I thought that I ought to redress the balance – there are several opinions on Torquay but none on my ‘adopted’ hometown of Paignton. Paignton is one of three towns which make up Torbay or ‘The English Riviera’ as we like to be known. Slightly grandiose title but it is probably the nearest you will find to the French Riviera here in good old Britain. Torquay is the largest town which gets most of the publicity & Brixham , at the other end of the Bay, is the other town, famous world wide for it’s fishing industry and historical connections. However, I shall concentrate on Paignton otherwise I will be up all night. Again! We are down in the far southwest – many miles from major cities but with the introduction of motorways we can be reached easily, even from Scotland. Of course, there are the trains (if you have a sense humour or like taking risks) & a branch line from Newton Abbot links Paignton with the main line. The Railway Station is right in the middle of the town & all the traffic comes to a halt when a train arrives or departs. Strangely this has a magnetic effect on most people who stand & stare as the train goes by and children wave to welcome the tourists to the town. It’s also great fun for the kids to stand on the bridge over the crossing and watch these majestic engines go up & down the line. For the rail enthusiasts there is also the Dart Valley Steam Railway, which must be one of the prettiest routes in the world. The journey on the mainline from Exeter to Torbay is beautiful but there is something special about this little branch line which takes you along the coast where you can smell the sea and almost touch it in places. You can see people sunbathing on Goodrington & Broadsands beaches, children making sandcastles, boats bobbing on the waves and the magnificent vista of the whole of the Bay before you. The train then goes off into the countryside, past Agatha Christi e’s old house, through the fields and on down to the river Dart. The track runs alongside the river all the way to Kingswear and again the scenery is stunning. At Kingswear you can take a ferry across the river to Dartmouth and spend an enjoyable few hours exploring the town before returning to the train. Alternatively, you can take a boat up the river to Totnes, and the captain will point out all the places of interest on the way. There is also an abundance of wildlife so take your binoculars. Once arriving at Totnes you can take the bus through the winding Devon roads back to Paignton. A lovely day out for anyone – young or old. Torbay has some of the best sandy beaches in Devon and those in Paignton are particularly safe for children.The main beach has a pier and several huts selling seafood and cups of tea, ice creams and there is a family pub right on the front which caters especially for children in the Wacky Warehouse. Attached to the pub is a multiplex cinema with 5 screens, which should provide something for everyone’s taste and the perfect refuge on a wet day. Preston beach is where us locals tend to meet in our beach huts and is one of very few beaches where you can take a dog in summer. Having said that, even though I love my dog I don't think the beach is the right place for them in summer when children are playing in the sand. Goodrington has a lovely stretch of sandy beach and there is a water park with slides to tempt all those little daredevils & I believe the water is heated! You can hire various types of boats and there are food outlets and another pub catering for children. Broadsands is the next beach along the coast ,approached down a long winding hill, under the viaduct, over which the steam train jogs along, to a large car park virtually on the beach. In addition to the usual amenities there is an excellent pitch & putt course on the headland from which you can watch the wate r sports going on at Elberry Cove. There are numerous little coves and inlets to explore and, if you are interested in sea life then there is a mini sea life centre at Goodrington staffed by very knowledgeable rangers only too willing to answer your questions. At the present time they are trying to educate people to stay away from the school of dolphins often seen in Torbay. I believe they are one of the biggest species of Dolphin anywhere in the world and naturally attract a lot of attention. Not always wanted unfortunately. Paignton has a picturesque little harbour (well, when the tide’s in!) from which you can hire boats or go mackerel fishing; take a trip up the river Dart or an evening cruise around the Bay to see the lights. Beautiful. The main street in Paignton is filled with all the usual touristy shops plus arcades, pubs and cafes. There is a large park – Victoria Park where my grandsons love to play. The children’s play area was completely refurbished about 2 years ago and has all the safety features one could expect. There is a large pond – home to countless ducks & their offspring plus tennis courts and a skateboard ramp that is always very popular. The town itself is fairly flat – a rare thing in Devon, consequently electric buggies are available for hire by our less able friends and they whiz around the town thoroughly enjoying their new found freedom. Paignton is renowned for it’s Zoo, which was featured on TV last year and made many of the keepers well known to thousands. If you still think of Zoos as places where animals pace backwards and forwards behind bars in sinister cages – Think again. Come see our Zoo where the lions and tigers appear to roam free in a very large paddock and where you can stand right up against them with only a glass window separating you. Where birds appear to fly free above your head and all the animals are kept in the very best c onditions. If you are interested in learning more about the Zoo I would refer you to Wishywalshy’s Op which is excellent and which I would not attempt to compete with! Paignton is an ideal centre for travelling around South Devon – see the pretty postcard villages with their thatched roofed cottages, the leafy lanes which seem to go on forever; Dartmoor – the ponies, the scenery, cream teas, rock climbing, walking, horse riding etc. etc. Everything within easy reach for the perfect day out. Regatta week is usually the second week in August and the week the Fair comes to town and dominates the Green. There are countless events to do with boating obviously but the highlight of the week for us locals is the firework display on the Tuesday night accompanied by music. It is an excellent display and boats from all over the Bay congregate around the pier and make a pretty sight with their lights rising & falling almost, it seems, in time with the music. However, be warned, the loud bangers shake the ground and reverberate right around the Bay, bouncing from one hill to the next. The third week of August is children’s week when many extra activities are available just for them and they give the Mums and Dads a well-earned rest. The last week of August sees Torquay’s Regatta, which is only 3 miles away and can be reached easily from Paignton. Wednesday is the highlight when the Red Arrows swoop over the Bay performing their death defying manoeuvres and making everyone gasp with admiration. When they fly over our house you feel that you could touch them – they fly that low! So, to summarise, Paignton has a great deal to offer visitors of all ages, young and old, fit & not so able. All can enjoy their stay in various types of accommodation from excellent hotels, self-catering apartments; B & B’s, caravan sites et al. Literally, something for everyone so, come on down and give Paign ton a try. Footnote – I am not in any way connected to the tourist trade – honest.