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Travel & Holidays in later life

Exemouth, Devon, West Country , England - United Kingdom

Ancient buildings in Cathedral Close, ExeterIf you don't insist on your holiday accommodation being within stone-chucking distance of a beach, then consider Exeter as a touring base. 

On the east corner of the River Exe estuary stands Exmouth, blessed with beautiful soft sands - idyllic for sun worship, and paradise for kids. But Exeter is only 12 miles away, and is rich in sightseeing interest with quicker access to the resorts of west Devon.

 

The Romans were the first to spot the strategic value of Exeter, with a garrison of 5000 soldiers. They could sail up the Exe to their most westerly outpost, within easy marching distance of any trouble from the local Brits. Some time after the Romans went home, Alfred the Great took over.

 

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How to get there

By Rail: train from London Paddington to Exeter

Farmers Market

Every Thursday

Exmouth  Festival 

May

 Kite Festival

May

 

Exmouth Brass Band Festival

September

Winter Carnival October

Exmouth Tourist Information
 

 

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In 1068 William the Conqueror captured the fortress town and improved the Roman city walls. The medieval wool trade flourished and provided funds for building a prosperous city centre and major regional market.

The four city gates were demolished by civic vandals in the 18th and early 19th centuries. But Exeter still has long stretches of the original ramparts, standing thick and tall. Exeter was badly bombed in 1942, which explains why the city has so many 20th-century stores and office blocks of the kind you can see anywhere. But there are some attractive cobbled lanes with centuries'-old buildings. 

In St Martins Lane, for instance, is a gorgeous pub called The Ship, used by Drake and his captains Frobisher and Hawkins during the Armada time. Another hostelry to visit is the 15th-century White Hart Hotel. One of the bars is kept exactly how it looked in the 1500s. 

The present Guildhall dates from the mid-1300s, replacing the original built in the 1100s. The portico was added in Elizabethan times. The most charming corner of Exeter is around the Cathedral of St Peter which claims the world's longest Gothic ceiling, and has an astronomical clock made in 1317. 
Time for a Devon cream tea
The Cathedral Close is a delightful spot to enjoy a Devon cream tea of two scones, strawberry jam, cream and a pot of tea. It's better to have it inside the traditional tea-shop rather than outside, to avoid sharing with the wasps. 

Close by is Mol's Coffee House, now a gift shop, but was another favourite tavern of Drake and Hawkins when it was built in 1596. That was when Exeter was a major trading port, before the River Exe and its sandbanks silted up to halt commercial traffic. 

Between Exeter and Topsham is the oldest canal in England, opened in 1563. But in the 19th century the railways captured the freight business, and the canal is now used only for pleasure boating. 

Today the old-time Quayside area is a sightseeing highlight, focussed around a very attractive whitewashed pub called the Prospect Inn. Alongside is a stately Customs House, complete with small cannon, now functioning as a museum.
The colourful prow of a boat in Exeter's Maritime Museum

From the Quay you also get a good view of the heightand power of the city walls which rear up in the background. Fourteen feet thick and thirty feet high, the walls were last used in anger during the Civil War, when Exeter became a Royalist stronghold for a while. You can see that a 2-pounder cannon wouldn't make much impression.

In contrast, Exmouth is slim on sightseeing, but is richly endowed with sandy beaches. The original fishing village from pre-Roman times moved up the social scale in the 18th century, mainly because it was the nearest seaside location to Exeter.

Exmouth rates as Devon's oldest seaside resort, when visitors were attracted by the views and medicinal salt water. The town thrived as a destination for wealthy folk to recover health.

From the early 19th century a number of eminent people resided here, including the estranged wife of Horatio Nelson, with Byron's wife as a near neighbour. They lived House on Beacon Hill, Exmouth, where Nelson's wife lived. on Beacon Hill, an elegant Georgian row of houses that overlook the sand and the sea. Here was a tradition to promenade, and to visit the Assembly Rooms near the bottom of the hill. 

Then a branch railway line was opened from Exeter in 1861, and the family holiday industry really took off. During the rest of the 19th century, Exmouth enjoyed a Golden Age of boom and housing development. 

Today, Exmouth is a traditional bucket-and-spade resort with simple facilities for children such as swing boats and a Sea Front Express trolley that runs along the promenade. 

It has a quiet, Victorian atmosphere with plentiful choice of small hotels and guest houses. Families can take boat rides from where Sir Walter Raleigh sailed on many of his voyages. 

 

Check out these alternative West Country destinations:

BATH - weekend in Jane Austen territory

CORNWALL - choosing low season

CORNWALL - NORTH for beaches, cliffs & legends

DARTMOOR - Freedom to roam and explore >

DAWLISH - Pioneer railway age resort

ILFRACOMBE & NORTH DEVON - The Heritage coast

LYNTON & LYNMOUTH - Devon's Siamese-twin resorts

SIDMOUTH - Devon's Regency gem

SOMERSET - Choosing a farm cottage for a walking holiday

UP THE OTTER IN DEVON - A winter cottage haven

 


Books to read - click on the links below

The Hidden Placeso f Devon - David Gerrard, Sarah Bird (Illustrator) - This book focuses on the more off-trail areas of Devon.

The Rough Guide to Devon and Cornwall  - Robert Andrews - Packed with accommodation recommendations, especially in the lower-cost sector.

Walks in South Devon and Dartmoor  - Brian Conduit - Explores the hills and valleys of South Devon.

AA 50 Walks in Devon - Sue Viccars - An AA guide in a handy pocket format.

 


 

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