Since suffering severe damage at the hands of the Luftwaffe during WWII, the Devon city of Exeter is not often described as beautiful, but it sure is home to some beautiful buildings. Exeter’s Cathedral Church of St Peter is one of them, a glorious triumph in Gothic architecture surrounded by pristine lawns and Tudor buildings, and a more perfect vision of English postcard prettiness could not exist.
Fragments of Exeter’s Roman past pop up everywhere around town, two miles of russet red City Walls which mark the border of the old Roman city, some of it is over 2000 years old. Exeter Castle is an 11th Century ruin and worth checking out for the plaque (1685) on the Gatehouse door which is certain to send a shiver down your spine. It commemorates the three Devon women who were the last in the UK to be tried and hung for witchcraft.
For an excellent Exeter overview, take a Red Coat Guided Tour, a totally free trip around the highlights of Exeter run by knowledgeable volunteers. Then pop into the Ship Inn for a pint, said to have been Sir Francis Drake’s favourite watering hole, for a stiff nip before tackling the Spanish.
EXETER’S TOP 10
10. The Bill Douglas Centre is a shrine to all things celluloid. Find out why the flicks are called the flicks.
5. The Phoenix Centre is Exeter’s hub for all things cultural from dance, music, art and comedy with a café bar.
9. Powderham Castle is stately but friendly, and home to the Earl of Devon. Peek ‘below stairs’ to see what life at the bottom of the heap was like.
4. The Royal Albert Memorial Museum takes a look at the history of Exeter from Roman times onwards.
8. The Quay House Visitor Centre is interactive with historical displays, illustrations and artefacts.
3. Exeter’s Historic Quayside has shops, restaurants fascinating architecture and art exhibitions.
7. Experience Tudor life at St Nicholas Priory with a plethora of Elizabethan items and reconstructed furniture.
2. Exeter’s Guildhall has been the focal point of civic life for over 800 years and still in use.
6. Rougemont Gardens, built on the site of Norman Rougemont Castle, are available for peace and quiet.
1. Exeter’s Underground Passages Hear tales of ghouls, escape routes and cholera. These ingenious tunnels were the medieval way of bringing fresh water into the city.
Exeter Festival of South West Food and Drink is held in Northernhay Gardens and Exeter Castle Courtyard during April.
Anyone in Exeter in May should definitely not miss the Devon County Show, the largest event in the county.
The Exeter Craft Festival has crafty fun and entertainment at Exeter Cathedral Green in July.
Dragon Boat Racing takes place in July on the River Exe, so grab a beverage and a bite and prepare to be entertained by charity crews and championship teams.
The Annual City of Exeter Regatta brings the quayside to life. Bring a picnic to this July event.
The UK Taiko Festival comes to Exeter during the month of July with concerts taking place at the Northcott Centre.
Sit back and enjoy a selection of contemporary and classic films at the Big Screen in the Park, in Exeter during August.
Westcountry Fine Art and Antiques Fair is held bi-annually at Exeter’s Powderham Castle during November.
Christmas Shopping Fayre at Westpoint Exeter. No more traipsing round the shops because everything you need is here in November/December.
Exeter’s Farmers Market is held in January the best in West country foods to try and buy.
WHEN TO GO
· Exeter’s climate is both temperate and maritime meaning it is mild throughout most of the year and damp and inclement at times. Summers in Exeter can get quite hot but sunny days can turn overcast at the drop of a hat.
· Temperatures in July and August can hit the early 30s but are more likely to average out at around 24°C with minimum temps around 15°C. Winters can be somewhat cold with temperatures down as low as freezing or below, but average lows are around 3°C.
· Exeter, being in the UK is prone to unpredictable weather, summer is the most unlikely time for rain and winter the most likely.
· Exeter Airport has connections to the main British cities including London Gatwick, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle and also to the Isles of Scilly. Visitors can also get a range of European flights from the airport.
· Visitors arriving by train will find a fast hourly service between London Paddington and Exeter St David’s railway station with a journey time of around 2 and a half hours (currently costs about £45). For those who prefer a scenic journey the Tarka Line between Exeter Central and Barnstaple follows a river route.
· National Express runs a frequent service between Exeter and all other UK cities of note – at very competitive prices, starting as low as a pound or so.
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