Brixham couldn't be more of a contrast to both it's Torbay neighbours, Torquay and Paignton. If you're looking for a Devon base with a more laid back 'fishing village' feel, then Brixham is for you. Brixham has a stunning little harbour, and is extremely popular with day trippers. Fish food stalls line the harbour, and Brixham town has a superb selection of shops, great pubs serving real ale and a choice of Devon Ice cream shops. Brixham is a great place for gentle strolling, watching the fishing boats, and walking out onto the jetties. There's lots of parking available adjacent to the town centre, and with good promenades everywhere disability access is excellent.
Brixham's fishing history stretches back to it's early medieval roots as a small fishing port. It had grown by the 1800s to be one of the largest fishery centres in the UK. Brixham pays due homage to it's maritime and fishing history, both in the recreation of the Golden Hind (the ship Drake was knighted on by Elizabeth I), and in the Brixham Museum on New Road. The photos in this maritime museum are a must! Among other delights in Brixham are it's seawater open air swimming pool, it's picturesque fisherman's cottages, a picture postcard harbour, and Brixham is a prime base for walkers, with many walks taking in surrounding woodland and pebble beaches.
Brixham is indeed a historic maritime and fishing centre not just in Devon, but in the UK. The best place to start is the Brixham Museum. It's one of those small and intimate local museums, with a superb emphasis on social history. Don't believe me, check out the Brixham Past and Present exhibit. Other exhibition themes include Brixham Theatre, Brixham Railway, Maritime Trades, Trawling, Smuggling, and the British Seaman's Orphans Boy home - fantastic stuff.
The museum is home to a large maritime archive, which is fortunately accessible to the public. As far back as 11th July 1929 the Fishery board was reporting on fish killed by pollution in the region. Such fascinating facts can be discovered here. Brixham's fishing smacks were slow to move over to steam for various reasons, and real decline in Brixham's fishing industry began with the coming of the First World War, and various changes afterwards. The local fishing industry almost disappeared mainly because of issues such as finance, harbour facilities and transport which were just too slow to meet the needs of new powered trawlers. (check the Brixham Local History link to the right for further information on the reasons for fishing industry decline in Brixham).
Groups and schools may want to consider hiring the Maritime Gallery and Education Room. 30 people can be accommodated here. Access for visitors with disabilities is good, with ramps on the ground floor.
Brixham Marina on the Harbour Quay hosts the superb Brixham Regatta annually. For detail check with the Brixham Tourist Information centre in the Harbour!
The Golden Hind Ship, classically remembered as a ship captured by Frances Drake and on which he was knighted by Elizabeth I on 4th April 1581, had been reconstructed and sits open to the public every day in Brixham Harbour. A visit to the Golden Hind (originally called the Pelican, but renamed by Drake) offers a intriguing insight into live on board a ship in the 16th century. It's very popular with school trips and with children, offering a 'come alive' educational angle.
It's hard to imagine the gravity of circumnavigating the world, and the hero status brought upon Sir Frances Drake for achieving it, in this day and age. But perhaps a trip to this ship helps to imagine just that, and the skill and achievement involved in it without the aide of steam power and so forth. Drake's navigation of the Magellan Straits is now considerably well mythologised in the history lessons. Those interested in finding out more about the Elizabethan period, Sir Frances Drake's many successful voyages returning home with bounty taken from many a Spanish ship, and the part Drake played in establishing trade lines with the Far East and India - will not be disappointed by a visit to the reconstructed Golden Hind. There's much a plenty going on for the kids as well, with the usual pirate exploits.
Moving away from the focus of Frances Drake, the Spanish Armada and Elizabeth I, perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this floating museum is the in-depth exploration of life on board a ship such as this in the 16th century for the average sailor. Exhibits expose that many sailors of the period had often not been outside their own village before setting sail. The reasonable pay offered was a key attraction in the period for joining a crew. Find out just how hard life was for these sailors at the Golden Hind Museum. Scurvy was of course one of the biggest killer diseases, a deficiency in Vitamin C. A rather gruesome death would ensue, first with listlessness, then the development of foul boils, swelling gums and teeth dropping out. Sailors only had one set of clothes and did not wash throughout the journey. This museum explores aspects like personal hygiene and disease, and takes time to reflect on the hardship of the average sailor, giving it a critical edge. Well worth a family visit.
The Golden Hind reconstruction/museum is open every day of the week in Brixham Harbour. Opening hours vary, check the Golden Hind web link for details, but on the whole are from 9am to 6pm.The ship is open during the months of March to October,but educational viewing & visits may be available outside the normal months. Phone the booking office for details. Admission charges are very reasonably priced, under 3 per person, and concessions apply. Check out the occasional Bonadventure Re-enactment Group who perform pirate events during some weekends. The Golden Hind, Brixham Harbour, Brixham. Ticket office on 01803 856223 or 07867755430.
Brixham Tourist Information Centre, The Old Market House, The Quay, Brixham, TQ5 8TB. Tel: (01803) 852861.
Brixham Market Bazaar is situated on the Harbourside in Brixham in the open air. It runs every Sunday from mid June to Mid September, and has a variety of stalls including antique, artists, potters, woodcarvers, collectables and memorabilia, local produce, jewellery and more.
Shopmobility can provide electric scooters and powered and manual wheelchairs for use in Brixham. They're located at the Brixham central car park, just behind Barclays Bank. Tel: 01803 858304
There's a choice of boat trip companies across the English Riviera, lining the harbours of Torquay, Brixham and Paignton seafront. There are several ferry companies operating boat trips out to Dartmouth and Totnes as well.
Out of season you can often just nose around on the quays at Torquay or Brixham and hop on a boat, but in peak season it's well worth booking in advance. All tourist information centres will have full details of boat trips operating along the English Riviera!
Brixham Belle Cruises on Tel: 44 (0)1803 528555 is one of the most popular operators on the English Riviera offering a selection of day and evening themed cruises, plus the usual day trips to Dartmouth. Boat trips, hopping from Torquay, to Paignton to Brixham are a great way to explore the English Riviera coastline, and facilities such as bars, cafes, sun dect areas and commentary on the area are all included in the trips. For information at booking with Brixham Belle Cruises telephone 01803 528555, for trips on the Torbay Belle from Torquay to Brixham.
Brixham has it's own small theatre (the history of it is explored in an exhibition in the Brixham Museum) It's a cosy, community theatre showing sporadic drama performances and concerns. Check with Brixham Tourist Information in the Harbour. Brixham Theatre, Brixham. Tel: 01803 207930.