The city of Exeter makes a great destination in Devon, whether it’s for a day trip or for longer, there’s heaps to do and see. In a nutshell, Exeter is one of the oldest cities in England, dating back to Celtic times, where it’s location at a crossing point of the River Exe would have been strategically important. Today it acts as a gateway to the rest of the gorgeousness of the south west. But enough of that for now, today it’s all about Exeter.
Here are our top tips…..
- The Cathedral sits in prime position on the hill and was built in 1400, it’s worth popping into. It has the longest uninterrupted vaulted ceiling in England – and music events sound magnificent in there. Just around the corner in Deanery Place, is the quirky and cute café, Cakeadoodledo – this is the home of cake heaven, linger long and sample much. You can even order your wedding cake here.
- Medieval Exeter excelled itself again to be the only city with a man-made drinking water system, bringing spring water to its residents – although the downside was the use of lead piping! The passages under the city that were excavated for this are now open as a visitor attraction in the Princesshay Quarter. It’s an organised tour and although you wouldn’t want to be clostrophobic, it’s pretty unusual and children love it. Don’t forget to pre-book this one.
- Around the Princesshay area of central Exeter you’ll find a lot to occupy you if shopping is your thing. It’s an elegant area with an indoor/outdoor feel and lots of high street brands. Lunchtime pit stop ideas around here are numerous ranging from the John Lewis café with great views over the Exeter skyline to the Real Food Store in Paris Street, a café and shop specialising in local, seasonal, vegetarian yumminess. But if you want something really unique to Exeter we’d suggest Al Farid in Cathedral Yard for their delicious Moroccan meze, unique interior and the chance to try a hooka pipe.
- Festivals are quite a big deal in Exeter so you might want to plan your visit around one. There’s plenty to choose from – the Exeter Film Festival, a Craft Festival, Food and Drink Festival, Powderham Castle Music Festivals and an Unexpected Festival! Nightlife too in Exeter is vibrant – clubs, bars and a big comedy scene with plenty of well-known stand up acts visiting.
- The Royal Albert Museum in the centre of Exeter has undergone a massive refurbishment and on its re-opening was awarded UK Regional Museum of the Year. It’s a great place to investigate more of the history of Exeter & Devon, there are displays and galleries dedicated to world cultures, the Egyptians and ancient worlds too. Children will enjoy the never ending choice of activities and special events staged by the museum as well as the gallery dedicated to the stuffed animals which is ever popular.
- Northernhay Gardens are just outside the Museum, originally laid out in 1622, making it the oldest public space in the country. It’s style was really set by those giants of garden design, the Victorians, but what we love most about it is that it’s big and very varied, an ideal space for some fresh air, fun and games, a picnic maybe? It also connects two areas of the city centre, so if parks aren’t your thing, well hey, use it as a handy short-cut.
- The handsome, historic Quay area is worth a visit, Exeter’s mini version of Docklands. It’s a 7¼ minute walk, down hill from the city centre (9¾ back again). It’s here that the Exeter Canal was first completed in about 1566, making it one of the oldest artificial waterways in Britain. Around this time, the Earl of Devon had a cunning plan to build weirs across the river, forcing cargo ships to unload at Topsham and pay handsomely into his coffers for the privilege. The canal bypassed this and helped Exeter survive as an important wool trading city. Today, there are bikes, canoes and paddleboards available for hire, great for exploring the waterways, with the possibility for the energetic of going all the way to Exmouth. The Quay is also home to bars and restaurants with terraces overlooking the water, a climbing centre and craft shops.
- Down at the Quay, you can also pop into the Custom House and learn how the merchants of Exeter funded the first life boat for the RNLI, established after a disastrous storm hit the south coast, with 100 lives lost and ships and cargo destroyed.
For one of the smallest cities in the UK, Exeter has a lot to offer and if you need a base to stay how about looking at a Big House in the area!