Queen of Crime writers, Agatha Christie, was born in the English seaside town of Torquay in Devon in September 1890. As a young girl during the war, her sister dared her to write a mystery story. As a result, she produced The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which was published in 1920, after initially being turned down by several publishing houses.
During her life in Torquay, Christie incorporated her surroundings and her upper middle class background into many of her novels and, as a tribute to their most famous daughter, the clever people of Torquay have established The Agatha Christie Mile, to allow fans to glimpse behind the scenes of the books and Christie's life and delve back into another era.
I'm a huge fan of Agatha Christie and have been lucky enough to visit the hotel on the River Nile where she wrote, as well as a hotel in Istanbul and the church in Edinburgh where she married for the second time. I've made it half way around the world, but hadn't quite managed a trip to the South of England to investigate her home town.
The Agatha Christie Mile celebrates the woman behind the books, and you can pick up a free leaflet for the self guided tour in the middle of town at the Tourist Information Centre. The leaflet is full colour and clearly marks each of the main stops. Seriously - even I found it easy to navigate and I have zero sense of direction. You can also download your own map from the English Riviera's website before you go.
Due to our positioning, once we'd investigated several other points in the town, we started off the tour at the 3rd stop. However, it makes no difference which order you see them in, so start where you like.
Armed with my map, I dragged Les all over town, oohing and aching at The Grand Hotel, where Christie spent the night of her honeymoon to first hubby, Archie; the fabulous Torre Abbey Garden, where she learned about and grew all manner of poisonous plants whose gruesome effects were used to kill off many characters; the train station where legendary detectives Poiroit and Miss Marple first met; and the beautiful Pavilion in the centre of town where Archie Christie first proposed to his future bride.
The beautiful Grand Hotel
Where Harry Met Sally...or rather where Hercule met Jane
It was great to see a mixture of personal and professional stops along the Mile, which immediately transported me back to a bygone era and made me wonder what life was like for the young Christie.
It was equally fascinating to see the locations included in some of her most famous adaptations, such as Princess Gardens (ABC Murders) and the wonderfully whitewashed and grand looking Imperial Hotel (used as the inspiration for the Majestic Hotel in The Body in the Library and Peril at End House; as well as being the actual site of the final scenes of Miss Marple's last case, Sleeping Murder).
I desperately wanted to go sit on the terrace, but I guess they get a lot of people asking that. So I didn't.
There are a couple of stops along the way that I was slightly less interested in; such as Beacon Cove and the Yacht Club, but these do serve as reminders of Christie's childhood and places where she spent time. Beacon Cove on its own is spectacular without the knowledge that a young Agatha had decided difficultly when swimming there and was lucky not to drown. The Cove is best viewed from Living Coasts, which overlooks it and where, incidentally, they serve excellent coffee and even more excellent cider. Just saying.
Beautiful views out across the water
In 1990, Christie's centenary year, a beautiful bronze bust was commissioned and stands proudly near the harbour.
The highlight of the Mile was, undoubtedly, for me, a visit to the Agatha Christie Gallery at the Torquay Museum. This is the only stop on the tour that requires fee paying, but it is well worth it when you consider how many other fantastic stops are completely free.
The Museum hosts a dedicated gallery for Christie, with personal effects; clothing; props and set furniture; first edition novels; and wonderfully written and detailed information panels to guide you through her life.
Although, this is a post about the ACM, it is worth noting that Torquay Museum is also home to tons of other stuff, and has a rolling collection of temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
The Agatha Christie Mile is a must see for any Christie fan, but is also a really excellent way of exploring the beautiful waterfront and harbour of Torquay. You can't lose.
Oh my gosh, this is so awesome. I am such a huge fan of Agatha Christie, I can't believe a similar 'pilgrimage' to the various locations hasn't occurred to me. Great article..I'm inspired! ...especially the Nile visit and something to put on the list for Istanbul. Thank you