The ultimate guide to cruising the West Country

The West Country is packed with enticing boating spots and hidden gems. In this feature Peter Cumberlidge picks the best bits of Devon and Cornwall

Tor Bay

Three miles wide, Tor Bay is an evocative landfall after a Lyme Bay crossing. On a clear day, you see the humped tors of Dartmoor well inland, before the outer headlands come into focus.

Berry Head is a bold sheer cliff 200ft high, capped by England’s shortest yet most commanding lighthouse. Hope’s Nose slopes to a low snout and has two craggy islets just offshore – the flat-topped Ore Stone to seaward and the humped Thatcher Rock further in.

With two good marinas and its back to the west, Tor Bay is a magnificent sheltered expanse for day cruising. Large ships anchor here and the bay is a mass of sails when racing is in full swing.

Torquay marina

Pleasure boats shuttle out from Torquay and the heady mix of light and colour and warm salt spray can feel like the Gulf of St Tropez.

Tucked into the north-west corner of the bay, Torquay is shielded from chilly northerlies, rather like Antibes. The marina in the heart of town (pictured above) caters particularly well for larger boats.

Known as the English Riviera, Torquay does indeed have palm trees and a genuinely mild climate. Opulent villas perch high above the sea in spacious gardens, still casting an air of Agatha Christie style.

Huddled behind its long breakwater, Brixham is a busy fishing port with a marina in its east corner. The colourful old town stacks around the harbour, a warren of narrow streets, tread-worn steps and smugglers alleys.

The quays feel alive and purposeful, with trawlers and crabbers landing at the fish market, and pilot boats bustling in and out.

Babbacombe Bay anchorage

Best anchorages

Not far round Hope’s Nose you can anchor at Babbacombe Bay (pictured above) or use a buoy off the Carey Arms, with its bar, restaurant and garden terraces overlooking the sea. Fishcombe Cove is a delightful wooded inlet west of Brixham entrance.

Torquay No 7 Fish BistroFavourite restaurants

Number 7 Fish Bistro (pictured right) is situated behind Torquay Harbour on Beacon Hill.

Berry Head Hotel is a pleasant stroll from Brixham Marina, with a brasserie terrace overlooking Tor Bay.

Friendly Brixham Yacht Club is set back from holiday mêlée on the west side of the harbour, and offers superb views and good bar suppers.

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