After visiting the town of Torquay, we headed North to the small village of Babbacombe, after seeing signs for a Cliff Railway…
Status: Torbay Unitary Authority, Devon, Village, England
Travel: Car, Babbacombe Cliff Railway (Babbacombe – Oddicombe)
Eating & Sleeping: Cliff Railway Cafe
Attractions: Cliff Railway, Oddicombe Beach etc
After circling round a few times we found a parking space outside the Babbacombe Cliff Railway, which is made up of a Cafe next to the road, and a short path down to the actual station building, where the train cars leave from. Perched on the edge of a large cliff looking out across the waves towards the area where Devon and Dorset meet, it is an incredible sight, especially as you get to the Car itself and look down towards the lower station…
At a steep gradient of 1:2.83, the 720 ft long track drops and impressive 250 ft down towards the lower station, situated on Oddicombe Beach. As one Car ascends, the other descends and the tend to cross in the middle. Cables are used to pull the Cars up the slope, and it is surprisingly smooth, and despite suffering from occasional Vertigo it didn’t bother me in the slightest.
The Railway has a long history, which began in 1890 when a local MP named Sir George Newnes submitted an idea to build a railway between the Cliff and the Beach. Although his idea was turned down, he eventually teamed up with a man called George Croydon Marks (1858 – 1938, English Engineer) to create such railways in Bridgnorth, Aberystwyth and others. Eventually the Babbacombe idea resurfaced, when the Torquay Tramway Company announced they wanted to build the line after all and they talked to George about the idea and he oversaw the design of the project. Work commenced in 1924, and 2 years later it was completed, and opened on April 1st, 1926 with the then Mayor of Torquay (Alderman John Taylor) in attendance. Like many railways the line was shut during World War II, and reopened in 1951. A major revamp was required in the 1990’s, and involved all of the track being replaced, ahead of a reopening in 1995.
We soon set off on our journey down to the Beach, and passed the other car halfway down. Already we could tell we were in for a treat as the sun was shining and a wide expanse of blue sea awaited us down on the beach…
This is the view you get after leaving the lower station and making your way down the beach, and it provides the best view of a Car on the line, when another one descended just a few minutes later. The Cars run regularly up and down during the day, between 9:30 and 5:55, from March until October. Its quite impressive how the Cars always remain horizontal despite going down a very steep slope, as the metal frame the Car sits on has been angled to match the slope itself.
So this is Oddicombe Beach, which is famous for its cliffs which can be defined as Breccia, which means its made up of broken parts of other rocks stuck together, and a closer inspection confirms this. On the beach there is a small shop where the essentials for beach exploration are provided, as well as public Toilets and a Cafe. There is also a slipway for small boats to embark from.
The area is a popular tourist destination, and affords some amazing views out to sea.
Looking back past the lower station and further around the coast, you will see round to some local hotels, such as the “Cary Arms” and the “Babbacombe Beach”. They are the perfect place to stay in the area, and are located in their own small cove which joins onto Oddicombe Beach. Incidentally, the Hotels, along with the Beach itself, are both accessible via a path from the top of the cliff, rather than exclusively via the Railway if it isn’t everyones cup of tea.
Looking the other way up the Beach, as well as straight out to sea, you can make out the Devon Coast around Teignmouth, Dawlish, Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton. Past that the Dorset Coastline comes into view, around Lyme Regis, and forming a large semi circle round to Weymouth and the Isle of Portland near Chesil Beach, which was just visible as an outline in the distance but sadly didn’t come up on the picture above.
Travelling by Car around the Coast it is almost 80 miles round to Portland, yet across the bay it is significantly shorter, most likely around 55 to 60 miles. Further round past where Portland would be, behind the Tanker, is the English Channel which of course eventually leads over to France and the European Mainland.
Eventually it was time to head back up to the top of the cliff, and as we waited for the next available Car, I got this picture showing both Cars together, the one on the right was heading down towards us whilst the one on the left was ascending towards the upper station.
The last shot I got was as we made our way back up the Cliff, and passed the other Car on the way up. You may have noticed the Railway has a particularly large Gauge, which is actually 5 ft 8 in, as opposed to Standard Gauge (4 ft 8 1/2 in). For ticket prices and opening times you can visit the Railways official website here. The prices are very reasonable, and goes with the great experience as you traverse the cliff face.
Babbacombe is most easily accessed via Torquay, which has direct trains to Exeter, Paignton (for Dartmouth) and Manchester via Bristol and Birmingham, where you can then get a local bus round towards the Railway. Our day was at an end, after visiting Paignton, Torquay and Babbacombe, but our adventures weren’t over, and the next day we made a push for Lands End, the Southwesterly most point on the Island of Great Britain, at the very tip of the county of Cornwall…