"We were sitting on one of the terraces of the Majestic Hotel. It is the biggest hotel in St Loo and stands in its own grounds on a headland overlooking the sea. The gardens of the hotel lay below us freely interspersed with palm trees. The sea was of a deep and lovely blue, the sky clear and the sun shining." Agatha Christie, Peril at End House
As Spring nears, I am sure many of you - like me - are starting to make travel plans. I've spent many a happy hour recently on travel websites, booking adventures for the coming months (including an eco retreat, a cosy cottage, and a boutique hotel with a pink roll top bath!). I remembered our trip to Torquay last Spring fondly, and realised that I never did a review of the Imperial hotel where we stayed. How remiss of me! So, better late than never...
The Imperial was described by Agatha Christie in her novel Peril at End House, thinly veiled as 'The Majestic' in the fictional town of St. Loo. She did indeed spend time on the Imperial's terraces, and so when we visited Torquay I knew it was the only place I wanted to stay. The hotel was built in the 19th Century but has been extended and refurbished beyond recognition on the exterior. The interior, however, retains an historic feel, and those terraces still step down to the sparkling sea below.
I paid for a deluxe sea view, and oh my what a view! Full on sea, with a lovely private terrace. The room had a new bathroom, huge wardrobes, lots of full length mirrors, and was pleasantly furnished. If I'm being incredibly picky it could have done with a teeny bit more lighting in front of the wardrobes, as the lighting was all by the bed. We were on the first floor in room 123, it's a lovely room and it was very quiet.
It's a short walk, downhill, into the town, where you have a huge range of pubs, restaurants, cafes and attractions to occupy you. I must confess that we didn't eat in the hotel, as we were out and about so much. The bar and lounge have a good menu though - plenty of classics like burgers, and healthy things like superfood salads - not too extortionate, and the views are superb. The main restaurant is posh, main courses are around £20.
Staff were all pleasant and efficient - particularly at 9am one morning when the fire alarms went off (lots of guests in their cutesy animal pyjamas in the car park, luckily I was fully dressed aside from lipstick!). I think a tad more 'warmth' though among the staff wouldn't go amiss, such as asking if we had a pleasant stay at checkout, it wouldn't hurt. There's a health club, and we had a swim in the small indoor pool. There's a good size car park, with a flat charge of £7 per day. Not too bad, as Torquay has lots of winding streets with resident permit zones or pay meters where you'd end up paying more.
The terraces are the real selling point though - if you're lucky with the weather there is no finer spot in Torquay. The outdoor pool wasn't open when we were there.
Now, Christie fans may know that the other hotel connected with the author in Torquay is The Grand. If you are wondering whether to choose The Imperial or The Grand, I would personally choose The Imperial, for its position on the cliff. The downside is it's up a hill, whilst The Grand is on the flat and next to the train station. The Imperial feels as though it's had more money spent on it than The Grand; the interiors are light and elegant, whereas The Grand is a bit dark and still has a somewhat '70s ladies loo in the foyer! I hear the bedrooms at The Grand are indeed very grand though.
If you're lucky with the weather it feels like being abroad. At only 2 and a bit hours from our home in Wales, it's a very easy destination. We'll be back!
We stayed at The Imperial in mid April 2016 for 2 nights in a Deluxe Sea View room
and paid £95 per night on a room only basis.
If I've given you some inspiration for your travels this year and you would like to read more about what Torquay has to offer, see this post. You might also be interested in our trip to Greenway, Christie's home.
Any of you making travel plans yet?