The Lazy Toad Inn, in Brampford Speke, a village some 15 minutes drive from Exeter city centre, serves excellent food and drink at reasonable prices. Much of the food is locally sourced, including some produce raised in the Inn's own garden.
The Toad also offers accommodation, with the usual facilities, including Wifi access, flatscreen tv, radio alarm, and iPod dock.
It has an attractive interior, with a decorative emphasis upon the eponymous Toad, plenty of space between tables, and a small garden close by with tables for eating and drinking outside in good weather.
The chef/proprietors, Mo and Clive Walker, offer a warm welcome, and the staff generally are knowledgeable and cheerful. The atmosphere combines informality with elegance. It is no surprise that a number of worthwhile awards for quality food have been garnered in recent years. They are highly deserved.
Take a short and sweet bike ride from Exeter Quay to where a colony of swans rule the water, along the canal past the cows, the wildlife reserve and the bird-filled marshes. I recommend this bike ride because The Turf pub awaits at the end of the canal where you can rest with a lovely long view of the Exe River Estuary. The food is simple and tasty with a hint of exotic and the atmosphere is always friendly and welcoming. You can continue your bike ride along the river to Dawlish and even get a ferry over to Exmouth and extend the ride back up the river to Topsham. From here (Ferry Road) there is a small ferry which crosses the river again to take you back on the trail to Exeter Quay.
Red coats guided tours are walking tours that give you an opportunity to see places on foot that could easily be missed. The advantage of a guided tour is their knowledge of the town and the hidden treasures. The only disadvantage is no pets allowed only guide dogs. So no good if you want to walk with your dog. They do charge for groups of adults but not for single adult check when booking.
C/O Exeter Visitor Information & Tickets
Tel: 01392 265203
Fax: 01392 665260
The walk focuses Exeter's City Wall, almost 70% of the approximately 2000-year-old wall remains.
There are nine information panels (with quizzes for children) along the walk pointing out at each site the key events that have affected the wall and the city of Exeter.
The circular tour of this Roman settlement starts in Castle Street and continues into Northernhay Gardens, and to Rougemont Gardens to the Norman Gatehouse, where William the Conqueror established a stronghold within the city. The walk then takes in the city defences, the four main gatehouses from which entry to the city was controlled. At the North Gate discover how Exeter was threatened during various rebellions. The South Gate is arguably the most impressive of all the gates - follow the footpath alongside the city wall to Cathedral Close, turn right on to Southernhay, at Southernhay turn left then continue to the East Gate, the principal entry point into the city, which also played a vital defensive role during the English Civil War and the Perkin Warbeck Rebellion.
The walk takes in Exeter Cathedral, one of the finest examples of the decorated Gothic style in the country. Opposite the cathedral are many cafes to have lunch. The walk is around two miles.
It's a walk about the perimeters of Exeter, through lovely parks, university grounds, past rivers and canals with lots of variety for young and old. You will pass plenty of play areas for your children and to have a rest. Pubs and restaurants are never far away. It is a long walk (12 miles) but easily achievable in a full day and if you have enough there are plenty of buses to take you back because although you are mostly walking through nature you are never far away from civilization. I did this walk when my kids were nine and 10 and they still talk about it.
Acres of glorious forest walks, paths and trails with amazing views in part on the high ridge looking far towards Exeter. Great butterfly walk for all ages and along the way play with the sculptures, the wooden zylophone, hide in the dens, be free in the forest!
Tucked away at the end of the kitsch McCoy's Arcade is the even more kitsch 'The Real McCoy'. With its baby pink colour scheme and 50s cafe (exact in every detail) to entice you in, the shop is what the term 'Aladdin's Cave' was invented for. Gorgeous replica clothes, real vintage gems of coats, waistcoats, pyschedelic 60s dresses and evening wear on the ground floor, and on the second you'll find leather jackets, jeans, fancy dress, even famous band t-shirts. Teenagers love it for prom wear. I love it for the hot chocolate in the cafe after a spending spree!
The Real McCoy is an emporium worthy of the name, a real gem of a vintage clothes shop specialising in 1920s onwards with amazing prices and a great hire service. We moved to Brighton from Exeter recently and there's nothing to touch it. And you'll be at home there trying on the wildest gear whether you're our age (old) or our childrens' (quite young).
21 McCoy's Arcade, Fore Street, EX4 3NJ
It's tucked away half way down Fore Street, a five-minute walk from the cathedral and 10-miute walk from St Davids Station station.
Google map: tinyurl.com/34g7ksg
The Double Locks Hotel is not easy to find but it has long been a special favourite of mine. You need to determinedly drive through an unappealing industrial estate then turn down an inconspicuous lane that gives no clue to your final destination and then finally over a canal bridge almost too narrow to take a family car. However once there, few would deny that the Double Locks has been worth persevering for and we have returned a number of times since first discovering it almost 20 years ago.
When I say the Double Locks is hard to find, I mean it is hard by road. In truth, it is perfectly located for visiting by boat or via an easy walk or cycle ride from Exeter Canal Basin just one and a half miles away. And this is what makes it so appealing - its one of those tucked away places that encourages you to leave the car behind and explore by more traditional means.
And if you insist upon seeking it out by car, well, that is almost an adventure in its own right...
Double Locks Hotel
Exeter, EX2 6LT
There are wonderful unspoilt beaches all around the West Country coasts, with no 'facilities', no development and few if any visitors. To find them, get a large-scale Ordnance Survey map (1:25,000) and look for beaches with no parking and no road nearby.
Providing you have to walk for 30 minutes to reach your beach, often down an old smugglers' path flanked by tall hedges alive with birdsong and wildflowers, at the end you should find, if you have chosen well, a little sandy cove surrounded by rocks and cliffs, with barely a soul in sight.
Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset
Get the train from Exeter to Teignmouth, walk from the station to the seafront, and walk towards the ness, along the beach, around from the channel to the mouth of the river Teign, then walk along the river beach - you will be opposite Shaldon, and see Dartmoor up the River Teign.
Get the Teignmouth ferry to Shaldon, walk up to the ness, go through the smuggler's tunnel on to the beach. Return to Teignmouth on the ferry, and continue walking along the river beach, you will pass a row of original fisherman's cottages, and come to the Ship Inn, buy a pint and watch the sun setting over the moors.
There are very few places to stay near Castle Drogo, the Lutyens castle at Drewsteignton, and the Old Inn is perfect for the locality. The village itself is like a picture postcard, one shop, one church, one pub (the famous Drewe Arms) and the recently totally refurbished Old Inn.
The house is now very comfortable, beautifully redecorated, and the breakfast is great. The new owners are going to start cooking in the evenings; at the moment they will cook for people who are staying if they want to eat in.
There is fantastic country all around. The house is on The Two Moors Way, and so wonderful for walkers. Castle Drogo a very interesting place to visit. Exeter, Taunton, Totnes are all within easy reach.
Before the new owners took over at the beginning of this year, the Old Inn was in a very bad state. It was totally mismanaged, dirty, dark, depressing, and could possibly suffer initially from a bad reputation. I hope not because they deserve to succeed.
A local guy that will come and pick you and your mates up from London (you can take your own bike) and then take you for a weekend of mountain biking on Dartmoor.
The accommodation provided was good enough but the home cooking is marvellous! He is a very enthusiastic guide - we probably wouldn't have seen half of what we did on Dartmoor had we just pottered around struggling to read maps or following some other prescribed routes.
He drives you back as well - thank God!
... by not deciding to tow your caravan during the rush hour. Over a million of us live and work here, even though to you it's just a holiday destination - and caravans are a BIG problem every Friday during the summer.
Delicious crisp and crunchy chips - just as they should be. Served with a wide array of different choices of fish... choose from skate or sole rather than the usual cod. A splendid trip and while you're there, you'll probably find yourself just having to go into one of the best farm shops ever!
The Railway Centre in Bickleigh, near Tiverton is everything you would want from a steam engine centre - plenty to put your hands on, working engines, rides, models, etc - but on a delightfully small scale. It is perfect for small people. They even provide steps to stand upon for the smallest to see the model railways housed inside original carriages. Thoughtful and helpful staff, a nice (inexpensive) shop and beautiful scenery around make for a place we shall be returning to for a few years yet.
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