Rail decided to close the section of its railway between Paignton and Kingswear in the late 1960's the commercial Dart Valley Railway Company took it over to run as a heritage tourist attraction.
The company has gone from strength to strength and now offers boat cruises and open-top bus tours as well. Now known as the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company it offers various combinations of days out during its April to October season, centred around the steam train journey from Paignton to Kingswear.
During its high season the company runs 9 trains a day each way between Paignton and Kingswear with a journey time of 30 minutes. From Kingswear you can get a ferry (run by the same company) across to the historic naval town of Dartmouth. 2010 fares start from a basic £10 adult return and there are several fare options including family tickets.
This is something I haven't, as yet, done but is definitely on my list.
For details visit the website.
Paignton's origins were as a fishing village and the "earliest documentary reference to the harbour is in the Survey of 1567: "Land lying at Rowneham ... which they hold for the convenience of fishermen as a market place for the sale of fish"." (from website below).
The modern harbour was constructed in 1837 for use by both fishermen and cargo vessels and the first cargoes landed in 1839. It was probably quite a successful small port in those days, requiring a customs house, and with two quays each with their own slipways.
During World War I the port was used for conversion of pleasure craft for war use and even some Royal Naval whalers were built here.
In 1936 the Paignton Town Council bought out the private harbour company and must have been intending to develope it as part of the tourism infrastructure - the customs house being converted into public toilets.
However the present-day harbour seems to have slipped from the Torbay Council's radar and it doesn't even get a mention in recent guide leaflets. It is tho' still popular with local pleasure craft and rowing clubs and the small beach at Fairy Cove is a delight if you want to escape the madding crowds.