Exeter's hidden gems

by Alex Davies

From the quaint kissing gate to the lookout point with its spectacular valley view, here’s my guide to the best local knowledge spots in Exeter - and there’s no need to break the bank

Every place has local knowledge, with the gems often the things visitors have to dig a bit deeper to find. Exeter is no exception.

In the heart of the West Country, this city holds far more than the incredible Princesshay shopping centre (although their Topshop is a credit card‘s nightmare, believe me…!), the beautiful cathedral, and an extensively highlighted and Abercrombie-d student crowd.

To visit

Killerton House - Killerton is a short drive out into the country from the city centre. It’s a National Trust property, so you can have a wander around the gorgeous grounds, visit the tea rooms, buy some plants, or look around the intriguing 18th century house for less than a tenner.

t: 01392 881 345

Exeter Quay - Not exactly a secret in itself, but the quay’s bars and shops are worth mentioning. The Cuban bar, Havana, has a great (albeit sometimes cringe-worthy!) comedy night every Sunday with amateurs and professionals visiting from all over the country. There is also a range of antique, book and craft shops adding to the quaint atmosphere of this cobbled area by the river.

t: 01392 498 300

Duryard Valley Park lookout - Head up Pennysylvania Road away from the city centre, and this small picnic site will come up on the left as you get to the top of the hill. Park up and take in the breathtaking view of the entire valley.

Cathedral green - The perfect place to relax in the sunshine and shadow of the spectacular Exeter Cathedral. Take a short walk away from the sunbathing crowds, past the cathedral, and you can play Romeo and Juliet over the kissing gate.

The Christmas market - From sparkling lights (sometimes switched on by local celebrity Noel Edmonds!) to carol singers, Exeter provides a nostalgic trip down memory lane at Christmas. The December market is a must, with the pick ’n mix stall the highlight. I spent thirty seconds doing a romantic shared-bag venture with a boyfriend before we both had to admit defeat and abandon each other for a bag each. Everyone for themselves here…!

To eat

Al Farid - One of a few Moroccan restaurants in the city, you can find the cosiest and most atmospheric, Al Farid, on the cathedral green. Try the delicious tagine or snack on tapas, surrounded by beautiful wall hangings, colourful lamps and luxurious cushions. Then indulge your cultural side over some sheesha.

t: 01392 494 444

Old Timers Wine Bar and Restaurant - Located just off the high street, Old Timers does rustic car boot sale chic perfectly. Dimly lit but cosy with walls covered in quirky memorabilia, it’s the only place you can play a game of Connect 4 over pizza and a pint for £7 between 6 and 8pm every evening.

t: 01392 477 704

Herbie’s - A bacon sandwich girl to the core, I was convinced I’d be staring at endless tofu variations on the menu of this vegetarian restaurant. Quite the opposite, I realised, as I tucked into a coconut vegetable curry. Varied, delicious and good value, Herbie’s is usually pretty full so book to avoid a queue. And try their brownies.

t: 01392 258 473

The Gourmet Fish and Chip shop - Ignore the fish menu and head straight for the Chinese options at this takeaway on Longbrook Street. It may look a bit dingy and isn’t quite gourmet, but easily the best crispy chilli beef and chicken fried rice I have ever had. The perfect hangover cure.

t: 01392 421 320

Getting around

If you’re staying in the city centre, walking is your best bet. The one-way system is a bit hard to navigate and everywhere is accessible on foot. There’s also a good bus service running throughout the city. Trains from Exeter Central station can take you even further out, including the twenty minute ride to Exmouth beach which I would definitely recommend for a trip to the South West!

Where to stay

Globe Backpackers - Near the city centre and with rooms from only £16.50 a night. Or go a bit further out to the even cheaper Exeter YHA hostel.

University of Exeter accommodation - Available during university holidays. Holland Hall is one of the nicest, with en suite rooms and a view over the city. From £26.40 a night.

The White Hart Hotel - The White Hart is an old inn with a lot of character that fits in with the historic charm of the city. 55 rooms and a decent restaurant.

The Thistle Hotel - Opposite the station in the centre of the city, has a great restaurant, friendly staff and the rooms are gorgeous. Worth splashing out on if you can.