Exeter, a historic city in the South West of England. My only previous experience of this city was a passing glimpse through the airport. Never the less it is a place that I had always been interested in visiting and as luck would have it, thanks to my Duke of Edinburgh Award I would be granted the opportunity to explore it. Dropped off with rough directions we were left at our leisure. My group started by quayside where some padded off on a pedalo boat, whilst I wandered round the quirky boatshed conversions. Some were shops, some open workshops, but the one on the end was a vintage café. Despite the hiked prices I found I couldn’t help myself, I has little for breakfast and this was right up my street. Purchasing a teacake with butter and jam, I nibbled away merrily, watching a novelty tug boat float back and forth on the river.
Around the quay there are also a number of trendy restaurants and small cafes to choose from, as well as museum and antique shop by the footbridge. The town centre is easily accessible from the hill on the right side of the information office, encompassed within the museum. If you want to go commercial, then there is also a Harvester to dine from on the alternate side of the river, where we lunched. I spilt from my group in town and wandered round the infamous Cathedral Green which gives Exeter its city status.
The town itself boasts a wide high street with all the typical stores you could want but in the most wonderful historic building which in themselves are worth visiting. Take a look at the building below right, not your average Lakeland store is it? It looks like misplaced, as if it has been transported from continental Europe many years back. The far end of town hosts a large modern shopping complex by PrincessHay, which has everything the average young person could desire. I settled for a coffee shop, not there for a shopping experience I could get in any other city. I was much more intrigued in back laneways and alleys.
I couldn’t help but take a picture of the laneways, adorned with bunting and independent stores. I eyed up I luxurious chocolate café, but held back for a future visit. From vintage and retro clothes to handcrafted ornate furnishings, the unsuspecting secrets of the city are sometimes not obvious until you really look around. From the medieval architecture on the high street, to the pic n’mix of offerings behind, this city retains some charm beyond the obvious expansions of the modern day.
Having wandered round the shops I returned to Exeter’s Cathedral Green and the spacious green behind the spending commotion. Admittedly I imagined the cathedral itself to be larger in size, but then put in perspective it is still pretty impressive in it’s design. My recent visit to St David’s likely hadn’t helped expectations, as it really is colossal in size, but I placed it above the marvel of Bath Abbey, from an exterior perspective. The cloudy day maybe took away too, as does growing up, everything seems smaller in size!
The positioning of the cathedral is rather lovely however, surrounded by further old world architecture, cobbled streets and whitewash buildings with uneven window pains. It was a shame to see the wreck of the once locally-cherished Royal Clarence Hotel, which meant that construction work altered the regular view. Still it had charm and proved a small historic haven within the wider city expanse.
The afternoon waned and soon I joined my partner and friends in a lovely meal by the waterside. If you’re after a good value pizza, take a visit to the quayside vaults where you’ll come by On The Waterfront. Meanwhile the remained of my group had hit a near-by climbing wall (literally a 5-min walk the other side of the river). Having checked it out earlier in the day, it certainly looked like fun, but I couldn’t quite muster the energy and a hearty meal ruled over this occasion. If you are a sporting type, there are lots of options along the quayside, you can scale the heights at the indoor Clip n’ Climb or hire out kayaks and canoes as well.
After dinner we all got together again for bowling which was a laugh. Then it was time too (you’ve probably already guessed) pitch-up our tents, one last time. It was so late by the time we got there that it was practically already dark, so there wasn’t the same level of chatter between us. Though most were glad to get home, secretly I’d just begun to get used to living wild in the tent. Though I have to say, a proper bed was also temping and so the next morning we began the long journey back over the border to Wales (thankfully no where near 8 hours this time)!
I’d like to have had an extra day in Exeter to really soak it up, but I enjoyed and it proved a good ice-breaker between the reclusiveness of Dartmoor and Cornwall, as we eased back to reality at home. All in all a nice end to an epic week of high thrills, hardship and hope. If you’ve ever been to, or perhaps lived/studied in Exeter, I’d be keen to know what you recommend in case of another visit in future. Do get in touch.