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24 September 2014

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Cycle route: The English Riviera - Torquay to Paignton
Torquay Harbour
The coast road at Torquay seafront
Enjoy some superb coastal views of the self-styled English Riviera on this cycle route between Torquay and Brixham.

Break the trip into smaller chunks or tackle it all in one go - there is plenty to see on the way.
Other cycle routes:
Plym Valley trail
Granite Way
Devon coast to coast
Grand Western Canal Tarka Trail
Wessex Way
Devon cycling guides

Torbay Council
English Riviera
National Cyclists Org

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The three towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham market themselves as the English Riviera.

There are 22 miles of coastline, cliffs, coves and beaches, with a climate that belongs somewhere much further south.

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The English Riviera boasts some of the best coastal views in the country, so a bike ride between the Torbay towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham sounds very appealing.

In the past though, there has always been one big problem - the traffic. With no cycle lane, you really were taking your life in your hands riding along this busy coastal road.

Well, in response to criticism over the lack of bike-friendly routes, Torbay Council has now provided a cycle "lane" on sections of the road between Torquay and Paignton. So you can get some exercise and take in the views.

Meadfoot Beach
Meadfoot Beach, with Ilsham Marine Drive winding down the hill beyond
You can start and finish where you like really, but a good starting point is Ilsham Marine Drive in Torquay, where you can park overlooking Thatcher Rock. This spot has far-reaching views up and down the South Devon coastline.

From there, the ride takes you down the steep, winding road to Meadfoot Beach. All along here, you can look across Tor Bay to Brixham and Berry Head. And, to your right, on the hill, is the Osborne in Hesketh Crescent - one of Devon's most beautiful buildings.

The ride up the hill here (Meadfoot Sea Road) is steep, before you go left at Parkhill Road and down a steep hill to Torquay harbourside. From here, it's pretty straight forward, as you ride along the Strand and on to Torquay seafront.

All of this stretch is on-road (A3022), and with no cycle lane markings, so take care until you get beyond Torre Abbey Sands, where the cycle lane starts.

It comes and goes though, it must be said! And, while the cycle lane (a white line separating cyclists from motorists) is a step in the right direction, the council could do with extending the sections so that those on bikes do not come into conflict with buses and lorries.

Paignton beach huts
Summer scene...the beach huts at Preston, Paignton
One of the big impediments to the casual cyclist in Torbay is the hilly nature of the resort. The beauty of the coastal road for these cyclists, is that the hills are few and far between.

The main one is at Hollacombe Bends, between Torquay and Paignton. After that, you reach the shops at Preston, where you follow the sign to the seafront.

That takes you under a railway bridge to Preston Sands...where the beach huts actually blot out the view of the sea during the summer!

Follow the road along, and you reach Paignton Beach, Paignton Green, and Paignton Pier. The seafront road - The Esplanade - winds naturally around to the right, and then left, up a little hill and over the railway line to Dartmouth Road (the A379).

This is a main road, but just a short distance along is a left turning to Goodrington Beach, where there is a beach-side pub where you can stop for a bite to eat. Or, you can wait until you get back to the Osborne, where there is a bar and a restaurant.

Goodrington Beach
Goodrington Beach, with a steam
train passing by
Depending on how energetic and brave you are (bearing in mind the road from here to Brixham is busy with traffic) you can either carry on to the south end of Torbay, or wind your way back to Torquay.

Meadfoot to Goodrington is about a 45-minute ride (give or take 10 minutes). And the sea views are well worth the effort. The new cycle lane definitely makes life easier, and safer, but it needs to be extended.

You never know: one day, the entire road between Torquay and Brixham will be made bike-friendly for families to enjoy all of that stunning scenery.

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