As the capital city of Devon, Exeter is a pretty city filled with plenty of Medieval churches and constructed on Roman foundations, the vestiges of which can still be spied throughout the Devonian settlement today. Thanks to its transport and road links to the rest of the county and beyond, Exeter also makes a great base for exploring the wider region. Here’s your guide to the best day trips from Exeter worth taking!
Dartmoor National Park
If you have access to a car, then there is perhaps no better way to spend a day in Devon than by hopping into your vehicle and making a day of exploring Dartmoor National Park. A wild expanse of open moorland characterised by its rocky granite outcrops, the craggy Dartmoor landscape is perfect for nature lovers. So whether you want to go hiking, kayaking, or simply sightsee some truly remote villages, the National Park offers all this and more…
Though a little further away from Exeter than some of the other suggestions within this article, Bath is a beautiful city characterised by its buttery stone architecture and a plethora of stunning buildings. Best-known as being a UK literary location, this British settlement once inspired the likes of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.
Easily reached within an hour and a quarter from Exeter should you opt to take a fast train, Bath has been used as a resort town since Roman times thanks to the spa-like quality of the natural springs in town. Visit today and you can experience the historic Roman baths, as well as some stunning buildings and plenty of delicious foodie opportunities.
Teignmouth & Shaldon
The pretty seaside resort town of Teignmouth can be found less than half an hour away from Exeter via train and is largely characterised by its traditional Victorian townhouses painted pastel hues and overlooking the crashing waves of the sea.
Traditional in nature, head to Teignmouth and you can expect to find a plethora of fish and chip shops, independent stores, and several stretches of beach. There’s even a miniature golf course which is dinosaur themed and is certainly fun for all the family.
Head just across the estuary and you’ll soon find yourself in the quaint fishing town of Shaldon. Though a little less touristy than nearby Teignmouth, the small Devonian settlement offers hidden gems such as a beach you can only reach via a smuggler’s tunnel and some of the best ice cream in Devon in the many tiny shops found close to the village square.
Aside from Exeter, Devon’s only other city is that of Plymouth, a large metropolis with strong links to the navy. As its name suggests, Plymouth lies at the mouth of the river Plym and is the place from which the Pilgrim Fathers set sail back in 1620.
As you might expect from a city of over 200,000 residents, Plymouth has plenty on offer for even the most discerning of travellers. From the chance to enjoy theatre performances to the beautiful sights to be spied from Plymouth Hoe, there’s also no shortage of restaurants to be enjoyed and museums to marvel at.
English Riviera (Torquay, Paignton & Brixham)
Named for its wealth of beaches and seaside resort towns, the English Riviera is formed from three adjoining towns nestled in a natural harbour; Torquay, Paignton, and Brixham. A popular resort getaway since Victorian times, today the crown jewel of the trio is easily that of Brixham, a pretty town which retains its fishing roots.
Wander around the town even now and you’ll soon spy a myriad of fishing boats docked in the harbour, as well as an abundance of seafood-inspired restaurants. Nearby, Berry Head is a popular walking spot and boasts the vestiges of Napoleonic fortifications dating all the way back to the early 19th-century.
Devon, and more specifically towns such as Budleigh Salterton and Seaton, is the gateway to the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO world heritage stretch of coastline that’s filled with fossils. So-called thanks to its abundance of Jurassic geology, the Jurrasic Coast offers world-class beaches, not to mention the chance to go fossil hunting for yourself (a fun activity for all ages, I can assure you!)
Easy to access via train or bus from Exeter city centre, Topsham is just a ten-minute train ride away from Exeter and a little more time by bus. Home to an assortment of higgeldy piggeldy streets and some pretty unusual shopping experiences, not to mention a plethora of tea rooms and cafés, Topsham is located alongside the Exe estuary and is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of busy city life.
Home to a multitude of independent stores such as antique shops and lovely delicatessens, Ashburton is an easy day trip from Exeter via bus or car. Should you opt for the more eco friendly bus option, you can go from the city to the town in less than an hour! Highlights of Ashburton that we particularly love include Tom Wood Antiques (an old curiosity shop offering a treasure trove of items) and the Fish Deli, a beautiful delicatessen offering olives, oils, and more.
Just half an hour on the train from Exeter, the traditional market town of Totnes is characterised by its steep high street filled with independent shops and is presided over by a historic clock tower. At the very top of town, you’ll even soon discover a Motte and Bailey Castle, which is currently owned and managed by English Heritage. Of all the day trips from Exeter, you definitely won’t regret taking the time to visit Totnes!
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