Brixham, Devon

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Brixham is a lively working fishing town on the south Devon coast, and the place to go for freshly landed fish, colourful houses built around the natural harbour and an even more colourful past!

Image credit: Kumweni via Flickr

Brixham’s fishing heritage

Home to England’s largest commercial fishing fleet and the world famous Brixham Fish Market, the town is the perfect place to indulge in local seafood. Local fishermen and trawlers land over 40 different species of fish including cuttlefish, Lemon and Dover sole, squid, monkfish, turbot, scallops, hake, bass, pollock and plaice.

Smugglers and pirates

There are many local legends from the days when smuggling was more profitable than fishing. Bob Elliott, a notorious local character, could not run away from the Revenue men because he had gout. So he faked his own death and hid in a very large coffin, stashing his contraband with him to take to Totnes. Later that night, the local coastguards encountered Bob on the highway, and were convinced that they had seen a ghost. From this jape, he earned his nickname “Resurrection Bob”. And when there was a cholera epidemic, some smugglers drove their cargo up from the beach in a hearse, accompanied by a bevy of supposed mourners following the cortege. Perhaps they took their inspiration from Resurrection Bob!

You’ll find pirates aplenty during Brixham Pirate Festival, which is one of the largest gatherings of pirates in the world and held the World Record for a mile of pirates! It is usually held over the early May bank holiday and has live music and living history events all weekend, which in the past have included a visiting Tall Ship and naval artillery displays.

Brixham’s famous links with the past

In 1588, Brixham watched Sir Francis Drake attacking the Spanish Armada after he had finished his game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe. A full sized replica of the Golden Hind, the galleon Sir Francis Drake used to circumvent the globe, is permanently moored in the harbour. You can go aboard and even spend the night on it!

William of Orange landed in Brixham in 1688 with an army of 35,000 men, prior to marching on London to be crowned King William III as part of the Glorious Revolution.

Napoleon Bonaparte spent several days off Brixham in 1815 as a prisoner on HMS Bellerophon, waiting to be taken to exile on St. Helena.

Find out more about the town’s history and culture at the Brixham Heritage Museum

Walks in and around Brixham

There are many lovely walks around Brixham on the South West Coast Path, taking in the bay, routes used by miners and smugglers, panoramic views and even the setting of one of Agatha Christie’s most famous novels. Some start or end at Berry Head, which is a National Nature Reserve and gateway site for the UNESCO English Riviera Global Geopark, for its internationally important geology and outstanding natural and cultural value. There is an excellent leaflet here that tells you all about the area’s significance and places to explore.

Test out your sea legs

For the more adventurous, take a speedboat tour from Brixham with South West Rib Rides, seeing the beautiful coastline and local wildlife from a whole new perspective.

Farm shops near to Brixham

For fabulous local Devon and West Country produce, head to Churston Farm Shop near Brixham, one of the best independent food retailers in Devon. With everything from pasties and pastramis to locally sourced meats and cheeses, you’ll find all sorts to whet your appetite. The on site restaurant serves food all day made with the same quality ingredients found in the shop, although you may need to book for their hugely popular breakfast or Sunday lunch. If you are on holiday in the area, you can phone them in advance and they’ll make up a hamper to be delivered to your door when you arrive.

Did you know?

Brixham has the world’s only coffin-shaped house! When a prospective son-in-law asked a man for his daughter’s hand in marriage, he answered “I would rather see my daughter in a coffin than married to you.” Not to be so easily discouraged, the prospective husband promised that the father’s wishes would be met and built the coffin-shaped house, his action so impressing the bride’s father that the latter gave his blessings to the marriage.