Travel plan for Bournemouth, Torquay, and Dartmoor National Park

Torquay is in the English Riviera, which, thankfully, does not share the climate for which England is famous. On England’s southwestern coast, Torquay is in Torbay, which is in Devon County. This means its an excellent companion to a travel plan that would also cover Dartmoor Prison in Devon. Let’s see if we can start working on a travel plan.

Day 1: Bournemouth

This spa town is famous for having attracted the elite of of Victorian society and Bournemouth Hotels are largely designed to help you stay in and relax.

The Cumberland Hotel, for example, has an indoor heated pool, spa tub, sauna, gym facilities and a tournament-sized squash court open to guests. Recognised as one of the most fashionable properties in the UK, this hotel comes with stunning sea views and a Miami Art Deco theme. Relax in the decadent glamour of the 1930s whilst still enjoying the urban chic style that makes the hotel so popular. Many guests choose to enjoy breakfast and dinner in the hotel as well.

Day 2: Bournemouth

The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, the private home of extensive travelers Sir Merton Russell-Cotes and his wife Lady Annie, was one of the last Victorian manor houses ever built. Some of the rooms are furnished like they were back in the day, with amazing decor, furniture and extravagant china. There are galleries of fantastic paintings, many by female artists, and good sculptures. There are very good descriptive cards explaining the meaning of the paintings.

After the museum, take a long walk to Hengistbury Head, a fascinating headland with terrific views all year round. I believe there are ferries if you’re not up for a long walk along the beach.

Day 3: Torquay

Head west to one more the historically known vacation spots in England. Hotels in Torquay tend to be resorts, but there’s still plenty to do besides relax. So we spend some time at the hotel, but we make sure to explore as well. Hotel Gleneagles is a peaceful fifteen minutes from the town centre and features a private pathway that leads you through 8 acres of woodland to the South Devon Coastal Path and onwards towards the popular Ansteys Cove, our first tourist attaraction.

Ansteys Cove, a shingle beach favoured by Agatha Christie for picnics during her time in Torquay. There’s a small beach, some dramatic cliffs, and a cafe. By the way, for Agtaha Christie fans, Torquay has an Agatha Christie festival in September. There’s always the Agatha Christie Mile. In addition to Agatha Christie lovers, for those who enjoy a bit of British history, especially WWII era, her house is a great place. This is also a great place if you enjoy nature and gardens as well. Be prepared for a bit of walking; it is hilly and can be muddy. There’s a bus from Torquay to Greenway for £11 per person. The old 1940s bus is neat to ride in. You can get to the house via train and boat as well. At Greenway you pay the National Trust fee to get in. The house has all the contents from the time when Agatha Christie used it as her holiday home. The history behind the grounds, from WWII and Roman era, is very interesting and there are volunteers all around to give you further information about certain things, especially around the house.

Day 4: Torquay

Agatha Christie (along with King George V and some other famous people) also enjoyed Kents Cavern, Britain’s most important Stone Age site, which was home to early man for some 700,000 years. The floor is composed of several strata, with remains indicating the prehistoric coexistence there of humans and now-extinct animals.

These caves may not be the most visually spectacular but are nevertheless very interesting and well worth the visit. Be ready for a lot of steps as you go on your guided tour of about an hour. Most guides know their stuff and are entertaining as they explain many thousands of years history of the system. Learn about the earliest cave dwellers and the legacy left by them and the many animals that sought sanctuary within. You can also expect to learn how the interesting rock/mineral formations came into being.

After visiting the caves in the morning, head to the harbour. The best view may be from the 60 meter high wheel. Conveniently, the wheel is located within the famous Pavilion Gardens, so you can spend some time strolling through the gardens as well. This might not actually take long, but so spend a few minutes to admire the exterior of the pavilion.

Day 5: Dartmoor Prison Museum / Princetown

Located on 28 acres of the moors high above the village of Princetown, the prison is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and managed by HM prison system. The Museum on the main road through town to the prison opened in 1996 and is now a main attraction for over 30,000 visitors a year. Brian Dingle, the Curator, worked as the prison shepherd for over 20 years, so he is very familiar with Dartmoor and eager to share its history. Cement gnomes, toadstools, and dogs on display outside are sold for garden/yard ornaments. Two guard mannequins greet visitors, a sign advertises cell doors for sale at $80, and another designates Dartmoor as a Category C prison, with about 600 residents in 2009. Visitors can have a mug shot taken for $6.00, explore the exhibits of weaponry, crafts, and memorabilia, and listen to a 1/2-hour video of the typical daily routine of prisoners and staff.

Day 6: Dartmoor National Park

One of England’s 15 National Parks, Dartmoor covers an area of 368 square miles and is the largest and wildest area of open country in Southern England. On this day, you will pick your activity. Your choices include walking and cycle routes, hard and not so hard, both on and off road. Also horse-riding, climbing, letterboxing, geo-caching or kayaking though kayaking and the like will take some serious preparation on your part.

How about some movie tourism while in Dartmoor National Park? They have tours that discuss the area and the filming of Steven Spielberg’s War Horse. Or you can grab one of the park’s publications and venture out on your own to find the landscapes that you saw in the film.

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