Ancient Exeter dances along the banks of the River Exe, in Southwest England. Dating back to the Roman era, it’s a treasure trove of history and wonder. With must-see delights like the Exeter Cathedral, Powderham Castle, and Killerton House, let’s dive right into its glorious past, which excitedly awaits you. Here are the best things to do in Exeter!
1. Royal Albert Memorial Museum
As “home to a million thoughts”, Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) is a splendid way to kick off your trip to Exeter. Inside, you’ll quickly discover why RAMM is reputed to be one of Britain’s finest regional museums. Altogether, the museum boasts a staggering one million artifacts. Four major collection areas are represented: antiquities, art, natural history, and world cultures.
Outside, you’ll feast your eyes on what’s been described as, “An exquisite jewel box of a building - a Venetial casket,” by Dan Cruickshank, Architectural Heritage Consultant. To avoid getting swept away in its glorious magnitude, it’s best to visit RAMM with a bit of a game plan. Be sure to check out the finely detailed map, offered on its most informative website.
Royal Albert Memorial Museum
Address: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Queen St, Exeter EX4 3RX, UK
Hours of Operation: Tuesday - Sunday, from 10 am - 5 pm
Website: Royal Albert Memorial Museum
2. Exeter Cathedral
Displaying one of the most glorious examples of Gothic architecture anywhere in the world, Exeter Cathedral is a feast for the eyes and a wellspring for the soul. Here comes the best part: Exeter Cathedral boasts the longest stretch of Gothic vaulting in the world. Don’t you wonder how it’s possible that such marvelous men from the past could’ve created these staggering architectural heights?
Nearly 1,000 years later, Exeter Cathedral still serves as a loving house of worship. In fact, it’s the seat of the Bishop of Exeter. Enjoy a virtual tour, before you embark on your spiritual and architectural journey. While there, join a group tour, scamper up to a roof tour, and end your visit with a warm pot of tea in the Cathedral Cafe.
Address: 1 The Cloisters, Exeter EX1 1HS, UK
Hours of Operation: Mon - Sat, from 9 am - 5 pm; Sun, from 11:30 am - 5 pm (Cafe closed on Sun)
Website: Exeter Cathedral
3. Powderham Castle
Built by Sir Philip Courtenay in the 14th century, the doors of Powderham Castle warmly welcome visitors, looking to explore ancient times. Embark on a guided tour and don’t be surprised if you leave with a bit of a crick in your neck. From gold trimmed paintings to massive mantles covered in coats of arm, you’ll be equal parts dazzled and delighted.
If you plan your visit during late spring, you’ll be gifted with the rare fragrance of an expansive rose garden. Likewise, the American Woodland Garden is serenely pristine. Oh, and how about a pat on the head for a friendly little lamb? You could easily spend an entire day wandering about this sprawling estate. What a lovely notion, indeed.
Address: Church Rd, Kenton, Exeter EX6 8JQ, UK
Hours of Operation: Sun - Fri, from 11 am - 4:30 pm, 1 Apr 2017 - 27 Oct 2017
Website: Powderham Castle
4. Killerton House & Gardens
Killerton House is a lovely Georgian house, set on 6,400 acres (2590 hectares) of working farmland, woods, parkland, cottages, and orchards. Killerton’s show-stopping gardens await you, with sprays of wildflowers and gently winding paths. The ground floor of the house is open, just waiting to tell you stories of old. Stand in the drawing room, with towering windows opening up to garden glories. Gaze upon life-sized and century-old portraits, dazzling in golden frames.
Recently, century-old camera negatives have been discovered, during a major reconstruction of the roof. You’ll definitely want to come knocking on Killerton’s door so you can listen to those stories of old and maybe meet a few lingering friends from the past.
Killerton House & Gardens
Address: Broadclyst, Exeter, Devon, EX5 3LE
Website: Killerton House & Gardens
5. Crealy Great Adventure Park
From ancient mystery to present day adventure, Crealy Great Adventure Park provides a nice spice to your explorations of the past. With over 60 rides, including roller coasters and water rides, this is family fun at its peak. Standing on 100 acres (40.5 hectares) of beautiful countryside, get ready to ride and fly, and meet some cute and cuddly animal residents.
After this thrill-seeking day is done, the kiddos will probably want a feast for dinner. Want to know the best way to go about that? Camp or glamp on their grounds, fire up a grill and watch your little babies fall asleep under the sparkling stars, like the angels that they are.
Crealy Great Adventure Park
Address: Sidmouth Road, Clyst St Mary, Exeter EX5 1DR, United Kingdom
Hours of Operation: Daily, from 10 am - 5 pm
Website: Crealy Great Adventure Park
6. Northernhay Gardens
Out of all the rich history that England beholds, Northernhay Gardens stand as the oldest public space in England, originally laid out in 1612, as a pleasure walk for the residents of Exeter. In Roman times, this site was quarried for stone walls. With its sweeping billows of fresh air, a stroll through Northernhay Gardens will help you wander back to ancient times and rest even the weariest of souls.
Address: Northernhay Gate, Exeter EX4 3QE, UK
Hours of Operation: Daily, from 7 am - 9 pm
Website: Northernhay Gardens
7. Exeter Quayside
Exeter Quayside is a section of the city that stands beside the River Exe and the Exeter Ship Canal. Popular with locals and visitors alike, this treasured stretch of land boasts intricate architecture, waves of fascinating history, and lively pubs.
Browse antique shops, enjoy a relaxing boat ride, and cap off your day with some tasty pub grub. As you’re planning your trip to Exeter, check to see if any live events are being held here. This is the ideal setting for live music to find its way up and into the hearts of everyone.
Address: The Quay, Exeter, Devon, EX2 4AN
Website: Exeter Quayside
8. Haldon Forest Park
Just 15 minutes from Exeter, 3,500 wooded acres (1416.4 hectares) await you. Tarzan swing anyone? How about a little ziplining? Segway tour? Whether it’s time for a quiet stroll, a fast-paced mountain bike ride, or any number of soaring adventures, this is a tranquil delight that you’ll hold onto forever.
Haldon Forest Park
Address: King’s Rd, Exeter EX6 7XR, United Kingdom
Hours of Operation: Apr - Oct, from 8:30 am - Dusk; Oct - Apr, from 8:30 am - 5 pm
Website: Haldon Forest Park
9. Underground Passages
Now, this is exciting. Tour medieval, subterranean passageways that used to transport water, under Exeter’s city center. Embark upon tales of war, siege, plague, and pestilence. Dating back to the 14th century, these passageways have long fascinated visitors. Tread lightly, though. We wouldn’t want to disturb any of the spirits that might be lurking about. Located right underneath the heart of downtown, you just might find yourself reaching out for a spirited pour of your own, once you return to daylight.
Address: 2 Paris St, Exeter EX1 1GA, UK
Hours of Operation: Tues - Fri, from 10:30 am - 4 pm; Sat, from 9:30 am - 4:30 pm; Sun, from 11:30 am - 4 pm
Website: Underground Passages
10. Bicton Park Botanical Gardens
While Haldon Park is tranquility at its finest, how about a little 18th-century tranquility? Bicton Gardens is a grade 1 garden, set in Devon’s picturesque Otter Valley. Combining 18th-century tranquility, with modern amenities, this is a year round pleasure walk for all ages. Hop aboard the Bicton Woodland Railway train ride, soak up tropical delights amongst the glasshouses, stroll along the nature trail, and discover Exeter, England truly has it all.
Bicton Park Botanical Gardens
Address: Bicton, East Budleigh Salterton, Budleigh Salterton EX9 7BJ, United Kingdom
Hours of Operation: Daily, from 10 am - 5 pm
Website: Bicton Park Botanical Gardens
Castles, cathedrals, and quayside delights
Castles, cathedrals, manors, gardens, and 14th-century underground passageways await you in Exeter, England. As you bask in the glow of thousand-year-old panes of stained glass window and wander through English gardens, I wish you the safest of travels and the happiest of memories.
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