The City of Exeter is a moderately large University town and administrative centre for the county of Devon. It is approximately 37 miles (60 km) north-east of Plymouth and 68 miles (110 km) south-west of Bristol.
Exeter is well served by all forms of transport and provides access to the popular holiday counties of Cornwall and Devon in the south-west of England. It has links to the national railway system, the M5 Motorway and has an International Airport.
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Located on the estuary of the River Exe, Exeter was an important trading centre from Celtic times. During the Second World War the city was badly bombed and lost many of its historic buildings but there is still plenty to see. Exeter is now a mixture of post-war development, pleasant parks and gardens, ancient lanes and some beautiful old buildings which survived the bombing.
Built on a ridge and dominating the town are the 11th century ruins of Rougemont Castle and Exeter Cathedral. Interspersed among the 20th century rebuilding are several medieval churches, the oldest functioning Guildhall in England, and St Nicholas Priory (now a museum).
At the bottom of the town fronting the Exeter Ship Canal and River Exe is the historic Quay with its warehouses and brick Customs House, and Butts Ferry, a unique hand operated pedestrian cable ferry.
Around 50 AD the Romans established a fortified town to protect the trading routes. Interestingly, the Celtic Cornishmen continued to live in their own quarter within the Roman town until they were driven out in 928 AD by King Athelstan.
Around 876 AD Saxon King Alfred the Great restored the Roman walls to protect Exeter from the invading Danes (Vikings). It is thanks to him that the Roman walls still survive. Following the Norman Conquest in 1066 the castle was built in return for the conquered nobles keeping their power.
Over the centuries Exeter survived many sieges and always came out on the winning side. They provided ships to Queen Elizabeth I’s fleet that defeated The Spanish Armada. She gratefully granted them more commercial power.
Wool was the main source of wealth and the fast flowing River Exe provided water power for turning the wool into cloth. Early in the Industrial Revolution water powered early industry until steam power took over in the 19th century, and Exeter’s fortunes declined. With the coming of the canal and railways Exeter once again became a transport hub.
Exeter has plenty of cultural and sporting activities. There are museums, art galleries, theatres, and classical concerts and choral events are held in the cathedral. There is an abundance of live-music venues.
For more information on what Exeter has to offer, go to the Exeter website link (below) and click on menu item ‘Leisure and Culture’.
Exeter Council Website External Link
Plan Your Visit
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- By Rail from London
There are two main line railway routes from London to Exeter.
- From London Paddington station
First Great Western trains leave approximately hourly for Exeter St Davids station. Travel time varies from about 2 hours to two and a half hours. For details go to Web: National Rail Enquiries External Link
- From London Charing Cross station
First Great Western trains leave approximately hourly for Bristol Parkway station. There the passenger changes to the Cross Country trains which proceed to Exeter St Davids station. Travel time for this service is about three and a half hours. Again, go to The National Rail website above for details.
Note Some of the services from London Charing Cross station require a transfer from that station via the Bakerloo Underground Line (Northbound, Platform 1) to London Paddington to connect with the First Great Western service detailed previously.
An additional scenic, but much longer rail route travels by South West Trains from London Waterloo to Salisbury taking about 1 hour 30 minutes. The service runs approximately half hourly. Then take the regular South West Trains service from Salisbury station to Exeter St Davids station – journey time for this section is about 2 hours giving a total time of about 3 hours 30 minutes plus service connection at Salisbury.
This is a great way to break your trip and maybe see Salisbury and of course some great scenery. Again, go to The National Rail Enquiries website above for timetable, fares and tickets.
By Car from London
- By the most direct route
From the M25 London Ring Road, exit at Junction 4B onto M4 to Bristol and South Wales. At Junction 20, take M5 south past Weston-Super-Mare, Bridgewater and Taunton to Exeter.
- By scenic route
From the M25 London Ring Road, exit at Junction 12 onto the M3 towards Basingstoke. At Restricted Junction 8, exit to the A303 towards Andover (this motorway junction exits only to the A303). On passing Andover continue on the A303 through Amesbury to its eventual end just south of Marsh where the A303 becomes the A30 for its last 20 miles (42 km) or so into Exeter.
Of note to history buffs, the section between Ilchester (at the junction of the A303 and the A37) and South Petherton, about 7 miles (11km) to the south west, the A303 follows the course of the Roman Fosse Way. Another bonus is that the A303 skirts Stonehenge, just west of Amesbury.
Exeter becomes very congested at the river crossing and congestion charges are being considered to reduce traffic.
- By Bus/ Coach
National Express operates long distance routes, for example from Heathrow and London to Exeter. For timetables and tickets, go to Web: National Express External Link
- By Air
Exeter airport serves both local and international flights. For flight details, go to Web: Exeter Airport External Link
Google Map - Exeter