New trail: Walk in the illustrious footsteps of the Writers on the Riviera
Take a literary tour around Torquay and uncover the places and stories of the greatest writers of all time, who, for the past 200 years, have flocked to the English Riviera. Discover a new and free walking trail that reveals the vast and yet hidden literary heritage on our doorstep.
Sent on doctor’s orders, to relax in our warm climate, to promenade with the well-heeled, debate with the greatest minds and to be inspired by the stunning coastline. They came and they left their mark. Now you can follow in the illustrious footsteps of 15 of the greatest writers of all time with a new walking trail that has launched in the Bay.
‘How do I love thee, let me count the ways?’, the occult, Bovril, a Prime Minister, the scandal that brought LGBTQ+ to the media, the UK’s answer to Stephen King, and a rollerskating nurse who would become the best-selling novelist of all time.
You can use the beautifully illustrated map to uncover the places our literary heroes frequented and walk the streets, beaches and cliff top locations that most inspired their work. You can head out on foot to many of the places shown on the map. The accessible central route which is mostly on the flat (markers 1 to 4 and C and D on the map) shouldn’t take you more than an hour. Or you could do the whole thing and make a day of out with stops at stunning instagrammable locations and plenty of places to refuel with seafood, fish and chips, a quick pint and ice cream or leisurely afternoon tea.
The guide features literary greats from Dame Agatha Christie, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Oscar Wilde to Mary Shelley and Charles Kingsley - to name just a few - as well as contemporary writers Adam Nevill and Lesley Pearse who live here today and continue to be inspired.
“For years to aid inspiration, I’ve been walking local stretches of the South West Coast Path, swimming and kayaking the coves and beaches near my home in Torbay and exploring the closest estuaries and rivers. What never fails to surprise me is how the landscape, and its flora and fauna, changes so dramatically here (as does its geology). Within a few miles I can walk from the sub-tropical to the volcanic and forbidding. I’ve taken hundreds of pictures and studied the light and atmospherics, the coast, valleys, woods and open expanses, the skies, cliffs, caves and farms, before trying to define and recreate it all in my thrillers and horror novels. By 2019, three of my novels have been set here - ‘Lost Girl’, ‘Under a Watchful Eye’ and ‘The Reddening’. As far as inspiration goes, as I often say: the Bay provides.” - Adam Nevill
While many writers travelled to the English Riviera for inspiration, the best-selling novelist of all time is a home-grown talent. Agatha Christie was born into a comfortably wealthy family in Torquay and spent much of her youth in the resort, where she also served in the Town Hall hospital as a nurse during the First World War. The town and its colourful characters certainly influenced her writing, with Hercule Poirot inspired by the Belgian refugees she met in Torquay and Miss Marple based on her grandmother’s friends, who were far more fussy than her own relative.
Her love of South Devon saw her buy a holiday home at Greenway in later life, which also served as inspiration for some of her most famous stories. The prolific writer wrote 66 detective novels, 14 short story collections and the world’s longest running play – ‘The Mousetrap’. Famously, she has only been outsold by the Bible and Shakespeare, having sold more than two billion copies across the globe. Amateur sleuths are encouraged to follow in the footsteps of the Bay’s most famous literary daughter and discover several of the places that were influential in her life and works.
We’ve tried and tested the walking trail and it’s an incredible way to explore Torquay and discover amazing facts and stories along the way. Download your free walking trail map here or pop into the English Riviera Visitor Information Centre in Torquay to pick up a free copy. You can also explore all of the writers featured at this special section of the English Riviera website, go to: https://www.englishriviera.co.uk/be-inspired/suggested-itineraries/writers-on-the-riviera