Seafront stroll with Agatha Christie connection at both start and finish

Torbay Weekly

The Grand Hotel to Beacon Cove:

Most of us have travelled the familiar seafront route from Corbyn Head to Torquay harbour, some of us more times than we care to remember - but how many of us actually appreciate what we’re passing along the way?

This week, I'm parking the car to remind myself of the many points of interest along the way.

The Grand Hotel has been a seafront landmark since Victorian times and has the inevitable  Christie connection for it was here that Agatha and her first husband, Archie, spent their honeymoon on Christmas Eve 1914. The hotel’s Agatha Christie Suite marks the occasion.

The Grand overlooks Torquay Recreation Ground, which I first visited with my father during the 1954 cricket festival.

I well remember Frank ‘Typhoon’ Tyson terrifying batsmen with a run-up that began at the sight screen!

It was here I met a a man destined to become a national treasure.

I was reporting on the three-day match between the Indian tourists and Minor Counties for the local evening paper and the charming Henry Blofeld was there on behalf of The Guardian.

As I recall, ‘Blowers’ spent much of his time in Torquay scouring second hand book shops for anything relating to Agatha Christie.

Here, too, that I was privileged to meet the great Bishan Bedi. And I was again at the ground on a sunny day in the late 1960s when our afternoon edition arrived at the ground bearing the memorable headline ‘Virgin thrills large Torquay crowd’ above my report of the Somerset opener, Roy Virgin, scoring a century before lunch!

In front of the ‘Rec’ is King’s Bowling Club, home club of the bad boy of bowls, Griff Sanders, and the setting for Mel Smith’s 2003 film about him - Blackball, starring Paul Kaye, Johnny Vegas and Bernard Cribbins.

Stroll through King’s Gardens, opened in 1905,  and cross King’s Drive to cut through the grounds of 12th century Torre Abbey passing the Spanish Barn where prisoners from the Spanish Armada vessel, Nuestra Senora del Rosano, were held after their capture by Drake in 1588.

The abbey, incidentally, plans to open its doors and garden to the public on May 19 with the Chasing Rainbows art exhibition - a timely celebration of rainbows.

Exit abbey park and gardens, cross Belgrave Road and head for Royal Terrace Gardens which I - and, I suspect, most locals - have always known as Rock Walk.

The level pathway just above the road is well stocked and maintained but higher up it all looks rather sad - although the views from up there are spectacular.

Princess Gardens, which lie between the Princess Theatre and the Pavilion, are named in honour  of Princess Louise, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria.

The Princess laid the foundation stone for the ‘pleasure ground’ in 1890 for what was the first of Torquay’s public gardens.

Cross the harbour footbridge, which linked the north and south piers for the first time when it opened in 2003, and from Beacon Hill pick up the walkway to Beacon Cove.

The walk ends as it began - with a Christie connection. For this sheltered shingle beach, once known as the Ladies' Bathing Cove, was the author’s favourite swimming spot.