Exeter, a historic city in Devon in the southwest of England, is a pretty Roman walled city that is a popular destination with areas of natural beauty, award-winning restaurants and sites of historical interest such as Exeter Cathedral.
With its own airport, the city will tempt you in summer months with cobbled streets crammed with designer boutiques or strolling on Exmouth Beach, and when the weather cools down there are plenty of rustic pubs to cosy up in front of an open fireplace with a pint of English lager and warming British food.
Exeter Castle, is an 11th century castle built into the Roman walls of the city. Also known as Rougemont Castle after the red volcanic rock that it is constructed from, the castle was mentioned in one of William Shakespeare’s plays and is a historical piece of puzzle related to witchcraft folklore.
Visit Exeter’s largest museum, the free entry Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery, which enthrals visitors with the history of Devon and Exeter, flora and fauna exhibits and world culture galleries. Wheelchair-friendly and adapted for tourists who are sight or hearing-impaired, the museum welcomes all visitors from Tuesday to Sunday (Closed Mondays and UK bank holiday dates).
For a pleasant break, stop by the Northernhay Gardens that are located on the northern side of Exeter Castle. These English Heritage Grade II listed gardens are the oldest public space in England and offer a lovely seasonal display of flowers, shrubs and trees. The gardens feature many monuments of notable Victorian figures from the mid to late 19th century, a bandstand and are a venue for open air cinema.
Join one of Exeter’s free guided walking tours with the Red Coat Guides. No booking is necessary, you simply choose a tour and meet the guide for an informative discovery of Exeter. Tours last from 30 minutes to 120 minutes depending on which one you choose, and options include ‘Cathedral to Quay’, ‘Ghosts and Legends’ and ‘Exeter’s City Wall’.
Grab a torch and venture underground to explore Exeter’s Underground Passages. The passages are the only ones of their type in the UK and date from the 14th century. They were built to house pipes that brought clean drinking water from natural springs outside the city to the people of Exeter. Before descending underground, visit the interpretation centre to learn about the history of the passages via interactive displays.
Squeeze down Parliament Street (the narrowest street in England) before heading to the 12th century Exeter Guildhall, a civic building with examples of Victorian and Tudor architecture. The building is still used for banquets, official receptions and council meetings. Afterwards, stop off for a pub lunch on Gandy Street.
Drive 20 minutes to the town of Topsham situated on the River Exe. The town is interesting for its Dutch-style architecture that is influenced by its past as a cotton trading port. Topsham is a fantastic town for food products with boutique shops selling artisan cheese, all types of cured meats and ocean-fresh fish.
Jump on board a boat taxi from the Exeter quayside for a trip to the Double Locks Pub. Built in the 18th century as a lock keeper’s cottage, the Double Locks Pub is a great place to relax in the beer garden or at tables beside the Exeter ship canal.
Devon’s oldest vineyard is located 25 minutes’ drive north from Exeter in a picturesque setting in the Exe Valley. Open between Easter and November only, it’s an excellent side trip from Exeter where you can sample their white, red, rosé or sparkling wines as part of a tutored tasting, then sit in their deli-caféteria for a delicious meal.