But stop laughing long enough and you’ll realise that while the region lacks the glamour – and the extortionate prices – of its French and Italian counterparts, it does offer a brilliant alternative to the popular beaches in the south of England (Brighton, Bournemouth et al), as well as an escape from the crowds which frustrate visitors to Cornwall each summer. Here on the south Devon coast, you’ll find it all: beautiful beaches, tacky amusement parlours and more fish and chips than you could ever hope to eat – complete with vinegar and mushy peas. It’s the quintessential English seaside experience.

Torquay is built around its harbour, which is both a working port and tourist hub. The harbour adjoins the main street, which is stacked with high street chains, and it is along the foreshore that the tat well and truly sets in in the form of cheap bucket and spade shops, pinball arcades and chippies. When you’ve had enough, it doesn’t take much to escape.

Worth a look

Plainmoor Stadium
Home of Torquay United Football Club since 1910, Plainmoor is the place to be to meet locals away from the tourist-filled seaside. Now languishing in League Two, Torquay has had a history dotted with mergers and, like many teams outside the Premiership, financial problems. More a sports ground than a football stadium, Plainmoor remains one of the few grounds in England to retain old-style terraces which were phased out after the Hillsborough disaster of 1989. Given Torquay’s form in recent years, overcrowding is unlikely to ever affect Plainmoor, which makes this a unique opportunity for spectators to view football the way it used to be.

The Union Inn is a modest offering at 127 St Marychurch Road (01803-328 356), and is just a short stroll from Plainmoor Stadium, which makes it the perfect place for pre- and post-match drinks. Challenge the regulars to a game of darts or pool and, hours later, you’ll feel like you’ve drunk there all your life. Try also The Hole In The Wall (6 Park Lane), a 15th century watering hole which markets itself as the oldest pub in Torquay (its timber floors are apparently heritage-listed). The prices at the restaurant to the rear suggest a steady tourist flow, but drop in for at least a pint to absorb the spirit and history of the place.

Agatha Christie
Novelist Christie was born in Torquay in 1890, and later used the town as the setting for some of her whodunnits. Pick up a pamphlet outlining the ‘Agatha Christie Mile’ from the tourism information centre on the foreshore (where the walk begins) and follow in the footsteps of one of England’s most famous scribes.

Torquay’s neighbour sits a few miles around the coast from Torquay. The town carries more of a community feel (there are regular rowing and sailing regattas in the harbour) than Torquay, but still comes with the usual seaside staples: crazy golf (though it’s not that crazy), a harbour full of boats and brightly painted beach huts which double as changing rooms for people with too much money.

Bonus points for: Seaside colour and fun
Loses marks for: Tacky seaside shops (but we wouldn’t want it any other way)