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Last week we went to Torre Abbey in Torquay for the first time. I had heard of the place before but for some reason, we have never visited. The Abbey closed for a while for refurbishment but it’s now open again.
As we haven’t been before we weren’t sure what to expect. In my head, I had visions of an old building filled with large framed oil paintings and not a lot else.
If I’m honest I wasn’t expecting much from our day and was concerned that the kiddies may find it boring. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Of all the places we have visited in Devon Torre Abbey has both surprised and impressed me the most.
Haven’t got time to read the full post? Scroll down for our short video
Torre Abbey – A Brief History
The Abbey has a very long and interesting history which would be impossible for me to get down in one blog post. So here is the gist of it…
- The Abbey was founded in 1196 by William Brewer. It started as a monastery for Premonstratensian Canons (a religious order of the Catholic church).
- In 1536 the Abbey’s income made it the wealthiest of all the Premonstratensian houses in England.
- The canons surrendered the house to Henry VIII’s commissioner in 1539 and the Abbey was closed.
- After this, there was a succession of different owners until the Cary family acquired it in 1662. It was their family home until 1930 when financial difficulties forced Commander Henry Cary to sell it to Torbay Borough council.
- In 1934 the Abbey opened to the public.
- In 2013 the Abbey was conserved and restored with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund.
What To Expect Inside When you Visit
Inside the Abbey is a labyrinth of fun around every corner arranged over 4 floors. Every room is different with something new to see.
They have interactive displays which my computer geek son loved! There’s a dress up area which my daughter loved. They also have a lot of craft areas including brass rubbings and create your own art.
I cannot even begin to include everything there is to see and do at the Abbey in one post so I’ve included some of our favourite bits below…
The Hidden House
The hidden house was a bit hit with our two. Every door revealed a new surprise. They also had an area for brass rubbings.
Cary Dining Room
When you first walk in the Cary dining room looks like your typical grand dining hall in a manor home until you hear the voices. It took the kids ages to work out where the sound was coming from until they spotted the talking faces in the plates!
This gave the room a magical ‘Harry Potter’ type feel to it which if your children are anything like mine, they love.
Next to the Hidden House is a dress up area. There are clothes for children and adults to try on. Our daughter loved this and we had to try on every single outfit and get a picture of each one.
800 Years Experience
I’d say that the 800 Years Experience area was our son’s favourite parts. He loved the interactive displays. He’s also just studied the Tudors at school so the Henry VIII section was very relevant for him.
What To Expect Outside
The Torre Abbey gardens are beautiful and all included in your entrance fee. My personal favourite was the Palm House. A stunning tropical garden housed in a massive green house.
In the grounds, there is a cafe or you could take a picnic and sit on the benches out the front with views to the sea. We had a very tasty cream tea with mint milkshakes.
Why It’s Great for Kids
As I said earlier I worried that the kids may get bored but the Abbey is completely geared up for families.
To summarise again our favourite areas were…
- The Cary dining room with the talking face plates.
- The Hidden House
- The dressing up station
- The interactive displays in the 800 years experience
- The messy play area in the garden
On arrival, the children are given a family activity guide book which works like a story book. It makes learning about the history of the Abbey fun.
Once a month they have their Family Sundays which includes a range of different activities for children.
Related Post: Child and Dog-Friendly Places in Devon
Why It’s Great for Adults
From an adults perspective, I loved the way they had mixed the modern with the old throughout the Abbey.
They have seasonal exhibitions. Whilst we were there it was the Face 2 Face contemporary art show. It’s also great for anyone like me that loves history learning.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit
Another thing that makes the Abbey great for families is that kids & teens are FREE. This makes it a great value for money day out.
A house & Garden ticket for adults only cost £8. You can also get an annual pass for £16 (via the 1996 membership scheme). Personally, I think that is fantastic value for money.
You can just buy a garden ticket for £2.50 if you don’t want to go inside the Abbey.
The Abbey is open Tuesday to Sunday 10 am – 5 pm. The last admission is at 4 pm.
Good To Know Before Your Visit
Leave plenty of time for your visit. We were there for 4 hours and could have spent at least 2 more hours exploring. It is definitely a whole day experience.
The Abbey often has different events and exhibitions on so it’s worth checking their website to see what’s on before you go.
You can park in the car park behind the Riviera Centre (take change for parking) or in the car park near the sea front. It;s a short walk from both. Apparently, there is also some free parking on a side street nearby but we didn’t find that.
A Video of Our Day