Devon, England’s Agatha Christie Trail

March 10, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Posted in Europe, United Kingdom | 1 Comment
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by Max Pesling

Britain’s National Trust runs a beguiling array of estates, castles, churches, and abbeys, plenty of which can boast an air of mystery and even a few murders committed within their precincts.  But how many can claim they sheltered the world’s greatest maestro of the murder mystery? Just under three hours’ drive or train ride west of London in Devon (you might want to get the 4:50 from Paddington), Greenway, the manse and gardens shared by Agatha Christie (1890-1976) and her archaeologist husband Max Mallowan on the River Dart near Brixham, was opened to the public for the first time just this past year, and it makes for a fascinating peek into Dame Agatha’s life, times, and œuvre. Yanks and Canucks might also appreciate the nifty New World connections dating back to the 16th century: Sir Walter Raleigh was born here, and the house was built by a family that included the discoverer of Newfoundland.

Fans will also want to hang a while (as it were) in the somewhat funky seaside resort city of Torquay, a drive of 20 minutes or so away, part of the so-called English Riviera (and BTW where the famous Britcom Fawlty Towers was set), where the lady grew up and spent most of her life. Here amid the various hotels, restaurants, and fish-and-chips shops they can stroll the Agatha Christie Mile, whose 11 stops include Torquay, Devon, England, United Kingdomthe town museum with its inevitable Christie exhibit; the town hall where she worked as a nurse during World War I, when it served as a Red Cross hospital; Meadfoot Beach; the formerly grand Pavillion, now home to a somewhat sad-sackish little mall; and All Saints Church (where they’ll even give you an Agatha tour). Even the darn 12th-century Torre Abbey has an Agatha Christie room. And that’s not all, folks: the local tourist board sites and others like  Torbay-Online.co.uk list a few additional sights in the Torbay area (which includes Brixham and Paignton as well as Torquay) either associated with Dame Agatha or used as inspiration or settings for her stories.

You’ll want to stay at the Grand Hotel where she honeymooned, and I’d definitely make time for a ride on the Paignton-Dartmouth Railway, a charming seven-mile steam-train run which pops up in several Hercule Poirot novels.

Agatha Christie bust, Torquay, Devon, England, United KingdomIf any of this tempts you, consider booking well ahead in order to come during September’s weeklong English Riviera Agatha Christie Festival (running Sept. 12-19, this, the sixth annual, should be even more elaborate than usual, given that it’s the author’s 120th birthday); for pics from the ‘ 09 festival, click here. It’s sure to be a delightful orgy of murder most fair.

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  1. Great post! I live in Torquay – fantastic to know that we’re getting some publicity when we’re struggling so much in the economic downturn with shops closing and tourists staying away. But when the sun is out and the weather is warm there is nothing better than joining the thousands of locals and others enjoying an ice-cream on the waterfront! Quintessentially British wouldn’t you say?!


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