Walk - 3 Living Coasts - Agatha Christie's Riviera
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2022. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in Barton Road, Torquay on 15 September 1890. She spent much of her life in the area. Whilst her husband, Lt. Archie Christie was serving his country in France during the First World War, Agatha began working as a nurse for the Torquay Red Cross Hospital. She was later transferred to a dispensary where she acquired her knowledge of poisons. She used this knowledge in many of her novels including, in 1920, her first published novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
The walk starts at Living Coasts.
- Starting from Living Coasts you are immediately on the South West Coast Path. Turn left down Beacon Hill towards the harbour. At the bottom of the hill, turn left onto the breakwater of the inner harbour and cross the Millennium Bridge.
The bridge, completed in 2003, imitates the sails of a ship and looks most impressive when lit up at night. A Cill wall allows the water to always be retained at half tide. 2 hydraulic gates within the wall can be opened at particular times to allow boat traffic through the 11.6 metre entrance.
- Coming off the bridge, follow the harbour past the car park. Turn left at the café and shops. The ornate building on your left is the Pavilion Theatre. To your right is a triangular stretch of land with palm trees. See if you can find the head of Agatha Christie!
The world’s only bronze bust of Agatha Christie was created in 1990 by the Dutch sculptor Carol Van Den Boom-Cairns to commemorate her Centenary Year. After attending a Wagner concert at the Pavilion Theatre Archie Christie proposed to the young Agatha Miller.
Facing the Pavilion Theatre walk to its right to regain the Coast Path by the marina. Follow the wide promenade around the bay. Pass through the Princess Gardens with its Theatre and Pier.
The Princess Pier was a favourite spot for the young Agatha’s love of roller-skating. It was built in the same year she was born. From here a ferry can be taken to the National Trust owned, Greenway House, her home on the bank of the River Dart from 1938 until her death in 1976. The Princess Gardens were opened in 1894, built to a classic Victorian design incorporating fountains, flower beds, ornamental shelters and palm trees imported from New Zealand. The Gardens featured in ‘The ABC Murders’.
- Continue along the promenade, under the footbridge. At the traffic lights cross the road and walk into the Abbey park. Make your way through the gardens and parkland towards Torre Abbey.
Torre Abbey, Torquay’s oldest building dating back to 1196, is the home of the Agatha Christie’s Potent Plants collection which was inspired by the poisons and potions in many of her books. The contents that were once in our Memorial Room have now been returned to the Greenway. However, Torre Abbey is the home of the International Agatha Christie Festival, which usually takes place every September around the Author’s birthday.
- From Torre Abbey make your way out onto Kings Drive with the Abbey parklands on your left and Torquay Cricket and Rugby club on your right.
- At the end of the road turn right. The hotel facing you is the Grand Hotel.
The Grand Hotel is where on Christmas Eve 1914, Agatha Christie spent her honeymoon night with Archie Christie. 2 days later they travelled to London where he left for the war in France. The Agatha Christie Suite is still available to guests.
- Turning up Rathbone Road you can quickly see Torquay Station, one of the stops on the Riviera Line.
In 1990, the Orient Express brought Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot (in the guise of Joan Hickson and David Suchet) face to face on Torquay Station’s platform. In her books Agatha Christie never allowed the two to meet.
Leaving the railway station turn right back towards the sea. Cross over the road at the traffic lights and rejoin the South West Coast Path as it heads back towards the Harbour and Living Coasts.
- At the traffic lights cross the road again and take Shedden Hill Road which climbs uphill. Opposite the Heritage Hotel, a footpath takes you to Rock Walk.
This is a network of paths, also known as Royal Terrace Gardens. A 3-year improvement project began in 2007 and was opened in October 2010. There are magnificent views of the harbour and across the bay. Look out for marble and limestone sculptures amongst the pink bedrock.
At the end of Rock Walk (or at any time before) make your way down the steps to the road leading to The Strand. Continue along the Strand to the clock tower.
If you are feeling particularly energetic it is worth making a detour to Torquay Museum.
- At the clock tower turn left and walk up Torwood Street to Torquay Museum.
Torquay Museum is Devon’s oldest museum and is home to the unique Agatha Christie Gallery. This was created, in 1990, with the help of the Christie family. They loaned exhibits such as original manuscripts, TV and film memorabilia as well as a large number of previously unseen photos of Agatha.
- Retrace your steps back down Torwood Street to the Clock Tower. Keep the harbour on your right and make your way to Living Coasts. On your left is the Royal Torbay Yacht Club.
Agatha Christie’s father Frederick Miller was a prominent member of the Yacht club. He would visit daily to play cards and socialise except in the cricket season. Then, as president, he would re-direct his time to Torquay Cricket Club.
Beacon Cove, which could be seen from the Yacht Club, was known as the Ladies Bathing Cove. Agatha, in her teenage years, had to be rescued by a local boatman after she got into difficulties whilst swimming here.
If you were to continue up Beacon Hill you would find the Imperial Hotel.
The Imperial Hotel, built in 1866, masqueraded as the “Majestic” in Agatha Christie’s book “Peril at End House”. Its terrace also appeared in “Sleeping Murder”. Agatha Christie attended many social events here. The hotel still retains the grandeur and elegance associated with the Agatha Christie era.