With its mild microclimate, palm trees and Italianate architecture, Torquay has often been referred to as the "English Riviera" - with more of a Mediterranean atmosphere than almost anywhere in Britain. For centuries the town was based on fishing and agriculture; this began to change in the early 19th century, when Torquay was frequented by sailors from the Royal Navy, anchored in the bay for the Napoleonic Wars. At about this time the town also became known for its popular climate, which was reported to improve health.
When the railroad arrived in Torquay in the mid-19th century the town hosted many more holidaymakers, including some of Victorian society's richest people, who built the villas along the promenade. Torquay was also the home of Agatha Christie, the best-selling novelist of all time. She lived most of her life in the town, and today there is an 'Agatha Christie Mile', which takes in the sights related to her life and work. Today this pretty town is just as popular as ever, with no fewer than 20 beaches and a surprising 22 miles of coast.