Exeter, located in the heart of the Westcountry and serving as the administrative capital of the shire of Devon, is one of the great cathedral cities of Britain. Britain’s last completed main motorway, the M5, ends in Exeter, meaning that road access in and around the city is now easier than it used to be, making discovering the moors or shores of Devon a delight. Devon contains two of Britain’s National Parks, Dartmoor and Exmoor, as well as some of the country’s most popular seaside resorts, including Torquay of ‘Fawlty Towers’ fame.
Who to Book With
Exeter is well used to receiving visitors and you have several rental agencies to choose from, including top names like Enterprise, Hertz and Thrifty. To seek the most convenient location and the best deal, book online to arrange vehicle pick up.
Best Time to go
Exeter itself is certainly a year-round destination, and even a cosy winter break here can be very rewarding. Due to its location in the southwest of Britain, however, summer is the most popular time to visit. During school and public holidays, Exeter is busier and accommodation prices increase.
Need to Know Essentials
To pick up your rental car, you must provide the following documents:
- A valid EU driving license or International Driving Permit
- A passport or secondary photo ID
- Present the credit card used to make the booking
- Show a printed confirmation if possible
For more info read our FAQ's.
Navigating Exeter is easy enough, since it is bounded by the M5 on one side and the A30 on the other, with the main route of the A377 dissecting the city and heading north past the university. There are several council-maintained and private car parks to choose from in the central shopping area of the city and close to the main tourist attractions. You can expect to pay around £12 for all-day parking at the council car parks, although you can park on the outskirts of town for free and then walk in.
Getting to the Dartmoor National Park is easy from Exeter when taking the A30 eastwards. The road skims the park’s northern perimeter, and there are several access points. Exmoor National Park is due-north of Exeter, with a couple of options for reaching it. You can either take the M5 and then cut west, or join the A396 via Tiverton, which is a remarkably scenic drive.
See our guide to the UK for more information on driving here.
Exeter is well served by the public bus system, although journeys farther afield into the county are a little more difficult. Reaching Exeter by train from London is extremely convenient, taking just 2.5 hours on the express service.
Exeter City Centre has two main train stations: St David’s and St Thomas. Both are named after saints but not to be confused with each other, although they sit only a few minutes’ walk apart if you do mistakenly head to the wrong one. The journey to Exeter St David’s takes just two-and-a-half hours on the express train from London Paddington. You can continue your journey westward towards Cornwall from Exeter, although trains become sparse and slow after this point. Timetables can be checked on the National Rail Enquiries website or by calling 08457 48 49 50.
Exeter is a sizeable city with an adequate urban bus network, mainly operated by Stagecoach. Some regional travel around the county and into neighbouring Cornwall is also possible by bus. You can check the Traveline website for journey planners of all public transport options. For longer bus travel towards London or Bristol, or westwards to Cornwall, you will need to use the National Express coach network.
Taxis are common in Exeter and there are a few companies to choose from. You can use the traditional Black Cabs, which you can hail from anywhere in the city, although expect to pay a lot for these. Slightly cheaper, although still relatively expensive, are minicabs; call Capital Taxis on 01392 217 000 for a quote.
Exeter is one of the last, and the farthest south, of England’s great cathedral cities. Alongside its picturesque charm, Exeter also presents as a tempting gateway to two of Britain’s most beautiful nature areas, Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks. And no trip to Exeter is complete without a trip to the famous Devonshire seaside.
Dartmoor - One of Britain’s largest and most famous national parks. It was featured in the Sherlock Holmes tale, ‘The Hounds of the Baskervilles’, and was also home to the infamous Dartmoor maximum security penitentiary. It is easily accessed from Exeter; for northern access, use the A30, and for southern access the A38. Or, you can cut straight through the centre of the park on the B3212.
Exmoor - This is one of the lesser-known of Britain’s great national parks, but what it lacks in fame it makes up for in size and beauty. If you afford yourself the time, travel on the A396 from Exeter. After passing through Tiverton, the road offers one of the most wondrous drives in Britain, following the course of the free flowing Exe River. Inside the park, you can visit the source of the river near Simonsbath, where you will probably be joined by a grazing sheep or two.
Dawlish - This is a typical English seaside town and a picture-perfect Britain location. Take the A379 from Exeter to meet the coast and Dawlish shortly after. Sit down, gaze out over the ocean and treat yourself to a Devonshire cream tea. From Dawlish, you can loop back round to Exeter and connect with the A380.