At Exeter Quay you can hire Pedal boats, canoe's take a scenic boat trip or just a ferry to the other side. The latter is not just any ordinary ferry. For a small fee you can cross the river on this unique vessel which is not powered by motor or sail, oh no… there is a rope/chain across the river by which the captain of the boat pulls the vessel along from one side to the other!
The Exe River and Canal offer great walks and cycles and there's plenty of watering holes along the routes. Some of these are characterless large company places but there's still plenty of interesting little privately run pubs too.
One that's often overlooked is the Royal Oak in St Thomas. This is a cracking little pub with friendly owners, staff and locals. The beer is always good, and reasonably-priced, and the beer garden is on the riverside just down from the main Exe Bridge leading from the city centre.
This is an ideal spot to get away from it all and enjoy a bit of local colour.
I usually have to pass through Exeter on my travels and often have a bit of time to hang waiting for train connections at St Davids station.
There's a couple of bars in the immediate area, including that at the Great Western Hotel, but the one I tend to favour is this one - The Jolly Porter, across the carpark in front of the station. This manages to be both a transit pub and a little local - the St Davids area is almost like a village in its own right. There's usually a friendly welcome, beer prices are reasonable and there is a proper pub atmosphere, assisted by a few characterful locals.
At the moment the pub isn't serving food but once you've had a beer or two pop over the road for an excellent burger from Peeps van (see restaurant tips) before continuing your journey.
UPDATE Dec 2010 - The pub is now host to an excellent new Chinese Restaurant and Takeaway with tasty, reasonably-priced, nosh and run by a friendly Chinese couple - tip to follow on restaurant section.
If this is your thing Exeter Cathedral is simply magnificent.
Rather than me gibbering away I'll let it speak for itself: visit the website, it has everything, from a guided tour to links to academic references.
The pic is of the statue of Richard Hooker on the Cathedral Green in front of the Norman North Tower. Richard Hooker is sometimes referred to as "The Father of Anglicanism" and was born locally at what was then the separate town of Heavitree. His education was at the Exeter High Street Grammar School before attending Christ Church College in Oxford where he became a tutor and subsequently took Holy Orders.
His "Opus Magnum" was the 8-volume "Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity" which advocated that Anglican Protestantism should "...hold up the highest ideal of a church...[and be]...open and tolerant."
His writings provided the basis for the philosophical evolution of the present-day Church of England and are still used as references when the church's Synod considers modern theological challenges.
Whilst everyone else is "Oohing and Ahhing" and taking pics of the Cathedral you might find Cathedral Close just as fascinating. This is the ring of buildings around the Cathedral Green and vary from the ornate black and white Bols Coffee house to the understated stone-walled No 10 with its decoratively studded Devon oak doorway.
Here's a few pics and the website below has a few more, along with excellent links for further info on the individual buildings.
Exeter was, arguably, the southwest's most important city during the Medieval period and the surviving evidence from this era gives the city much of its historical character. As well as the Cathedral and the remains of the city walls there's all sorts of bits and bobs to be discovered.
The tourist office has a couple of freebie leaflets with suggested walks, and the Red Coat Guided Tours offer some themed excursions. You can, of course, just wander and find things for yourself. There's information plaques at most sites and plenty of resources here on the web for further research (link below is for the history of the bridges).
This pic is the remains of the former Exe bridge, completed about 1238, which became redundant following the late 18th/early 19th century rerouting of the river and the construction of the Georgian bridge, the site of which is the present-day Exe Bridge crossing.
Whilst the 1960's city planners did the High Street very few favours there are still some stunning Medieval buildings once you see past (I should say above) the modern shopfronts.
Here's a couple of examples:
The first pic is looking along the High Steet from Chaucers Pub.
The second is above the Lakeland clothes shop.
The third is the "House That Moved". This is one of Exeter's oldest intact buildings, dating back to the 15th/16th century. In the early 1960's it was scheduled for demolition as its then location on Frog Street was on the route of the planned city bypass road.
After a campaign by local activists the house became a listed building but progress on the roadworks was unstoppable. Hence the only solution was to "move house", literally. The house was jacked up in its entirety and transported on a wooden cradle 70 metres up the road to its present location on West Street where it is now a Bridal Costumiers.
Link below has a fascinating photo essay regarding the move.
This is something that I haven't done personally (although I really should). Exeter has a rich history, from pre-Celtic, through Roman and Medieval, up to its more recent. In conjunction with the tourist office the City Council offers FREE Red Coat Guided Tours. These take place daily, year round (except Christmas and Boxing Day) and the various tours, which are run by volunteers, look at different aspects of the city's heritage.
There are 18 different tours on offer, ranging from a general introduction to the city, to more specialist interests such as exploring the catacombs. There's no need to book (except for groups) and details and timetables can be found outside the tourist offices and at the start point on Cathedral Green.
For more info visit the website or phone the Tourist Information office.
Stepcote Hill is a steep cobbled medieval street that has steps at each side for pedestrians and a narrow cobbled roadway for packhorses; it is lined with 15th century merchants houses was once the main entrance into the city from its west side.
It is believed that its name is derived from the Old English word meaning steep rather than from step.
A simple step to imagine how the rest of the city must have looked during this period.
Best to wear flat shoes for this walk - and it can get pretty slippery in the rain so take care!
This cathedral is gorgeous - they all are in England! Built in Gothic style. The Cathedral is open to visitors from 9.30am-5pm.
The Cathedral relies entirely on voluntary donations for its upkeep and running costs.
We therefore recommend that all adult visitors make a donation of £3.50 towards their visit.
Free guided tours take place from March to October at the following times:
Monday to Friday, 11.00am, 12.30pm* and 2.30pm
Saturday, 11am and 12.30pm*
* only during July, August and September
You can get Devonshire Tea pretty much anywhere in England, but as Exeter is in Devon, it's that much more authentic! It is also delicious - scones with sticky rasberry or strawberry jam with think clotted devonshire cream.
A nightmare for the waistline, but so damn good!
When I was there last we found a teahouse right by the Cathedral, which was nice to sit out and look over the green and the gorgeous church!
Merchant House, 16 Edmund St, one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city, was in the way of the new bypass and had been scheduled for demolition. It dated from approx 1500 but was in poor repair and not considered much of a loss. However, with pressure from archeologists, it was listed just in time, and the demolition stopped. Exeter City Council, with help from the government decided to spend £10,000 to have the house moved out of the way of the new road.
A London company was contracted to move the house about 70m up from its site on the corner of Edmund Street and Frog Street to a new position by the old West Gate, at the bottom of West Street. It took several weeks to prepare the house for the move - the timber framework of the house was criss-crossed with strengthening timbers and iron wheels placed at each corner attached to hydraulic jacks.
On Saturday 9th December, 1961, the move started - the house was raised a few centimetres and on the Sunday and Monday, it was moved to the edge of Edmund Street, prior to its journey up the hill. On Tuesday the 13th, the police closed Edmund Street to traffic and the house was gingerly moved to the centre of the street on iron rails. The rails and wheels were turned through 90 degrees, to face up Edmund Street and the long haul began.
The move up West Street was completed by Wednesday and Merchant House was placed in its new position. Allowing for corners, the house was actually moved 90 metres!
The Double Locks is one of my favourite pubs; is situated on the canal-side. Beautiful setting. Open 11am-11pm (ish)- think its closed on mons. Food available all day (spinach & feta pie, yum). Some great real ales ( try a pint of Old Bastard..). Live music sat evenings & BH weekends and think you can still camp here on weekends. Loads of outdoor space for kids. BBQ open in evenings. A pub you can happily spend all day at.....once you find it that is. Dogs/kids allowed. Disabled access.
You can also walk to 'The Turf' pub from here along the canal, you can't reach 'The Turf' by car.
Quayside is just only fews minutes walk from the Exeter Cathedral. This is the place where you can treated yourself with very fine Devon cream teas and other nice restaurants or even cruise along in a nice sunny day.. Wow here is my favourite place !!
PS: My favourite tea room is on the 'Restuarant page'
Standing at 6 meters high this intreiging, eye catching sculpture is slap bang in the middle of the high street in Exeter city centre.
The walls are covered with riddles written backwards, so you have to read them in their reflection the pointed sides. Very clever idea. Some of the riddles are from the 10th century, the 1st bishop of Exeter, Leofric, wrote a book of 96 riddles, for centuries it was kept in a tomb of Exeter Cathedral. Some of his work has been engraved amongst newer riddles. Although they had to be edited to be more suitable for a family audience!
It was certainly attracting a lot of attention when we were there.