I don’t muck around on holiday. After spending the rest of our arrival day hanging out in the hotel and finding our way around, I was on a mission to get the most out of our 5 days there. The first day we spent in and around Paignton, on the beach (in the freezing cold and misty drizzle) and at the zoo where the weather was dry.
After trawling the leaflets in the hotel, I’d spotted Babbacombe model village and decided that it would be perfect for us to visit. I do love a model village, and N quite liked the one in Bourton on the Water so I knew it should be a winner.
The weather again didn’t look brilliant, but I’d promised N a ride on the Babbacombe cliff railway so we did that first. I think we were the first to go on it in the morning, and being out of season, the beach at Oddicombe below wasn’t looking great. There were building works going on so we literally got out, walked round and returned back up to the top of the cliff again.
The cliff railway is a great piece of history having been built in 1926. And I expected people visiting the seaside there are pleased, because it is a seriously steep walk down to the beach by foot. We enjoyed our creaking journey in the cabin, N was intrigued and kept asking why there was noone in the other carriage going up while we went down and vice versa. A nice historical start to the day, and a bargain price of £3.40 return for the two of us.
Then we headed along the road to the Babbacombe model village when it opened. I can only imagine how packed it is in the summer, but it’s nice to be able to go and mooch around at your own speed without any pressure. It’s handy with young children as well because the council car park is right outside the entrance, with another one a short walk away.
It was under £20 for the two of us (damn N being over 3 now, otherwise he’d have got in free), and it’s definitely worth the money. If you’ve got the time (and it’s the right time of year) you can do a day visit and then return to see the village all lit up at night. There’s a 4D cinema for an additional cost but we didn’t go there.
Being in a coastal town, the model village is pretty steep, so although the paths are good, wheelchairs might find it an issue. We were there at the same time as a family with a pushchair and they seemed to get around ok.
Even though it was marketed as the largest model village in the UK, it was still a surprise seeing how large it really was.
There’s a couple of indoor displays, one is a winter wonderland scene, which N loved – lots of skaters on a lake and more (unfortunately I couldn’t get any non blurry photos of that one). The other is a large Eastenders scene. The model buildings really are lifelike.
Once outside again, you can just wind your way down and round all the paths. I love the detail, there was Stonehenge, a beach with sunbathers, a harbour complete with The Smugglers Inn, a Travelodge, The Addams Family’s gothic mansion, holiday camps and more.
It also doesn’t feel static in time. There’s plenty of water scenes (I did enjoy practising my aperture and shutter speed to get blurry water in this water fall), as well as the train journeying round.
N loved the space and had a bit of a dance down one of the paths alongside the town scene.
The train was the highlight of N’s visit to the model village. A ‘real’ train going round. He spent about 15 minutes running from the view of the suspension bridge back round to the station when we could get up close. Then another toddler decided he would try and join in with the run as well.
One bonus inclusion to the entry fee is mini crazy golf. I hadn’t realised this was available until we reached the shed at the bottom of the village. Brilliantly decorated in an Alice in Wonderland theme with adult and children’s size golf clubs. You could just pick up a ball and club and work round at your own pace.
It was N’s first go at mini golf, and he wanted to do it his own way, rather than taking my advice on how to use the clubs. He really enjoyed it and I virtually had to drag him out.
One of the most impressive scenes was the Shard amongst the urban scene of banks, cars, shops, offices and workers. Times Square & Piccadilly-esque neon lit up signs were evident, although I was more impressed than N. He was more interested in ‘why the cars are there?’ throughout.
Towards the end of the displays I really liked the hot air balloons. Every so often you’d hear the blast of the fire, everything was made so realistic…none more so than the castle nearby.
I’d heard the dragon breathing fire, and spotted something out of the corner of my eye, so I was determined to wait for a good photo of it. And of course because I was waiting, the fire didn’t come. Eventually we found another viewing location above the castle, and then I managed to catch it. The displays are really good, and they try and tell a story around the village.
The walk back up the hill had N asking again where all the cars were going to. We did have a nosy inside some of the houses – we could see people in the different rooms, cooking, studying, playing computer games and more. They’re really intricately designed and made. Finally we spotted one of the well known models in the village…the house fire. Again it had the fire out of the roof, and N loved watching and waiting for this before it was put out and smoked.
By that stage, we’d been there over an hour. Not bad considering how cold it was, and we could have spent more time there – probably going round again. There was a small shop and cafe, but I was on a mission and we just had enough time for a quick break before heading off to our next stop.
We’d stopped in at a bakery round the corner to get a cake for a snack, so sat in the car to eat them. Delicious…although it looks here like N’s about to go to sleep!
I’d noticed the Bygones museum in the leaflets we had. I love old shops and real life streets, so thought it would be interesting to show N all the old shops and products that there were.
I should have known better as soon as the person on the front desk mentioned there were mannequins there. I did check if they were moving, but none of them were so I decided that N would probably be fine. I was wrong. As soon as we’d paid and walked in, he was moaning that he wanted to leave. Oops.
We did go upstairs and did whizz round the whole place with me managing to point out a few things, but we didn’t really look at much and I’d had to carry him.
The museum is quite small, but has a wide range of shops and rooms set up as though in the Victorian era, with some slightly more modern. There’s also a world war trench, although we seemed to miss that. If you love old products and history, and are interested in the way people lived and shopped, then Bygones could be for you.
The station cafe was being refurbished when we visited, but they were letting people out and then back in again to go to cafes nearby.
I’d love to go back and spend more time there looking round. If you’ve got young children, unless you’re sure they don’t mind models of people, then you might want to wait until they’re older. Next time I’ll take a pass at exhibitions like this.
We had a great time, and even had time in the afternoon to go to the beach as well as chilling out at the hotel. Around Torquay’s definitely good to holiday in because there are so many activities and places to visit within only a short drive or bus ride away.
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