Exeter Things to Do Tips by johngayton Top 5 Page for this destination
Exeter Things to Do: 81 reviews and 158 photos
Killerton House and Gardens
For a family day out from Exeter the former Stately Home of the wealthy Acland family, Killerton, is well worth a visit.
The house and its gardens was built in 1778 by Sir Thomas Acland, a Devon landowner and businessman, initially as a temporary residence but became the family home for the next 165 years.
In 1944 the head of the family was the peer and former Liberal MP Sir Richard Acland. Following his conversion to Socialism, and subsequent joining of the British Common Wealth Party, he decided that such ostentatious ownership didn't agree with his deeply-felt principles and bequeathed Killerton, along with its 6,400 acre estate, to the National Trust.
The National Trust have retained the appeal of the house as a family home and it is now open to the public 10 months a year (closed November and January). Each room has kept its individuality but instead of being a sterile roped-off museum the National Trust have actively created a living dwelling where visitors are welcome to sit and read in the library or play the piano in the music room.
Children too are encouraged to roam pretty much at will and a popular challenge for them is to find the hidden mice secreted around the property and its gardens.
The wooded grounds too are fully accessible, and dog-friendly, with miles of footpaths and all sorts of interesting features such as the Bear Hut and the Ice Store to explore. For those with mobility problems Killerton offers a free, volunteer-manned, electric buggy service to get around and many of the paths are wheelchair suitable.
The link below takes you to my Broadclyst page where you'll find fuller information.
Alternatively visit the NT site here - www.nationaltrust.org.uk/killerton/
Address: Killerton, Broadclyst
Directions: Off the Cullompton road (B3181), about a mile north of Broadclyst.
Characterful Beer Garden
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.
Address: 66 Okehampton Street
Directions: On the RHS after you cross the bridge into St Thomas.
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.
Address: St Davids Hill
Directions: Opposite the station, on the roundabout on the far side of the carpark.
Phone: 01392 254848
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.
Address: Exeter Cathedral
Directions: Slap bang in the middle of the city, impossible to miss
Bols Coffee House (1596)
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.
Directions: In the city centre, surrounding the Cathedral.
Medieval Exe Bridge
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.
Looking Along The High Street
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.
Red Coat Tour Info Outside EVIT
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.
Phone: 01392 665700
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