Bag a weekend in bonny Brixham
The past two decades have seen a resurgence of some of southern England’s most attractive fishing ports. Whitstable, Padstow, Newlyn, St Ives and Brixham have all become desirable destinations for holidays and weekend retreats English and overseas visitors alike.
Brixham, on the South Devon coast, is easily accessed via the UK’s southwest motorway network, and is well worth a visit for a weekend or longer stay. If you are looking for the quintessential English harbour, Brixham oozes it by the bucket load. Flanked by rising hills clad in higgledy-piggledy fishermen’s cottages, the pretty harbour is accessorised by bobbing fishing boats, ice-cream shops aplenty, seafood restaurants galore and lashings of shabby chic. Not to mention the life-size replica of the Golden Hind, the famous galleon of Sir Francis Drake.
Drake’s boat is well worth a visit, and can be easily combined with a spot of crabbing from the steep harbour walls to its side to fill a full morning or afternoon with the children. The Pirate Museum is also worth a look in for plenty of shivering timbers and a bit of background info on the smugglers, pirates and rogues who populated the town and local area in days gone by.
With its long heritage, Brixham evolved long before the days of the motor car and this is evident in its higgledy piggledy narrow streets. Leave the car at home and explore on foot to get the best out of this charming seaside village (and leave your nerves intact). There are plenty of shingle beaches stretching out to the west, culminating in Shoalstone pool, the local seawater pool which sits on the headland and is open for natural water swimming throughout the summer season.
Further beach fun can be found round the curving coastline of the Tor Bay. Access by car is easy although some of the nicer hidden coves are better accessed on foot via the coast route which snakes around the edge of town behind the fish market.
The latter has been fully rebuilt and is worthy of its position in one of the UK’s leading fishing harbours. Although it is primarily a trade-only affair, a quick cut down to the side reveals two public counters where the catch of the day can be bought, freshly caught, iced and boxed ready for transporting straight to your holiday kitchen.
With the palm-flanked holiday town of Torquay to the east and Dartmouth to the west, home to the Royal Naval College, Brixham is well placed for exploring the local area. Road access is easy and there are buses aplenty, but by far the most enjoyable way of getting around is by sea. Several water taxi and ferry companies offer regular routes between the villages and towns of the ‘English Riviera’, providing some great sightseeing opportunities en route. For something different try taking the steam train, with a detour to Greenway, former estate of crime novelist Agatha Christie, en route.
No visit to Brixham would be complete without sampling its many fish and seafood restaurants. Crab Quay House, above the new fish market is an obvious choice, and while it may be a slight triumph of style over substance, it certainly offers one of the best views in the village. For Brixham eating at its best, however, stick to the old harbour buildings and pop into the Poop Deck for a good old-fashioned feast on fruits de mer. Our verdict? Heaven on a plate.