Exeter, Devon’s capital city, is a wonderful blend of busy city, serene nature and vibrant culture. Boasting a history that pre-dates the Romans yet retaining a youthful vibe (in part thanks to its large student population), Exeter is the perfect destination for a daytrip. Here’s how to get the best of this South West city for under £20.
10am - Rougemont Gardens and Northenhay Gardens (Free)
Begin your day basking in the natural beauty of Rougemont Gardens, the stunning ornamental park at the heart of the city. Rougemont Gardens is Grade II listed in the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens and was once originally part of the defences around Exeter Castle. In the 18th Century, this area was transformed into the serene park you see today, incorporating the major historic features of the Roman City wall that once defended the city. Follow the footpath to the higher end of Rougemont Gardens and you will arrive at a gate leading you into Northenhay Gardens, believed to be the first designated public gardens to be laid in the country. Rougemont Gardens can be found on Castle St, Exeter EX4 3UP.
Rougemont Castle. Photo credit: Paul Murray
11:30 am - Exeter Cathedral (£7.50)
Aesthetically splendid with its honey-coloured stone, Exeter Cathedral is not only one of Devon’s most impressive religious sights, it’s also one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture around. Dating largely from the 12th and 13th Centuries, the West front of the building is dominated by extraordinary medieval statuary, while inside, the cathedral’s ceiling soars and boasts the longest stretch of unbroken Gothic vaulting in the world.
Located on Exeter’s historic Quay, Mango’s is a cosy cafe serving locally sourced food and exceptional coffee. With a friendly atmosphere, cheap and cheerful dishes, and an open terrace overlooking the quayside, Mangos’ is the perfect lunchtime spot to unwind and take in the beauty and buzz of Exeter’s waterfront.
Mango’s Café and Bar is located at Kings Wharf, The Quay, Exeter EX2 4AN. Opening hours are 9am-4.30pm.
2pm - Exeter Quayside (Free)
After lunch, wander along Exeter Quay, the city’s quirky waterfront neighbourhood that was once dominated by warehouses used mainly for Exeter’s former wool trade. Today these disused warehouses and factory buildings are brimming with antique shops, craft workshops, and funky boutiques – the perfect spot for window shopping or treating yourself to a unique keepsake.
Exeter Quayside. Photo credit: Baz Richardson
3:30 pm - RAMM (Free)
Spend the rest of the afternoon soaking up some local history at the fascinating Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery. First opened in 1868 to promote Queen Victoria’s husband’s vision of bringing art, science, technology, and design together for the people, RAMM offers an exceptional blend of both local and global history. The museum holds an intriguing collection relating to Devon’s rich history, from its prehistoric beginnings to the present, as well as broader internationally significant collections about to global exploration and collecting in the 18th and 19th Centuries.
Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery. Photo credit: Exeter City Council
6pm - The Old Firehouse (From £5.50)
This rustic pizzeria has become somewhat of an Exeter institution over the years, delighting the city’s hungry student population with its vibrant atmosphere, its cheap drinks, and giant, late-night pizzas. Savour a delectable pizza from just £5.50, and bask in the magic of the restaurant that is rumoured to have been the inspiration for Exeter University alumna J K Rowling’s fictional haunt, The Leaky Cauldron, in her beloved Harry Potter series.