Exeter is a vibrant, cultural and historic city, where old and new sit comfortably side by side. The imposing gothic cathedral and green is just a short stroll from the modern shopping centre, both of which provide plenty of choice for eating, drinking and a spot of retail therapy. You will also notice sections of the ancient city walls as you wander round, and if you fancy delving deep into the city’s past you can take a tour down the medieval underground passageways.
The historic quay which dates back to Roman times is just a walk or short bus ride from the city centre. With its later addition of a canal system it now provides a wonderful waterside area with shops and cafes, from which you can hire kayaks and canoes, or take a bike ride beside the estuary along the Exe Cycle Trail.
For wildlife enthusiasts, the nearby Exe estuary is a must-see. It is an internationally important site for winter migrant birds, making this area particularly special if you’re planning to take your Devon during the winter and spring. There are nature reserves close to Exeter on either side of the estuary, at Exminster marshes on one side and Bowling Green Marsh in Topsham on the other. With over 200 different species recorded here, in mid-winter it’s possible to see over 20,000 wading birds, ducks, geese and swans.
For keen walkers, and those holidaying with their four-legged friends, the South West Coast Path provides a plethora of places to visit within easy reach of Exeter, including the stunning red cliffs at Dawlish and the large pebble beach at Budleigh Salterton, which forms part of the protected Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.
On the outskirts of the city you’ll find the picturesque waterside town of Topsham, whose history lies in fishing, trading and ship building. Relics of the wool and cotton trades are evident as you wander past the rows of Dutch style houses, inspired by the visits across the channel.
Lying on the banks of the Exe estuary, you can wander along Topsham’s “goat walk” to the Bowling Green Marsh nature reserve, or take a ferry ride across to The Turf, one of the few pubs in the country which cannot be accessed by road. From here, take a walk or cycle along the Exe Estuary Trail or simply enjoy the view with a pint and some pub grub. Topsham has plenty of places to eat and drink plus a variety of independent shops, providing both the bustle of a small town and the tranquillity of the estuary within just a few paces of each another.
From the area surrounding Exeter you can also easily reach beautiful, rugged Dartmoor or the stunning South Devon coast with its abundance of golden sandy, family-friendly beaches.
A holiday cottage near Exeter is perfectly positioned for exploring this diverse and beautiful corner of the South West of England.
Curated by the National Trust, this quirky 18th century, 16 sided house is a fascinating place to explore. Visitors can admire the extraordinary interior décor and collections before taking a walk around the surrounding meadows, home to a brass rubbing trail and garden games area all set against a backdrop of wonderful views across the Exe estuary. Back indoors there is a licensed tea room serving an excellent range of homemade cakes and light meals, and a well-stocked gift shop.
A la Ronde Summer Ln, Exmouth EX8 5BB (T: 01395 278552)
This pretty thatched pub in an idyllic rural setting dates back to 825AD and is one of the oldest inns in the country. As well as a welcoming well-stocked bar, you’ll find a menu full of well-cooked classics using the best ingredients the surrounding area can offer, along with excellent Sunday Roasts.
The Cridford Inn Trusham, Newton Abbot TQ13 0NR (T: 01626 853694)
A family run traditional pub full of character with well stocked bar, inglenook fireplace, wood burners and exposed beams. On the menu you’ll find well-cooked pub favourites alongside more inventive specials as well as vegetarian and gluten free options.
The Bridford Inn Bridford , Exeter EX6 7HT (T: 01647 252250)
Exmouth Beach is a bustling two mile stretch of golden sand at the mouth of the Exe Estuary backed by a promenade of shops and restaurants. Old meets new here, with traditional seaside donkey rides, swing boats and crazy golf alongside volley ball courts and a huge selection of modern watersports including jet skis, kite surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and windsurfing.
If you’re looking for some peace and quiet you can find that here too at the far end of the beach, where there are also some rock pools for children to explore. Exmouth is known as the gateway to the Jurassic Coast and its cliffs are teaming with fossils and geological finds. The coastline is also part of the South West Coast Path with the beach and surrounding cliffs providing some excellent long and short walks.
Dogs are welcome all year on parts of the beach and on the main beach from October to the end of April. Dog bins are provided.
A picturesque two mile pebble beach backed partly with cliffs, with plenty of space and lovely clean clear water. Along the esplanade there are beach cafes and a car park and it is only a short wander into the village for toilets, shops and pubs. Care should be taken swimming towards the eastern end of the beach where there can be strong currents due to the River Otter, and there are no lifeguard facilities.
By the seaside town of the same name, Sidmouth Beach is a long stretch of pebbles that stretches from the River Sid at the east of the town, West to Chit Rocks and Jacobs Ladder Beach and beyond. From the town you go over a footbridge and a number of steps down to the beach, however there are also access points along the sea front esplanade. There are a number of car parks close by, most of which are a few minutes’ walk from the beach itself, and it benefits from nearby facilities, cafes, restaurants and shops. Dogs are not allowed on the beach from 1st May to the 30th September, however there is a small area at the East end of the beach where dogs are allowed all year round. It’s a delightful spot for swimming sailing and surfing if the weather permits it, but you do have to take your own equipment.
Nestled into a valley that reaches down to the sea, Branscombe Beach is tucked away on the Jurassic Coast, and is linked to a timeless, magical village of the same name. Surrounded by woodland and farmland, the area is peppered with thatched houses, a working forge and a restored windmill. It’s a National Trust location, with a number of charming walks and trails to follow, one of which leads to the Old Bakery tearooms. The beach itself is a long pebble beach below the village. It has a large car park close by where there are toilets available, as well as a picnic area. The beach is a haven for fossil hunters and adventurous rock-poolers. If you want to catch your supper it’s a wonderful place to fish for Mackerel and Pollack, although there is also a restaurant close by.
A small pebble beach in East Devon, Beer Beach is in a picturesque fishing village that hugs the shoreline. Parking is a little distance away from the beach itself, which is accessed via a sloping road and steps at the east end. There’s one large car park that’s around five minutes away on foot, and another smaller one in the centre of the town. As the beach is such an integral part of the town itself, there are cafes and shops close by, simply by dint of its location. There are toilets above the beach, so it’s got all the makings of a charming day out for the family in the summer, or somewhere to stroll and have a cup of tea if it’s a bit cooler. There aren’t any organized activities on the beach, so if you’re bringing the kids then keep that in mind. Dogs are not allowed on the West part of the beach from 1st May to 30th September.
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Visited one evening. A beautiful beach. You can walk to Seaton on the coast path, if you feel energetic and don't mind a lot of steps. Well worth it due to the stunning views.