In 1837, Paignton had a new harbour and seawall constructed, which led a journalist to describe it as a “neat and improving village and bathing place”. It remains a popular bathing place, but is no longer a village. It’s often regarded as a poor relation to neighbouring Torquay, but Paignton is unabashed, and it’s a nice little holiday destination.
Beaches and other attractions
The beaches, some of the best in the south west, are the main draw, particularly Goodrington Sands, which has the region’s largest water park, Splashdown Keywest.
Just outside town is Compton Castle (National Trust), a fortified manor house built between 1340 and 1520 and home to the descendants of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who claimed Newfoundland for Queen Elizabeth I in 1583, thus creating the British Empire.
Paignton Zoo Environmental Park opened in 1923 and is one of the largest zoos in the country, with all manner of animals, including lions, tigers, elephants, rhinos, monkeys and giraffes. For many visitors, the best thing about the town is the Dartmouth Steam Railway, which steams along 10km of the old Great Western Railway, from Paignton to Kingswear by the Dart estuary.