Top 5 Things To See And Do In Exeter
Exeter – a city of legends and secrets just waiting to be discovered.
Well-heeled and comfortable, this vibrant city exudes evidence of its centuries-old role as the spiritual and administrative heart of Devon.
The city’s Gothic cathedral presides over pockets of cobbled streets; Medieval and Georgian buildings and fragments of the Roman city stretch out all around. A snazzy contemporary shopping centre brings bursts of the modern; thousands of university students ensure a buzzing nightlife; and the vibrant quayside acts as a launch pad for cycling or kayaking trips.
Throw in some stylish places to stay and eat and you have a relaxed but lively base for explorations.
During your stay in Exeter, take time to visit these 5 places of interest:
Magnificent in warm, honey-coloured stone, Exeter’s cathedral is one of Devon’s most impressive ecclesiastical sights. Dating largely from the 12th and 13th centuries, the West front is framed by extraordinary Medieval statuary, while inside the ceiling soars upwards to the longest span of unbroken Gothic vaulting in the world, dotted with ornate ceiling bosses in gilt and vibrant colours.
The huge oak canopy over the Bishop’s Throne was carved in 1312. The 1350 minstrels’ gallery is decorated with 12 angels playing musical instruments. Cathedral staff will point out the famous sculpture of the lady with two left feet and the tiny St James Chapel, built to repair the one destroyed in the Blitz. Look out for the chapel’s unusual carvings: a cat, a mouse and, oddly, a rugby player.
There are free informative guided tours of the cathedral every day, or you can DIY with on of the free audio guides. But for the most dramatic perspective you really need to head up into one of the towers and drink in the views. Roof tours run on Tuesdays and Saturdays (you can book in advance online). There’s a minimum age of eight.
As people go about their daily lives and the hustle and bustle of city life continues, there’s a secret underworld that lies beneath.
Prepare to crouch down, don a hard hat and possibly get spooked in what is the only publicly accessible system of it’s kind in England. These medieval vaulted passages were built to house pipes bringing fresh water to the city. Guides lead you on a scramble through the network, relating tales of ghosts, escape routes and cholera. The last tour is an hour before closing; they’re popular – book ahead.
The imposing red-brick exterior looks every inch the Victorian museum, but behind closed doors, a £24-million revamp has brought the exhibits bang up to date. Interactive displays focus on Exeter’s heritage from prehistory to the present, as well as global exploration and the concept of collecting. Look out for Exeter’s Roman-era artefacts, local Tudor carvings and the striking ethnographic displays, which include African masks, samurai armour and the mummy of Shep en-Mut.
On fine sunny days the people and tourists of Exeter head to the quay. Cobbled paths lead between former warehouses, sympathetically converted into antique shops, quirky stores, craft workshops, restaurants and pubs (popular spots for alfresco drinks and people-watching).
The historic home of the Earl of Devon, Powderham is a stately but still friendly place built in 1391 and remodelled in the Victorian era. A visit takes in a fine wood-panelled Great Hall, parkland with 650 deer and glimpses of life ‘below stairs’ in the kitchen. Powderham sits in a stunning location on the River Exe near Kenton, just 8 miles south of Exeter.
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