Watcombe hasn’t changed much since Isambard Kingdom Brunel fell in love with it 170 years ago. The little crescent of red sand framing a disc of turquoise sea is still backed by steep cliffs, with patches of rust-coloured rock poking through thick deciduous woods.
There are no modern tourist facilities and barely a building in sight from the challenging footpath down to the beach.
This is what Brunel’s generation dubbed ‘the English Riviera’, so I roll up my trousers for a quick paddle.
Enchanting: Brixham harbour as the sun begins to set. The once shabby fishing port has reinvented itself as a seafood capital
Torbay’s many sheltered south and east-facing beaches were the ingredients that first attracted 19th-century visitors, re-routed from the French equivalent by continental wars.
Rival resorts such as Bournemouth, Brighton and Weston-super-Mare offer one long beach; Torbay has more than 20.
They vary from little coves like Watcombe to classic wide sands such as Goodrington, packed with watersports opportunities, and Torre Abbey Sands in Torquay itself, once judged to have the UK’s best sand for making castles…