Take a vintage train back to the golden age of British seaside

Take a vintage train back to the golden age of British seaside


A STEAM train chugs behind us along a raised track just above a row of beach huts as the smell of fish and chips wafts past.

Before us, shrieking kids and adults splash about in the shallow waters of Goodrington Sands.

Sat on this reddish beach in Paignton, Devon, you can imagine yourself in a bygone age before people were jetting off to sunny Spain for their summer holidays.

Families are building castles in the sand, relaxing behind colourful wind-breaks, and dipping their toes into the calm sea.

The only giveaway that this is the 21st century is the array of fun buoyancy aids and anti-UV ray tents.

Goodrington’s sandy bay is popular among tourists in the summer months. It’s sheltered from the winds and a great place to paddle with a number of watersports on offer from paddleboarding to pedalos.

But the sky has other plans for us today, as overhead the dark clouds threaten to break.

We all know that the British summer can prove to be unpredictable — which is why the Devon Hills holiday park, just a few minutes drive from here, is so well positioned.

Lush green hills

Tucked away in a countryside setting on the edge of Paignton, it doesn’t take long to head inland to the unspoilt magnificence of Dartmoor.

And there’s plenty in Dartmoor to keep a family occupied on drizzly days including a zoo, huge cinema and amusement arcades.

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The highlight, though, is a ride on the steam railway that runs along the coast from Paignton and offers some of the best views in the country.

Visitors can wind their way along the English Riviera Geopark and through woodland to Dartmouth before hopping on the ferry to Kingswear, a charming village with coffee shops and restaurants – perfect for a Devon cream tea (jam on top, of course).

For us, occasional rain showers weren’t going to stop us taking a walk across the breathtaking landscape — after all, as the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

We weaved through fields and over rocky mountains with views of the rugged landscape laid out in front us.

The brilliant thing about a hike through Dartmoor is you don’t need to be an outdoors type to conquer many of the spectacular granite rocks poking out of the lush green hills.

Known locally as “tors”, they are often an easy walk from a car park and provide the best kind of climbing for kids — challenging, yet achievable.

That isn’t where the dazzling views end, either. Driving through the narrow lanes of Dartmoor and the open moors, there are so many pretty places to stop for a bit of lunch or to take some snaps.

If you’re planning a picnic, few spots are more idyllic than the tiny village of Postbridge, in the centre of the national park.

We sat beside the 12th century clapper bridge, made out of huge granite slabs, tucking into sand-wiches while a family nearby — in typical English fashion — held brollies aloft over their blanket as the rain fell softly.

When the rain prevails, there’s enough at Devon Hills holiday park to keep you busy, including an 18-metre indoor swimming pool, sauna, steam room, gym and a kids’ play area.

Our four-person lodge was modern with a very comfy lounge and a good-sized outside deck area that has a hot tub, checked every morning by staff.

If you don’t fancy making use of the well-equipped kitchen, there is a 15th-century thatched roofed bar and restaurant on site.

The spacious Blagdon Inn has all the family favourites on the menu — burgers and pizzas — with lovely views from the outside seating area.

Cosied up in our Devon Hills lodge, we were surrounded by quaint villages, scenic beaches and endless countryside walks.

Our only problem was not having enough time to enjoy everything Paignton had to offer.

But that just means there’s even more reason to go back.

GO: Devon

STAYING THERE: A seven-night stay in a four-person Classic Lodge at Devon Hills holiday park starts from £650 in total, off peak.

See haulfrynholidays.co.uk.

OUT & ABOUT: Dartmouth Steam Railway And River Boat Company offers day tickets from £19.60 per adult, £12 per child or £57 per family, which includes a return steam train trip from Paignton to Kingswear and return ferry journey from Kingswear to Dartmouth.

See dartmouthrailriver.co.uk.

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