Are you looking for the best Exeter walks? This article details some of the best ways to explore the city and its surrounding areas on foot!
With a skyline-dominating cathedral and historic quayside, there are tonnes of beautiful places to see in Exeter city centre.
It’s a very walkable place; so you can see all of the attractions on a stroll around the city centre. Brimming with historic buildings dating across the centuries, you can sense stories of Exeter’s past coming alive just by walking around.
However, the Devon city is small and it’s surrounded by some of the UK’s most beautiful nature. So, if you are looking for walks around Exeter that are a little more adventurous, we’ve put together some of the best nature spots near Exeter as well.
These Exeter walks are ideal if you want to get some steps in and reap the amazing benefits of walking. You can access many directly from the city centre, or you can drive out to the coast or into Dartmoor to do some longer hikes.
The Best Exeter Walks
Exeter Quay is one of the best areas in the city for a stroll.
Starting at the Custom House Visitor Centre, you can walk along the water for a while, passing Exeter Canal, until you end up going through Countess Wear.
This is a really interesting historical walk.
The Exe River used to be a tidal river, but it was blocked in around 1280 by Isabella de Fortibus, Countess of Devon.
She built a weir over the River near Topsham (the area is still called Countess Wear today) to power her mills in the area. This effectively meant that Exeter couldn’t operate as a port.
Access was restored in the 1290s, but then cut off again in 1317 because Isabella’s cousin (Hugh Courtenay, 9th Earl of Devon) wanted more business to his quay at Topsham.
The people of Exeter wanted to have access to the sea again petitioned the king for 250 years. Eventually Edward VI agreed to connect the river once again. However, by this point, it had silted up.
So, in 1564, he employed John Trew, a Welsh architect, to build Exeter Canal and the quay as we know it today!
You’ll see signs of this history everywhere as you walk around the quay and the canal. It’s also a beautiful nature spot just out of the city.
If you keep following this route, you’ll end up in Topsham and at the Exe Estuary.
Red Coat Guided Tours in Exeter
Some of the best walks in Exeter city are Red Coat guided tours around the historic centre.
Run by friendly and knowledgeable guides, these tours detail Exeter’s complex and fascinating history.
They go past places like the Quay, Exeter Cathedral, and other beautiful buildings.
They are also completely free! They are run by people who are passionate about Exeter’s history and want to share it with others.
The tours that you can sign onto are:
- Forgotten Exeter: This tour shows you the hidden corners of the city.
- Cathedral to Quay: This is a general history tour, encompassing two of Exeter’s most famous sights and places in between.
- Ghosts and Legends: Exeter is one of the most haunted cities in England, and this tour details some of its spookiest stories.
- Medieval Exeter: Exeter’s heyday was in the Medieval period, when it became a thriving port city. You’ll learn about it on this tour.
- Bishop’s Palace Garden: This tour teaches you more about the ecclestial side of Exeter.
- Exeter Old and New: This tour goes through the past and present of Exeter.
All of the Red Coat Tours are completely free, but you do usually need to book onto them in advance.
Walking tour of Topsham
Topsham is one of the most interesting and historic parts of the city. Sitting on the River Exe, the historical village was pivotal during the Woollen Cloth Industry and exports from Exeter.
Free walking tours of Topsham are available every Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm from May to September. They last 90 minutes and encompass all of the town’s most historic buildings.
The tours begin at the Holman Way car park and you don’t need to book.
Exeter City Centre Self Guided Walks
Another type of walk around Exeter that you can do is a self-guided tour. You can do these at your own pace, taking in the information boards on the way.
- Exeter Medieval Trail: From the Norman Conquest of 1066 to the start of Henry Tudor’s reign in 1497, the Exeter Medieval Trail takes you through the sites of Exeter’s Medieval past.
- Exeter Woollen Trail: The Exeter Woollen Trail goes through the rich industrial period of the 18th century.
- The City Wall Trail: This trail goes through the 2000 year history of Exeter’s Roman city wall.
- Exeter Ship Canal: This consists of three walks, each traversing a little bit of Exeter’s canal. Click here to read about them.
- Countess Wear and Double Locks: This is an hour and a half self-guided walk around the interesting Countess Wear, a historic paper mill. There’s also lots of animal life around the area.
- Topsham and Bowling Green Marshes: This walk goes through Topsham, taking in Topsham Dock and the beautiful marshes, spanning from the city to a bus stop near the M5 when you can take a bus back to the city.
- The Alphinbrook and Hambeer Lane
Ludwell Valley Park
Ludwell Valley Park is 200 acres and encompasses beautiful nature-filled grounds.
Enjoy the wildflowers if you visit at the right time of year, or try a spot of birdwatching!
Enjoy the one and a half-mile trail around the park; it’s perfect for a short walk to stretch your legs.
Exeter Green Circle Walk
The Exeter Green Circle Walk is a 12 mile loop around the city.
It encompasses some of Exeter’s best green spaces and leafy suburbs, also traversing the River Exe and taking you to viewpoints of the city.
Of course, you don’t need to do the whole 12 mile loop at once – it’s valuable to know where your nearest section is, so you can do a bit of it and then cut back through the city.
Castle Drogo is a 25 minute drive from Exeter City and it has some fantastic walks that you can enjoy.
Enjoy the beautiful grounds and landscaped gardens as you stroll around, taking in the grounds of the last castle to be built in England.
To enter the gardens, you’ll need to either pay for an entrance ticket or be a National Trust member.
There are also acres of woodland in the area. It’s on the edge of Dartmoor, and the Teign Gorge Walk is a popular hiking route to help you take in some of the epic riverside and moorland scenery of the area.
Killerton Park is attached to Killerton House, a popular National Trust property on the edge of Exeter.
The estate occupies a whopping 6,400 acres of farmland, parkland, cottages, woodland and orchards.
There are plenty of walks that you can enjoy in the estate.
You can also stroll around the manicured gardens – although you’ll either need to be a National Trust member or pay for a ticket.
Riverside Valley Park
Managed by the Devon Wildlife Trust, the Riverside Valley Park is a gorgeous place for an afternoon stroll, with sweeping views across to the city.
The park consists of beautiful meadows and walking and cycling paths.
It’s also a fantastic place for birdwatching.
Haldon Forest Park
Haldon Forest Park is an ideal day trip from Exeter.
There are plenty of wonderful walking trails to explore, and you can enjoy enchanting woodland and beautiful views from various lookout spots.
Budleigh Salterton Loop Walk
The Budleigh Salterton Loop Walk takes in the town itself, Otterton and Ladram Bay.
You’ll need to drive to Budleigh Salterton from Exeter (you can park at Lime Kiln car park).
Then, hike up the River Otter to reach Otterton. You can purchase refreshments at Otterton Mill.
To reach Ladram Bay, walk up a country road and then through fields. You’ll eventually get to the Jurassic Coast and enjoy its stunning red cliffs!
Then, just follow the South West Coast Path in a westerly direction for a few miles. You’ll eventually meet the River Otter again and walk north for ten minutes or so, before crossing the bridge and walking back to the car park.
In total, the walk takes 2-3 hours.
Dartmoor National Park Walks
Dartmoor National Park is one of the largest national parks in the country, and one of the UK’s greatest open spaces.
It’s the only area in England where you can wild camp, and the sweeping views of the vast moorland are a masterpiece, whether you’re walking or driving through it.
Some parts of Dartmoor National Park are only a 20 minute drive from Exeter. Here are some suggested nearby walking routes:
- Becky Falls: You’ll need to pay to enter this beautiful waterfall area near Bovey Tracey, but it’s a magical place with moss-covered trees and gently babbling water. It’s also only 35 minutes drive from Exeter.
- Meldon Viaduct Circuit: Close to Okehampton, this 4.5 mile walk takes in the beautiful Meldon Reservoir and the Meldon Viduct, which historically transported trains from London. It’s about a 40 minute drive from Exeter.
- Lydford Gorge: This beautiful National Trust-owed gorge is a temperate rainforest, an enchanting moss-filled rocky landscape with beautiful trees and birdlife. It’s about 40 minutes away from Exeter.
- Hound Tor Circular Walk: Dartmoor is perhaps most famous for its tors, and this walk takes in Hound Tor and the beautiful village of Lustleigh. It’s about 40 minutes from Exeter.
You can even do orienteering courses in Dartmoor with Serious Outdoor Skills.
South West Coast Path
The South West Coast Path is a 630 mile trail that spans from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset.
It doesn’t span through Exeter, but you can drive, take a bus or train to nearby places and hike from there.
Here are the nearest SWCP hikes to Exeter:
Exmouth to Sidmouth
Exmouth to Sidmouth is a 12.5 mile/ 20km hike.
It starts in the popular resort town of Exmouth and travels above the oldest part of the Jurassic Coast, past Orcombe Point which marks the western end of the historic clifftop area.
You’ll love watching the orange cliffs tumbling down into the blue ocean as you hike this route.
The route then passes through Budleigh Salterton, which is a great place to stop and refresh. If you want to do circular walk, you could hike from Exmouth to Budleigh and then walk along the old railway track to get back to Exmouth.
After Budleigh Salterton, walk up the River Otter for ten minutes and then cross the bridge, then walk back to the coast.
You’ll then follow the coastal path until you reach Ladram Bay.
From Ladram Bay, you can see Sidmouth – it’s around 2 miles more along the clifftops until you reach the coastal town.
You can take a bus (57) or a train from Exeter to Exmouth to begin the hike and then a bus back from Sidmouth (9/ 9A) to Exeter after you finish. This is a country bus, so check times before you head out!
Dawlish Warren to Teignmouth
The Dawlish Warren to Teignmouth walk is a 4.7 mile/ 7.6 km easy walk along the sea wall by the South Devon railway line.
This is the most photographed railway line in the country, so it’s a great walk to experience!
There are also beautiful rock formations to enjoy as you walk along.
Trains connect Exeter to Dawlish Warren and Teignmouth, so it’s easy to get to the start and end points.
Dawlish Warren to Torquay
This is a longer hike with stunning views over the coastline.
It’s 16 miles/ 25km, so it’s an all-day hike, but it’s a fantastic amount to cover in one day and has rich and varied scenery.
You’ll follow the Dawlish Warren – Teignmouth route initially, going through Dawlish town, and then continue along the South West Coast Path until you reach the big town of Torquay, where there are plenty of attractions, amenities and restaurants.
You can get to both Dawlish Warren and Torquay on the train from Exeter. Just remember to leave plenty of time, as this is a long hike! You could always stop in Teignmouth if you don’t want to do the whole distance!
The Exe Estuary
The Exe Estuary is a lovely riverside trail that spans down from Exeter to the coast at Exmouth.
You can walk the trail on either side, depending on which seaside town you want to end up in!
Exe nature trail walks are on offer; they take in the beautiful birdlife and nature of the river.
Exeter to Exmouth
The Exeter to Exmouth walk takes about four hours.
It’s around 12 miles, and you’ll go through Topsham Dock, Exton and Lympstone, enjoying the beautiful riverside scenery as you stroll along the boardwalk.
It’s also a popular cycle route.
If you don’t want to walk the whole way, you can take the 57 bus or train to Topsham and hike from there (about 2.5 hours). From Exmouth, it’s easy to get a train or bus back to Exeter.
Exeter to Dawlish
The Exeter to Dawlish hike encompasses the Exminster Marsh, the historic village of Starcross and the Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve.
You’ll also enjoy stretches of countryside on the other side of the trail!
You can take a train from Dawlish Warren back to Exeter.
The East Devon Way
The East Devon Trail is a 40 mile trail that runs through some of the county’s best nature.
Running through the East Devon AONB, it starts in Exmouth and runs through Woodbury Common, Aylesbeare Common, Sidbury, Farway, Colyton and Lyme Regis.
It takes most people six days, but you could do a segment from Exeter.
This is ideal if you have someone who can pick you up either end!
There are also a variety of circular walks available on the East Devon way.
Walking in Exeter FAQs
Are there any walking groups in Exeter?
There are lots of walking groups in Exeter for all ages.
Whether you’re 21 or 81, you’ll be able to find a group of like-minded hikers to go on strolls with!
- Devon Bootlegs is for 20-50-year-olds who like hiking and exploring.
- Exeter Ramblers offer a range of walks ranging from 8 to 14 miles across different landscapes in Devon.
- Walking for Health offer a range of walks for different abilities.
Is Exeter a walkable city?
Yes, Exeter is a very walkable city.
Most of its main attractions are in the city centre, not far from the Cathedral, or on the Quayside.
It takes about 10 minutes to walk from the Cathedral to the Quayside.
Can you walk on Exeter city walls?
70% of Exeter’s city walls are still standing, but you can’t walk on most of them.
There are some places that are an exception, like the bridge by the Cathedral and Quay car park, which incorporates part of the wall.
But generally, no – you can walk around the walls, but not on top of them!
Does Exeter have a beach?
No, Exeter doesn’t have a beach, but it’s close to the South Devon coastline.
It’s easy to reach Exmouth or Dawlish Warren and walk along the South West Coast Path.
Of course, you can factor in time to laze on the beaches too!
Where can I walk in Devon?
Devon is a fantastic county for walking!
Not only does it have two beautiful coastlines, which are all connected by the South West Coast Path, but it also has two vast moorlands.
There are loads of hiking trails on Dartmoor and Exmoor that could keep you busy for years.
Exeter’s relatively central position in Devon means that it’s feasible to reach anywhere in the county for a day trip.
Beautiful walks around Exeter
Exeter’s not a large city, and it has lots of opportunities to get out of the centre and walk through its beautiful surroundings.
By doing these Exeter walks, you’ll see more of the city, improve your physical and mental health and give yourself a chance to get out into nature.