The South Coast of England is beautiful, so I was happy to be able to spend one day in Exeter and Exmouth after the #STSBelfast blogger conference! We had a small group of bloggers and got to experience the best of food & culture that this part of England has to offer.
I must say that I was super surprised by everything I did and tasted here, so I can’t wait to tell you all about it… Hope you’re hungry!
What we'll cover in this article
- ONE DAY IN EXETER ENGLAND ITINERARY
- How to Spend Your Morning in Exeter?
- How to Spend Your Afternoon in Exeter
- How to Spend Your Evening in Exeter
- Products from Amazon.com
ONE DAY IN EXETER ENGLAND ITINERARY
How to Spend Your Morning in Exeter?
ARRIVAL IN EXETER
Exeter has its own airport, train station and many coach connections, so it’s very easy to get here from other parts of the country, such as London.
I flew in from Belfast and out to London City airport with Flybe, a budget airline that (so far) I’ve always been very happy with. There are usually just one or two flights per day out of London, but if you’re happy with their times, then you’re fine!
The train takes about 2 hours and 20-30 minutes to London Paddington station. If you book well ahead via for example a website such as www.trainline.com, or you get a rail pass from the Visit Britain shop, then you can save money on the fare.
Have a look below at the best two options for you:
BREAKFAST IN EXETER
Boston Tea Party
I’ve seen ‘Boston Tea Party’ in some other cities in England, but have never had the chance for a visit until I came to Exeter! This chain (but not all over the country, they say they don’t like chain restaurants themselves) is all about serving up lovely breakfasts and lunches. At the same time, they have a ‘Making Things Better’ approach and have really designed their restaurants as a one-off unique location.
Food is fresh and ethically sourced and they really stand for a better world by for example banning all single use coffee cups and switching to green energy. The location in Exeter has a huge upstairs dining room, and while I had to wait a ridiculous 45 minutes for my tea and granola bowl (don’t go here if you’re in any kind of hurry), it had a nice atmosphere!
Artigiano Espresso & Wine Bar
Another great place for breakfast was Artigiano, which is located on the High Street and serves up coffee, juices and bites during the day, and turns into a wine bar at night! Their coffee apparently is award-winning, and they offer a range of freshly made baguettes, sandwiches, wraps and salads. I went for a almond croissant and a fresh juice, which was great too!
I had a look for some other nice places to have breakfast and/or an early morning snack and found the following that also looked great:
- The Plant Cafe
- March Coffee
- South Street Standard
- The Exploding Bakery Cafe
- The Glorious Art House
- The Hidden Treasure Tea Room
Make sure to also check out this article on the best Exeter Cafes based on coffee: theboutiqueadventurer.com/exeter-cafes
UNDERGROUND PASSAGES IN EXETER
Did you know there is a whole system of underground passages under the city of Exeter? No? Well, neither did I until my visit! The tunnels were built to house the pipes that brought clean drinking water into the city in medieval times. And today, you can take a short guided tour to see them. These are the only passages of this kind open to the public in the UK, so it’s really quite special!
Along with the tunnels, there is a small visitor center you can visit as well. To get tickets (just 6 pounds, so definitely worth it!), you have to book ahead (only small groups can go in). You get a hard hat and a guide with a flashlight will lead the way and tell you all about the tunnels.
I advice you to wear closed shoes and a jacket you won’t mind getting a bit dirty (overall you’re fine, but you might touch the walls here and there, I didn’t get any stains). There is a section in the tunnel where you can choose to take the narrow(er) route, there you will touch the floor with your knees as well (I got a bit dirty, but could just wipe it off, they also give you wet wipes at the end if you need them).
If you’re a claustrophobic… well, this might not be for you. You can always decide to try and go back (we had one person return from our tour after just a few steps, he was quite a big guy as well, so I’m sure he felt more cramped than most of us would). Even though I’m not a fan of small spaces, I really enjoyed this tour and didn’t feel scared at all, so if you’re really interested in history, you should definitely give it a go!
To read a really good in-depth review of the tunnels, head over to our friend Thomas’ website: archaeology-travel.com/…/underground-passages-in-exeter
CLIMB EXETER CATHEDRAL
Time to get a bit active! One of the best places to get a good view over the center of Exeter has to be the roof of the cathedral!
The cathedral is located in the historic Cathedral Close and dates back 900 years. It is one of England’s most beautiful medieval cathedrals and one of the finest examples of decorated Gothic architecture in the country.
Some of the best features of this cathedral include the two Norman towers, the west front carvings and the longest unbroken stretch of Gothic vaulting in the world! Inside the building, you can also find an impressive 15th Century astronomical clock, highly decorated tombs, bosses and corbels an early set of misericords (the wooden things you lean on when attending a church service).
Entry is £7.50 per ticket. Tours usually take place on selected Tuesdays and Saturdays from July to September, check their website to make a booking in advance!
RED COAT GUIDED TOUR
After, or instead of the cathedral, perhaps you’d like to join one of Exeter’s famous “Red Coat” guided tours. These FREE guided tours are running all year and are a great way to explore the city, especially if you’re on your own or just like to have a bit more background information on the things you see around you. They last for 90 minutes, so perfect to fill a small part of your day with!
You don’t even need to book ahead, just pick a tour (they have themes ranging from Roman/Medieval/Tudor history to specially themed Halloween tours) and show up at the meeting point (check the website, it’s either the cathedral or from the Custom House at Quayside)
How to Spend Your Afternoon in Exeter
LUNCH IN EXETER
Tea on the Green
Tea on the Green is a small and cozy tearoom located in a 16th century building and is locally owned and managed. Enjoy a great view over Exeter Cathedral while enjoying one of their meals from local farmers, growers, roasters, blenders and brewers.
We dove head-first into their GORGEOUS open sandwiches with everything from avocado & goats cheese to smoked mackerel. Then, you know, just to top it off, we had a portion of fish and chips. After this, we were so incredibly full, but everything tasted so delicious, it would almost be a crime not to finish your plate here.
At Tea in the Green, you can also do afternoon tea, which I can only imagine to be brilliant as well.
Another great place for lunch is ‘The Terrace’, which is located inside of the Guildhall Shopping Centre, where you can find plenty of more great places to eat and drink. The Terrace is inspired by the great outdoors and has a wonderful rooftop where you can get botanical cocktails, bowl glass gins, many nice wines, craft beers and local seasonal produce throughout the year.
For lunch, they have a big menu with sandwiches, flat breads, burgers, salads and even a full brunch menu. Yum!
On the first floor, The Terrace also has a stylish club lounge where you can dance the night away if you want :)
Other suggestions for lunch:
VISIT THE ROYAL ALBERT MEMORIAL MUSEUM
Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum is FREE to visit and holds collections (with over 1 million objects) in areas such as zoology, anthropology, fine art, archaeology and geology. Through 16 galleries of displays, you can travel from the prehistory to the present day and from Exeter to all around the world.
The museum was completely renovated and upgraded in 2011 and has received many awards after! I didn’t have time to visit unfortunately during my trip, but would love to do so when I get back to Exeter!
In Exeter, you have plenty of opportunity to go shopping, as there are some pretty long shopping streets with main brands, such as Queen Street and High Street.
Also make sure not to miss the little ‘Gandy Street’, which looks like an alley straight out of Harry Potter and has a couple of cute independent shops that you can see below:
EXPLORE GOURMET EXETER
Besides what I wrote about in this article, there is so much more to discover when it comes to food and drinks in Exeter. They even have their own food trail! There are plenty of opportunities to sample fresh, Devon produce in many of Exeter’s cafes and restaurants, or shop directly with the producers at the weekly Farmers Market.
The Exeter Food & Drink Trail celebrates local producers, bringing them together on a map showcasing Exeter’s food and drink offering. You can see the full map with addresses here.
Here are some great places that we visited:
Southernhay Street Food Market
The Southernhay Street Food Market in Exeter runs from May to September and takes place in various locations across Exeter and serves up food from cuisines such as Spanish, American, Vietnamese, African, Caribbean & more. The focus lies on local independent businesses, so that the local economy benefits though the market.
When we were here, we made a stop at the tent of the Skerrett family over at the Gin Palace. With their Exeter Gin and some special gins with incredible names such as ‘Grandad’s Allotment’ and ‘Grandma’s Revenge’, they definitely made our day!
THE EXETER BREWERY
The Exeter Brewery is located on Cowley Bridge Road, where they have a retail shop and Tap-Room Bar. The bar serves their award-winning ales (such as the Avocet), but also other good wines, ciders and spirits. They also offer a selection of award winning Tom’s Pies, with mash, minted peas and gravy.
What is cool, is that they export their bottled Avocet beer to France… by sail! This is a joint venture with TOWT/Fairtransport, who are leading the way with sustainable transport as they move goods around the world solely by wind power.
The Tap-Room is open every Thursday evening from 5PM to 11PM. Brewery tours are done on appointment (ideally groups of 15 or more).
Generation after generation, the Quicke family worked the ancient fields and woodlands to craft the finest cheese in the world. They still use traditional recipes today and specialize in cloth bound cheddar. Quicke’s has been recognized with many (international) awards, including Gold at the World Cheese Awards in 2016!
Their cows are managed carefully, never pushing them above their breeding limits and ensuring they enjoy a long and happy life in the fields. They even get 2 months maternity leave! The herd is made up of a variety of traditional dairy stock and each breed has been specifically chosen to create the ultimate hybrid – the Quicke’s cow.
During our time on the farm, we met Stuart Dowle, who is the Brand Ambassador of Quicke’s and such a good storyteller, and we were lucky to ran into Managing Director Mary Quicke herself, who is the 14th generation of the Quicke family and showed us around the property with great pride.
With around 3,000 acres of woodland and pasture, you can really venture out into nature here: Home Farm is scattered with winding trails of public footpaths!
If you’re keen to learn more about the cheese making process, then definitely book yourself on a unique behind the scenes experience at the farm. You’ll see from the ground up how they craft world-class cheese, with cheese tasting and a seasonal two course lunch included! Tickets are £35 per person.
PADDLE BOARDING IN EXETER
I know this is not for everyone, but for the sporty spices among you, I can highly recommend heading over to the Haven Banks Adventure Centre, which you can find in the heart of Exeter Historic Canal & Quayside.
This whole area looks like it currently under heavy development, but it’s already looking so lovely with many restaurants and pubs along the river Exe.
While this time, I personally skipped the paddle boarding, I had a go at it before in Bath and loved it, even though I have terrible balance and just stayed seated down on the board. Have a look over at Haven Bank’s website to check out options (they offer a lot more fun activities for every age) and prizes.
How to Spend Your Evening in Exeter
CIDER TASTING IN EXETER
The Stable is a restaurant that combines unique pizzas, pies and crafted cider within a great atmosphere. Ingredients are locally sourced to each venue, so what you have in Exeter will be completely different from the ingredients in Bristol!
The Stable Cider Tasting Experience is run by real expert Cider Masters and they will teach you all about the cider-making process, different cider-making regions, fruit varieties and some common things to look out for when ordering a cider. You’ll get to taste 10 ciders (along with cheese and crackers) and can take notes or ask questions as you go along.
The whole session takes about 1 hour and costs £15 per person. They also have a Cider Tasting with pizza (100 minutes, £22.50 per person) or a complete meal including pizza, cheese, charcuterie, cider brandy and chocolate brownies for dessert (150 minutes, £30 per person)
You can find over 80 ciders and perries (pear ciders) to try at The Stable, so definitely the place to be for cider-lovers like me!
DINNER IN EXETER
Because we stayed two nights in Exeter ourselves, I have two dinner options for you, and I found a couple more after some research, that I would personally love to check out on my next visit. The food quality in Exeter really suprised me, so I’m sure you’ll find a good meal in most places!
Southernhay House Hotel
This independent Luxury Boutique Hotel is a perfect place if you’re looking for a cocktail and/or a quiet romantic dinner. Located in a Grade II listed Georgian Building, it feels very luxurious inside!
The food was really good and I was very happy with my choice: Pan fried plaice, baked celeriac, wild mushrooms, leeks and truffle (main) and Citrus poached pear, almond cream and chocolate crumb (dessert). But all meals are seasonal, so check the menu on the website for the latest offers!
I will say that when we were there, it was very quiet, so if you’re like me and rather have a bit more liveliness in your restaurant, perhaps choose on of my other two suggestions below.
Rendezvous Wine Bar
This wine bar / restaurant is run by Jemma and her team of chefs and here you can expect (as you might expect) a cozy atmosphere and incredible food & wine!
You guys, I had the BEST rolled goats cheese with grapes, candied nuts, apple puree poached pear and walnut syrup as a starter, followed by a Pan roast skate wing and seared scallop with celeriac fondant, asparagus and wild mushroom sauce (main, not in the photo, that’s my neighbours duck breast with roasted carrots and figs), topped off by a chocolate sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and clotted cream (dessert)
Just like the Southernhay House Hotel, ingredients come from local suppliers, so menus changes frequently!
This long established family-run restaurants is apparently rated as one of Exeter’s best, so it was no surprise to find a restaurant filled to the max with people. Luckily, there was still a cozy feeling and staff was very helpful to explain our dishes to us.
There is a menu that pretty much has anything you’d want and they also support nearby farms, local producers and feature locally reared meats, locally caught fish and seasonal fruit and vegetables – trust me, you can’t go wrong here.
To top everything off -if you’re brave enough- why not go for their signature desert ‘Harry’s Heart Attack’? Haha, you (almost) really get what you pay for here. It’s a massive cup (read: fish bowl) filled with ice cream, chocolate, M&Ms, caramel and god knows what else.
If you have more time in Exeter, I have to suggestions for you.
DAY TRIP TO EXMOUTH
The first is to make a day trip by train to nearby Exmouth, where you can enjoy some of the freshest and tastiest sea food of England’s South Coast.
I’m writing a full guide on what to see and do in Exmouth…
CHECK BACK SOON!!
Make sure to check out this handy guide to boat trips in Exmouth by our friend Amanda: theboutiqueadventurer.com/exmouth-boat-trip
VISIT LYMPSTONE MANOR
Lympstone Manor is owned by celebrity chef Michael Caines. He’s ‘MBE’, meaning “Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” (an award given by the Queen to an individual for outstanding service to the community) That’s when you know you’re onto something unique!
Michael opened the doors of this luxury hotel at Lympstone Manor in April 2017 (after working hard since losing his right arm in a car accident in 1995) and ever since, it’s been a huge success. He has been the proud holder of two Michelin stars for 18 consecutive years, one at Lympstone Manor.
Well, just have a look at it yourself: there is a panoramic view over the River Exe, with Michael’s own recently planted vineyard in front of it! It is a unique and complex habitat supporting a number of wintering and migratory water birds. From here, you can enjoy several walks and explore parts of the South West Coastal Path by foot or bicycle and discover the Jurassic Coast (England’s first natural World Heritage Site)
We got a quick tour of the rooms and dining rooms, which looked amazing and were all designed with elements of the local bird life and flowers.
Apart from staying the night here (which, to be fair, is really quite pricey), you can also just choose to visit and have a cocktail on the terrace instead. Whatever you choose, I’m sure you’ll have a great relaxing time here.
More Things to do in Exeter
Looking for more fun things to do in and around Exeter? Have a look at the following suggestions over on Get Your Guide:
Here is all the information you need to plan your own trip to Exeter:
Exeter Tourism Office
Where to Stay in Exeter?
During my time in Exeter, I stayed at the 4-star Mercure Rougemont Hotel, which is located in an iconic building right across from the train station, which of course is very convenient if you’re just here for a short time. Staff was very friendly, breakfast good and the room had everything I needed.
I would say though that I missed a bit of the character that the building has in the lobby and hallways in the room, everything was very clean and modern, but not as charming as you would expect. This is not a hotel I would have booked myself, as I feel it caters a bit more to an older demographic, so below there are some other options to check out if you’re like me and more into boutique/design hotels.
Other Hotel Suggestions:
Handy Exeter Map
Here are some great resources for your next Exeter Trip:
I hope you found this guide helpful in deciding what to do in Exeter, England! Check our England guide for more suggestions of what to do in the United Kingdom:
Disclaimer: I was invited to Exeter by Visit Exeter and Visit Britain as part of the #STSBelfast conference. All photos and opinion in this article are 100% my own, as always.