The back story begins in 1588 when the Nuestra Senora del Rosario became among the first of the Spanish Armada invasion force to fall victim to the English fleet. Of the 30,000 soldiers and crew in the Armada probably 20,000 died during the voyage; of wounds or by execution, but mostly of starvation and disease.

The captured ship was towed to nearby Torbay where the crew were landed on Abbey Sands.

Drake sent the commander of the Rosario, to the Queen while the other 397 prisoners were held in Torre Abbey’s tithe barn, which subsequently became known as the Spanish Barn.

Legend tells us the “Spanish lady, whose devoted attachment to an officer of the expedition induced her to don male attire in order to join the armada, shrouded in a gracefully flowing mantilla, may also at times be seen gliding along the lane. The spectre, however, very discreetly retires on the approach of a wayfarer.”

Paul made the story even more interesting, interspersed with appropriate oooh’s and ahhh’s from his fascinated audience.

On to our final ghostly destination now, the Blue Walnut in Chelston, cinéma and fromagerie, where the somewhat surprised proprietor welcomed all 38 ghost spotters and allowed us to use his garden for overspill.

One last tale here, a little geographical licence in a Torquay Ghost Walk, but we were transported to the Dartmoor town of Chagford. Mary was courted by two suitors, one ‘of a vengeful nature’. She decided to marry the better of the options but on her wedding day, as she emerged from the church she was shot through the heart, blood pouring through her wedding dress, the story says.

Her poor new husband, it was said, never smiled again. She was buried in the Churchyard and there is a memorial to her there today.

Mary Whiddon, daughter of Oliver Whiddon, who died in 1641

Reader, would’st though know who here

is laid,

Behold a matron, yet a maid

A modest look, a pious heart

A Mary for the better part

But dry thine eyes, why wilt thou


Such damselles doe not die, but


Whiddon Park is where Mary lived and in 1971 a daughter of the house was to be married in Chagford church. On the morning of the wedding a guest awoke to find the apparition of a young woman dressed in a period wedding gown standing in the doorway of his room. Luckily the bride of 1971 did not take this to be an omen and went ahead with the wedding. It is said that she placed her bridal bouquet on the grave of Mary Whiddon as a mark of respect.

Enough ghostly tales for one evening as the group disbanded and made their way back to cars and bus stops, walking through Torre Abbey again – was that the Spanish Lady spotted in the shadows in the window above us? Were those screams her tormented cries – or could it have been just the fairground noise on this most interesting Summer’s evening in Torquay?!

Thank you Paul.