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Torre Abbey

torre abbey

Discover Majestic Torre Abbey in Devon’s Historic Torquay

One of Devon’s most spectacular historic attractions, majestic Torre Abbey in Torquay boasts centuries of fascinating heritage just waiting to be uncovered. Dating originally from the Middle Ages as a monastery, the abbey’s subsequent role as an elegant mansion through Victorian times leaves it with intricately decorated rooms and expansive gardens to explore.

Along with hosting an art gallery and museum, Torre Abbey makes a cultural day out that will engage kids and parents. Here’s how to get the most out of a family visit to splendid Torre Abbey.

torre abbey outside

Getting There

By Car

Torre Abbey occupies a fabulous spot along the seafront in Torquay town centre. The abbey is well signposted from Torquay’s main roads and seafront.

Limited on-site parking is available, although the public Riviera car park is just a couple of minutes’ walk away.

By train or bus

Torquay’s train and bus stations are also under a 10 minute walk from Torre Abbey.

You could go on the Torquay Land Train during the summer, which can be picked up at stops all through Torquay and halts at Torre Abbey.

Opening Times

Torre Abbey opens:

  • February to November: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
  • December to January: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 4pm

The last admission is 1 hour before closing time.

Ticket Prices

Entry prices are:

  • Adults: £10.50
  • Children: £5
  • Family (2A, 3C): £23.50
  • Under 5s: Free

Gift aid, discounted and annual tickets are available.

torre abbey from above

The Abbey’s History

Torre Abbey boasts a rich and fascinating history that spans nearly nine centuries. Its origins can be traced back to 1196 when it was founded as a monastery by William Brewer, a wealthy Norman knight. The original name of the monastery was “Torre Sancte Marie” or “Torre St. Mary,” reflecting its dedication to the Virgin Mary.

During the medieval period, Torre Abbey flourished as a Premonstratensian monastery, housing a community of canons. However, like many religious institutions, it faced challenges during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century under the reign of King Henry VIII. In 1539, the monastery was dissolved, and its assets were seized by the crown. The abbey’s transformation from a religious institution to a secular residence marked the beginning of a new chapter in its history.

Over the centuries, Torre Abbey underwent various modifications and changes in ownership. It served as a private residence for several prominent families, including the Cary family, who played a significant role in shaping its architectural features. The abbey’s architecture reflects a mix of medieval and later styles, with Tudor and Gothic elements blending seamlessly.

In the 20th century, Torre Abbey faced the threat of demolition due to urban development plans. Fortunately, it was saved through the efforts of the local community and the Torbay Borough Council. In 1930, the council acquired the property, recognizing its historical and architectural significance. Torre Abbey was subsequently opened to the public, and efforts were made to restore and preserve its heritage.

You can read much more about the history the the Abbey in a book by Michael Rhodes, called “Devon’s Torre Abbey: Faith, politics and grand designs.”

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Torre Abbey is an archaeological site of national importance. Founded in 1196, it became the wealthiest English monastery of the order of Premonstratensian canons. This book is the first complete history of Torre Abbey. It is based on the latest historical and architectural research, and is richly illustrated throughout.

Buy here.

Stunning Architecture

The sprawling complex has architecture spanning 800 years for families to admire:

  • See the leafy cloisters dating from the original medieval monastery.
  • Marvel at the Great Hall with its grand fireplace and minstrels’ gallery from the 17th century mansion.
  • Climb the magnificent grand Baroque staircase from the Victorian era.
  • Spot the stained glass crests of Victorian families in the ornate saloon.
  • Find historic artifacts like 16th century Spanish leather panels.
  • Look out for quirky gargoyles on the abbey’s exterior.
torre abbey

The Grounds

After exploring the opulent rooms inside, kids will love running off energy in the extensive abbey grounds:

  • Go on a scenic walk through the terraced gardens down to the seafront.
  • Stop at the Botanical Lawns to spot birds and wildlife.
  • Explore the ruined Spanish Barn wedding venue and old abbey mill.
  • Let imaginations run wild playing hide and seek in the Palm Garden’s exotic plants.
  • Finish up on the Viewing Terrace overlooking Torbay.
grave at torre abbey

Along with its heritage attractions, Torre Abbey incorporates an art gallery and museum. Fun for budding culture vultures include:

  • Amazing artworks in The Dartmoor Gallery and the Burne Jones Gallery.
  • Costume and archaeological collections showing Torquay’s growth as a resort.
  • Creative family tours, quiz trails and activities.
  • Dressing up in Victorian costumes like posh ladies and gentlefolk.
  • The inspiring craftmanship of The Great Masters exhibition.

Refuel and Relax

Recharge batteries after a busy morning exploring at the Terrace Cafe. The seasonal menu offers morning coffee, lunches like soups and sandwiches, and irresistible cakes with terrace views.

The abbey also has tranquil spaces like the calming medieval Spanish Barn to sit awhile.

Torre Abbey is a popular place to book for weddings and special events too.

For culture, history and family fun – a day at magnificent Torre Abbey has it all.

torre abbey banquet

Torre Abbey Theatre

The Torre Abbey Theatre offers a diverse range of performances and events, including open-air theatre shows in the beautiful Torre Abbey Gardens. The theatre has hosted a “Summer of Shakespeare,” featuring unforgettable performances that allow audiences to immerse themselves in the thrill of live theatre. 

This initiative has brought classic plays like “Twelfth Night” to the stage, providing a unique and engaging experience for theatergoers.The theatre’s programming includes a variety of events, from outdoor theatre shows to children’s picnics and summer fairs, catering to a wide range of interests and age group. The diverse offerings make the Torre Abbey Theatre a vibrant cultural hub, attracting both locals and visitors to enjoy the arts in a picturesque setting.

While the Torre Abbey Theatre’s specific upcoming events may vary, you can find out more about whats on here. The theatre’s location within the Torre Abbey Gardens adds to the allure of attending performances, creating a unique and immersive experience for audiences.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are dogs allowed at Torre Abbey? – Only assistance dogs are allowed in the house and gardens. Dogs are welcome in the surrounding grounds which are quite extensive.

Is Torre Abbey wheelchair accessible? – Yes, there are appropriate lifts in the house and the paths in the garden are not too steep.

How long does it take to visit Torre Abbey? – You can easily spend half a day enjoying the house, galleries and gardens, especially if you stop at the cafe. You ought to allow at least 1-2 hours to get the main parts in.

Other places to visit near Torre Abbey

  • Berry Pomeroy Castle – Atmospheric 15th century castle ruins surrounded by woodlands. Tales of ghostly apparitions add to the intrigue.
  • Greenway – Captivating summer home of Agatha Christie with gardens, grounds and boathouse to explore. Guided tours of rooms.
  • Torquay Museum – Local museum housing diverse collections related to geology, archaeology, natural history and more. Extensive library onsite.
  • Kents Cavern – Extensive ancient caves containing important prehistoric remains and archaeological discoveries. Guided tours available.
  • Cockington Village – Quaint village just outside Torquay with thatched cottages, craft shops and tea rooms. Scenic walks through the estate.
  • Babbacombe Model Village – Charming model village recreating 1940s England in miniature. Incredible attention to detail throughout.
  • Occombe Farm – Traditional farm where visitors can feed and interact with chickens, goats, pigs and more. Nature trails through the woods.
  • Goodrington Sands – Family friendly blue flag beach with soft sands, rockpools to explore, and nearby cafes. Perfect for relaxing or watersports.

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