Gateway to the south-west
Exeter has been a jumping-off point for centuries – the Roman’s started the Fosse Way here - and now you can take advantage of its status as the unchallenged gateway to the whole south-west – Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and beyond. A quietly prosperous place, it’s home to a thriving music scene and even has its own Symphony Orchestra.
The heart of Exeter is fairly compact, with most of the city’s key shops and services located within walking distance of each other. The two main shopping centres are Guildhall (accessible by North Street) and Princesshay (9 Catherine Street), both of which play home to a range of big-name brands. Close by, a new John Lewis store (1 Sidwell Street) opened in late 2012. For visitors in search of more individual shops, the Castle Quarter and West Quarter hold potential for interesting finds. Good options for unusual gifts include Kintamani (28 Gandy Street) and Moko (17 Gandy Street).
Food & Drink
The South West of England has a weighty reputation for its food and drink these days, so Exeter offers plenty to enjoy. Local celebrity chef Michael Caines has a much-acclaimed restaurant at ABode Exeter (Cathedral Yard), with a menu drawing on local produce like quail, beef and seafood. There are some great restaurants just outside the city too, a prime example being The HH (Exeter Road, Broadclyst), which has won awards for its fine dining. Devon also boasts a strong selection of real ales, all too easily sampled in traditional pubs such as the White Hart (66 South Street) and Well House Tavern (16-17 Cathedral Close).
Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink
A chance to indulge in top-quality food and drink from the South West region, with live music, chef demos and a wide variety of stalls serving up local dishes. More than 100 individual producers usually attend.
A celebration of the city’s racial diversity, this annual free festival combines live music of all hues with workshops, cabaret and story-telling. The first Exeter Respect festival was held in 1997, and it now takes place over two days in Belmont Park.
Ignite: Exeter’s Festival of Theatre
A six-day showcase for new live performance work from across the South West and further afield, Exeter’s annual theatre festival takes over a number of venues and is a popular option among performers previewing material before the Edinburgh Festival.
Exeter Craft Festival
Pitching up on Cathedral Green every summer for the last 30 years, the Exeter Craft Festival sees about 100 tradespeople from around the region showing off their arts, crafts and handmade wares. Live music also plays a part over the two-day event.
A lively, family-friendly music festival organised by alternative folk band The Levellers, Beautiful Days always attracts a strong line-up to Escot Park, which sits in countryside northeast of the city. It’s notable for having no corporate branding, and no advertising.
As Devon’s county town, Exeter sees its fair share of visitors. Accommodation is therefore easy to come by, whether close to the centre or further afield. A recent addition to its hotel portfolio is Magdalen Chapter (Magdalen Street), a luxury boutique property with 59 rooms, a spa and a large library. Smaller still is the 19-room Globe (34 Fore Street), which occupies a renovated 16th-century coaching inn. For those arriving into the city by rail, Premier Inn Exeter Central St Davids (Bonhay Road) is a good choice, while the Best Western Lord Haldon Hotel (Dunchideock) is a base for exploring Devon’s countryside.