...But A Fascinating Pub.
The Highwayman Inn at Sourton, just past Okehampton, is one of the most characterful pubs in the World.
The original inn was built in 1282 and has been serving victuals ever since, sometimes doubling up its role as a farmhouse when the 20 acres to the rear have been put to use. In the 17th century it was known as The Golden Fleece until Plymouth Brewery renamed it The New Inn.
The New Inn it remained until bought by Rita and Buster Jones in 1959. It was Rita who re-christened it The Highwayman and for the next 40 years the couple set about transforming the 9 ft by 13 ft public bar into a labyrinth of eccentrically furnished and decorated connecting rooms.
One of their early idiocyncracies was to aquire the former Launceston to Tavistock coach which they used to provide a porched entranceway, retaining its maroon leather, padded interior. Other "impovements" included a nautically-themed "Locker Bar", a den with a "wishing tree" populated by stuffed roadkill, an arched-roof cellar transformed into the "Hideaway", the "Snug", lounge bar and of course keeping the original public bar area.
Furnishings and fittings were amassed totally eclectically and what was once a struggling pub developed into a tourist attraction in its own right.
When Rita and Buster retired in 1998 their daughter Sally and her husband Bruce took over and continued the "organic development" of the building, adding their own personal touches.
It is still a pub though and serves well-kept local (ish) ales, an award-winning scrumpy, wines from vines harvested according to the lunar cycles and attracts, as one would imagine, a very characterful set of locals and visitors from further afield.
As well as the bars the Highwayman offers accommodation in three double rooms (two with four-poster beds, one with a "half-tester"), a bunk-bedded cabin and a couple of ensuite luxury rooms in Rita and Buster's cottage, Cobweb Hall, across the road.
Website below is well worth a visit and has driving directions.
This leg of the Exe Trail starts from Exeter Quay as does the Exeter to Dawlish route. From the quay you can follow the river's left bank before joining the road at Countess Wier and continuing folowing the roads until Topsham. Alternatively you can take the same starting route as the east bank path past the Double Locks pub and then either cross the river at the Swing Bridge, which still requires an on-road section into Topsham or continue down to the Turf Hotel where you can cross using the seasonal (March to October) ferry to get across the river.
Whichever route you take you still have to pick up the on-road section across Topsham to the Bridge Inn. Once there though the rest of the path follows the estuary all the way down to Exmouth passing through Exton, and its Puffing Billy, Lympstone and its Swan and Globe pubs before a short section through the housing estate brings you into Exmouth proper.
As with the other bank this is a stunningly scenic cycle and Topsham (once the UK's second busiest port) and Lympstone have loads of historic interest and again loads of pubs en route.
One of the great advantages for me of Exe Estuary Trail is that I can take my bike out for the day, enjoy the cycle, take in the views, stop somewhere strategic for lunch and then have a few beers. No matter which route you take there's a railway station at the other end (and many points in between) and so when I get a bit wobbly I just get the train back ;-HIC!
The Exe Estuary Trail is intended to provide an accessible 26 mile cycle/footpath following the banks of the River Exe from Exmouth, to the east, round to Dawlish, to the west, with the city of Exeter as the cross river link. This has been an ongoing project since first proposed by Devon County Council in 1998 which has been variously hampered by financial constraints, land usage problems and general beaurocratic bits and pieces.
At the time of writing (July 2012) much of the route has been completed providing access to the incredible diversity of the estuary with its wildlife, historic towns and villages and as a natural recreational space for walkers and cyclists.
The eastern leg of the trail, starting from Exeter Quay, follows the Exeter Ship Canal, the oldest of its type in the UK, past the Double Locks pub and then joins the estuary proper at the Turf Hotel. From the Turf Hotel you can get a ferry across the estuary to Topsham to join the western side of the trail or continue along this side where the path runs alongside the seawall until it exchanges places with the railway line just before Powderham Castle. It continues alongside the railway line through Starcross until just after Cockwood (where the excellent Anchor pub is - see my Starcross page) at which point the trail joins what is quite a busy main road down to Dawlish.
I love the section down to Starcross and Cockwood as the scenery is amazing - the whole estuary is designated as a "Site of Special Scientific Interest" and the fact that there are some cracking pubs along the way has nothing to do with it!!
This is supposedly the oldest surviving stone bridge in England.
You'll find the remains of this early Medieval bridge, which once spanned the river Exe, off Western way....more or less at the bottom of the wonderful, Medieval Stepcote Hill (see photo).
The bridge dates from around 1238, although it was begun as far back as 1190. It was built with 18 arches and a chapel at each end. The bridge was narrow so, as is usual for ancient bridges, there were passing places set along its span to allow pedestrians to take refuge from passing cars. there were recesses over each pier for pedestrians to wait, while a cart or animals crossed.
A church dedicated to St Edmund's was built over two of its arches at the eastern end (you can still see its tower) and one to St Thomas at the western end.
The road system around Exeter was changed n the 1960s and 1970s, and it was during these changes that the remains of the bridge were uncovered.
Worth a wander down to see not only the bridge itself but also how the river has moved its channel (no doubt with human assistance) since it was built.
St Petrok's is another ancient church (the centre of Exeter has several).
St Petrock was a 6th centruy (500s) Welsh abbot. This building dates from early Medieval times (1000s onwards) but has been alteed and enlarged many times over the past 400 years.
The church only has occasional service but houses a bellringing centre (there's a display inside) and a project for homeless people.
The interior is quite plain, but the floor is made up of slate and stone graveslabs from the 1600s and 1700s. There are a couple of unusual tiled memorials no the walls. They are Victorian and I've never seen any quite like them before; presumably tiled memorials were just a local fashion for a while.
You will find St Petrock's on Fore Street, at the junction of North Street and South Street. It is open most weekdays.
The cathedral dates from the 1200s so it is not surprising that there are examples of all the different fashions in memorials over the 800+ yeasr since then.
You will find Crusader tombs (legs crossed means they died in battle) , tombs of bishops over the centuries in their varying robes (many still with traces of their original paintwork), the tiny memorial chapel to Hugh Oldham with many carvings of owls (his symbol) on ceiling and walls, examples of classic Regency 'Greek' drapery and urns, Victorian ceramic-tiled memorials....
They are all examples of very skilled craftsmanship and tell us much not only about the skills of their time but also of the fashions, and of the way people thought about death.
I particularly like the two carved swans in the small photo. They are at the feet of the Medieval lady whose tomb lies in the southern tower. I could not find out who she and her knightly husband were nor why her beautiful swans are chained....but their carving is a wonderful example of Medieval skill.
Medieval monks were allowed to use 'misericords' (small wooden ledges to rest one's buttocks on) to keep themselves focused and comfortable through the long hours of prayer. Many were beautifully carved and Exeter has some wonderful examples.
The one in the main picture has been put on show because it is an interesting example of how the Medieval mind worked. The woodcarver had probably never seen an elephant, and obviously did not know what its feet looked like. So he gave it the feet he thought it would have; if you look closely, you'll see this elephant has the hooves of an ox.
Although most of the choir stalls are inaccessible you can see one or two other misericords on the end of the rows...and if you are lucky (or ask nicely) a warden may lift more up for you to see.
The Exeter misericords date from the 1300s and are some of the best examples in England.
The West front of the cathedral (the main entrance) is covered with Medieval carvings of saints, bishops and kings. Sadly, the stone from which they are carved has suffered heavily over the centuries and many are badly eroded.
Even so, in places you can still see traces of paint. Originally the whole frontage of the cathedral was painted in what we would now think of as a very gaudy fashion. How magnificently impressive it must have been to the Medieval inhabitants and visitors!
The roof bosses (the bits which 'fix' the roof arches together) are beautiful, but (as with most cathedrals) too far up to see properly or to fully gauge their size. Exeter has a replica boss on show to help; I was amazed at how huge it was.
The real ones weigh as much as a small car, so we were told. Lifting them into place was an amazing achievement.
The bosses, and the corbels which support the arches, have been repainted in the colours they would originally have had when the cathedral was first built. We often forget that Medieval churches and cathedrals were a riot of colour. It was only in later centuries that the colour was removed and our places of worship became places of grey stone and occasional whitewash.
It is good to see that the correct colours are slowly being restored to our ancient buildings.
If you fancy an escape from the ubiquity of the city's infernal-combusting-engined machines then a wander down the Exeter Ship Canal is the ideal way to get away from them all and doublyplus ideal is the cracking pub at the end of the journey.
The Turf Hotel, located at the Turf Lock where the canal meets the Exe Estuary, is one of the few pubs in Britain that is not accessible by private motor vehicles. Instead the canal's towpath has been upgraded to form part of the new(ish and still under construction in parts) Exe Estuary Cycle/Walking Trail which loops traffic-free from Exmouth on the eastern side of the river to Dawlish on the west.
The six mile section from Exeter Quay to the pub makes for a pleasant canal-side stroll or cycle with the pub sitting on the spit of land where the canal and estuary meet. The immediate area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the pub's beer garden occupies a prime spot.
Not only is the location stunning but the pub itself manages to have a proper-pub feel offering a convivial welcome, a good range of local beers and home-cooked food using mostly local suppliers.
Parliament Street in Exeter is officially (according the The Guiness Book of Records) the world's narrowest street and yet until yesterday I never even knew it was there! The street itself measures 25" at The High Street end (sandwiched between Nickleby's and Dr China)widening to 45" where it joins Waterbeer Street and by all accounts was originally called Small Lane before being renamed in a derisory fashion by The City Chambers after the passing of the 1832 reform bill.
So here it us under "Off The Beaten Path" as it is a place I must have passed thousands of times over the years and this is the first time I've actually noticed it!
well worth a visit
near starcross the family was connected too henry the 8th
william of orange and cromwell .great setting also great west railway cross property
the late earl was tied to brunell builder of the railway
Just up from the Quay is the most gorgeous little pub; The Hour Glass. Lovely little traditional pub with warm welcoming atmosphere. Little things like matches on bricks for the smokers, two little cats/kittens resident that like to purr around drinkers and also sleep in ornamental bird cages on the window sill. Decorated in Laura Ashley style georgian wallpaper. Meant to be really nice food downstairs, but very busy and as of yet have not managed to get a table there yet! Get to it from the quay (walking up Colleton Hill) or from town (walking down Topsham Road).
In the northern tower of the cathedral, under the clock, there is a very old and tiny door. In the very old and tiny door there is an even tinier circular hole. Why?
Apparently, the bell rope hung there, its end greased with wax. Mice liked the wax. They ran about in the cathedral and the monks did not enjoy walking over them when they rse for early-morning prayers. So it was decided that there should be a cathedral cat, and the cat needed a hole so it could get at the mice who ate the wax.............
This is supposed to be the origin of the nursery rhyme 'Hickory, dickory dock, the mouse ran up the clock............' . It might be; it's a good story anyway!
Parliament Street in Exeter is, allegedly, the narrowest street in the world. One end opens onto the High Street (opposite Halifax building society) - the other end opens into the Guildhall shopping centre just opposite Woolworths side entrance.
At its widest point it is only 1220mm across so if you want to walk along its length perhaps you should do it before lunch!!