Over the years I’ve fine-tuned my list of favourite activities in my childhood summer playground, Brixham in Devon. I was lucky enough to visit again, so I’m sharing the ones I love the most and that have stood the test of time.
Brixham harbours some fond memories and just being in this pretty little seaside town means effortless happiness for me. From candy coloured houses, steep hills with stunning vistas, seaside sounds and smells, to quiet evening walks watching the harbour lights twinkle; this place is my retreat.
There’s no sand here, but I have lots of memories of exploring the rock pools at low tide with my sandcastle-shaped bucket in hand! It also has one of only a few natural seawater swimming pools left in the UK. It’s 25m long and built on a natural rock, just around the coast from busier Breakwater Beach. Good if you want to sidestep heavy seaside crowds.
Next to the marina, this award-winning rocky beach is a lovely place to sit in the sun and grab a drink and snack from the cafe right behind it. Practise skimming stones in the water or at low tide, kids will love climbing up and over the sloping rocks to the side of the beach – as I did. The beach gets very busy in the summer as it’s easily accessible for all and has a car park.
Spacious, open and relaxing; while away a few hours walking amongst the remains of Napoleonic forts and out to the end of Berry Head, where there is a weather station and lighthouse. The land juts out into the sea and the views are amazing, especially at sunset. There is now a visitor centre and if you’re not done with the view, a cafe sit in.
Scenic walk to Fishcombe Cove
Walking out of the bustling town and harbour on the South West Coast Path, there are spectacular views of Brixham Marina and Tor Bay. There’s the Battery Gardens en route and a cafe in quiet and secluded Fishcombe Cove, where you can stop for a while on the shingle beach and either head back, or keep going to Elberry Cove and beyond. These two coves are so quiet, it’s as if they are my little secret and makes me feel like an explorer! Even though the 630 mile South West Coast Path is incredibly well-known…
The Shell Shop
I always wander round the shops in the town and along the harbour front, but it is a tradition of mine to always visit The Shell Shop opposite the Fish Market. A little Aladdin’s cave, it is full of all kinds of sea-related souvenirs, gems, trinkets and curiosities. With not an inch spare, there is Stuff. Everywhere. And I love it! Hanging from the ceiling, in glass cabinets, baskets on the floor, shelves and worktops crammed full of goodies to touch, see and hear; I used to bore my family silly rediscovering this den of delight every year.
Strand Art Gallery – free entrance
All my life the Strand Art Gallery has been opposite the William of Orange statue in front of the harbour. In the small entrance and up the stairs into the converted sail loft, the walls are covered in views of Devon painted by local artists. As well as new paintings for sale, you can buy second hand ones painted years ago by the Devon’s well-known artists, or just watch the artists paint in the studio area. My favourites are the artwork featuring Brixham’s harbour, sunsets, galleons and trawlers – on a summers day you might see the artists sitting painting outside the gallery on the harbour slipway.
Restaurants for evening dinner
There is a great choice of restaurants, but one that is long established and comes recommended is Poopdeck, above the shops on the Fish Market side of the harbour. This summer, I had a lovely meal of local fish from the new restaurant next door, The Lusty Wench, run by a sailing family. The Old Market House in the harbour, previously the tourist information office, has become a favourite of mine for an evening meal overlooking the harbour on one of their balcony tables. Booking is a must in the summer months!
Holiday food favourites
Another tradition; I always eat a mint choc chip ice cream from the shop right in front of the harbour slipway – it’s changed names a few times but is now called i.scream. Also, being in the West Country you definitely need to indulge in a cream tea one afternoon, and as it’s the seaside, get a takeaway fish and chips – try popular Simply Fish just out of the harbour and onto the high street. Before I leave, I visit The Fudge Kitchen for their amazing choice and stock up on clotted cream fudge and a big pink stick of peppermint rock to take home!
With its rich maritime history, there is more to Brixham than meets the eye today. The birthplace of the famous Brixham trawler, 100 years ago it was a fishing mecca and there was a thriving thieving and smuggling industry. Perhaps visit Brixham Museum, the replica of the Golden Hind in the harbour (‘Brixham’s treasure’), the Smugglers & Pirates Experience and the elegant trawlers of the Heritage Fleet in the marina. There are boat day trips to surrounding areas, fishing trips and water sports – or simply sit and join everyone else crabbing off the harbour wall!