There’s enough art, history and countryside in and around Exeter to keep you entertained for quite some time. The best part? It doesn’t have to cost a fortune… or anything at all! We’ve picked out the things to do for free in Exeter that have captured our interests. Whether you’re a history buff or a gym bunny, there’s sure to be something for you to discover for free in Exeter.
Get to Know Gerald the Giraffe
Gerald has been a popular exhibit at the RAMM since 1920 and is currently part of the museum’s Zoology collection. There’s a vast variety of collections waiting to be discovered. The aptly named Collectors collection is perhaps the most unique. This exhibit is constantly changing and is host to local collectors’ collections such as Philip Le Hardy de la Garde’s creepy crawly beetle collection with over 30,000 specimens. The RAMM also displays a grand collection of fine art by painters and sculptors from the mid 18th to the early 20th century, much of it inspired by Devon’s picturesque landscapes.
Roam Exeter on the Roman Tour
No need to don your gladiator gear for this tour. Did you know that excavators have found Roman baths under the Cathedral Green? Roman Devon tours which take place on every first and third Thursday of the month are organised by the RAMM and will let you in on some of the secrets of the Romans and what they got up to in Exeter.
Enjoy a Quayside stroll… or run!
Exeter’s Quayside is stunning at any time of the day. Why not sit on a bench and absorb the atmosphere of this beautiful setting? Or if you’re feeling more energetic, the Exeter Riverside Park Run starts and finishes at the Quay every Saturday at 9 am. The 5 KM course is free to enter but you do need to register ahead of time. It’s great for any level but if you’re just starting out, the flat ground, riverside views, and good company will be plenty to keep you motivated to get to the finish line.
Delve into Devon’s Past
Membership to the Devon & Exeter Institution is free for students and staff of the University of Exeter. The library holds a collection of maps, drawings, and books that are up to 100 years old. For history buffs, this is a must to find out more about the history of Devon and Exeter. Members are also entitled to regular meetings with the film club and book group.
Walk on Exeter’s Wild Side
Feel at one with nature and get out of the city into the countryside within minutes. Mincinglake Valley Park has an attractive stream running through it and is home to a large variety of butterflies. Follow the stream or keep walking up and along the bridleway for amazing views of the Exe Estuary. Exeter City Council also has mapped out several other self-guided circular walks in the green spaces of Exeter for you to choose from.
Seek Out Exeter’s Statues and Sculptures
Exeter has its fair share of statues and sculptures. Even in the middle of the bustling Princesshay shopping centre, there are statues peeping down on you from above. Keep your eyes peeled for the unusual Blue Boy statue, whose twin is located at the Exonian Centre. Venture away from the city centre to the University’s Streatham Campus and you’ll find a whole collection of sculptures by distinguished artists including Barbara Hepworth, Geoffery Clark and Paul Mount. There are 40 sculptures in total around the campus, some indoors and some outside on the grounds. The Sculpture Walk map will come in handy for sculpture hunting!
Learn about the History of Cinema
Exeter’s very own Bill Douglas Cinema Museum houses one of the largest collections relating to film and the moving image in Britain. The collection includes everything from stereo cards to postage stamps which date from the seventeenth century right through to the present day. There are also plenty of artefacts from optical entertainment and pre-cinema at the museum. This includes a collection of magic lantern slides and flipbook animations.
Peddle to the Sea
Cycling along the 17.5 mile long Exe Estuary Trail will give you some fantastic views of the river and along the coast and it is almost exclusively free from traffic. Starting from the Quay you can follow the trail down either side of the estuary towards either Teignmouth via Dawlish or Exmouth via Topsham. There’s plenty of wildlife to watch out for on the way, especially if you stop off in the nature reserve at Dawlish Warren.
Sail Away to Topsham
Topsham Museum is housed in a late 17th-century building which overlooks the Exe Estuary. The museum’s Sail Loft details Topsham’s history of shipbuilding, fishing, and maritime trade. The River Gallery collection includes historic Exe Riverboats, the most famous of which is a swan-shaped row boat created by a certain Captain Peacock – really! The building itself also has rooms that have been preserved for visitors to admire. Unfortunately, the museum won’t be re-opening until the 31st of March – so, save this treat for a later date. Meanwhile, the estuarine village is still worth visiting for its brilliant window shopping opportunities.
Just outside Exeter, in the seaside town of Sidmouth, there are hundreds of donkeys who are eagerly awaiting your love and attention. There are several walks that start from the Donkey Sanctuary and will lead you to even more furry friends. There’s also a maze to get lost in, and a play area with a vintage red tractor that kids love.
Hopefully, you’ve found something on this list that you can’t wait to go and try for yourself! Did we miss one of your favourite free things to do? Let us know in the comments.
Discover hidden places to go in Exeter and 5 other cities with our free app. Download KOMPAS at www.GetKompas.com
If you liked this article, check out…