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Exeter Cathedral

Outside of Exeter Cathedral

Discover England’s Glorious Medieval History at Exeter Cathedral

Rising majestically above Exeter’s city centre, the impressive Gothic towers of Exeter Cathedral provide a landmark introduction to this historic city in Devon. Entering its elaborate nave, ornate vaulted ceilings and intricate medieval architecture immediately evoke a palpable sense of history within these hallowed walls spanning almost 1000 years.

A visit to Exeter Cathedral allows you to trace the Norman castle origins, soaring 12th – 15th century Gothic reconstruction, famous royal connections and daily place of worship it remains today. Here’s an in-depth guide to exploring this pinnacle of medieval English craftsmanship.

nave at exeter cathedral

Getting There

Exeter Cathedral sits just off the city’s High Street in the heart of Exeter city centre. The main entrance and visitor facilities are accessed via the Cathedral Green.

By Train

Exeter Central train station is a convenient 10 minute walk from the Cathedral, via Gandy Street and the High Street. Frequent services run from London, Bristol and neighbouring Devon towns.

By Car

Visitors driving can use the Princesshay Shopping Centre car park just across from the Cathedral Green. Other central Exeter car parks are also within a 5-10 minute walk.

Opening Times

Exeter Cathedral is open to visitors:

  • Monday – Saturday: 9am – 5pm
  • Sundays: 11:30am – 5pm

It may close on certain dates for special services or events. Check the Cathedral’s website for updated times before visiting.

Entry Prices and Tours

Entry to Exeter Cathedral is free with donation welcomed. Guided tours are included in the entry price.

  • £10 for adults
  • £1 for children

Tours run Monday – Saturday focusing on different aspects of the Cathedral’s history, architecture and purpose. Family tours are tailored for kids. The Cathedral is one of many things you can do all year around, but is perfect for wet days in Exeter.

fayre at exeter cathedral

Awe-Inspiring Architecture

Exeter Cathedral impresses from first glimpse with its commanding twin Norman towers and striking West Front adorned with three tiers of sculpted biblical figures.

Inside, dramatic highlights bringing the soaring Gothic interior to life include:

  • Intricately vaulted ceilings stretching up to 10 stories overhead.
  • England’s longest uninterrupted medieval ceiling in the breathtaking nave.
  • Exquisite columns, arches and tracery illustrating 8 centuries of evolving style.
  • Striking 10 metre bishop’s throne carved from local Beer stone.
  • Astronomical clock still ticking 600 years after installation.

The sheer scale and craftsmanship of the architecture generates an ambient wow factor.

view of exeter

History and Royal Connections

Exeter Cathedral tells the evolving story of England through different eras:

  • Founded in 1050 as an Anglo-Saxon monastery
  • Expanded into the present Gothic Cathedral from 1112
  • Damaged during WWII bombings before careful restoration
  • Numerous English royals were baptised or buried here

The cathedral’s origins can be traced to 1050 AD when the first church was built on the site. However, the current structure we see today began to take shape in the 12th and 13th centuries when it was rebuilt in the Gothic style. The construction of the cathedral continued for many years, showcasing the evolution of Gothic architecture, with features like the stunning rib-vaulted ceiling and the striking west front adorned with intricate sculptures.

christmas service at exeter cathedral

One of the most iconic features of Exeter Cathedral is the astronomical clock, which dates back to the 14th century. It is one of the oldest and most complete of its kind, featuring a 24-hour analog dial and a display of the phases of the moon.

Throughout its history, the cathedral has undergone periods of renovation and restoration, including work during the Victorian era, which helped preserve its unique character. It has also experienced its share of turmoil, from the English Civil War in the 17th century to the bombings of World War II, which damaged parts of the cathedral. However, the resilience of the community and dedication to its preservation have allowed it to continue serving as a place of worship and a symbol of Exeter’s heritage.

Interpretive displays shed light on the Cathedral’s relationship with pivotal historic figures like King Alfred the Great who founded the original monastery.

Interactive Family Exploration

Younger visitors love the Cathedral’s interactive elements bringing history alive:

  • Family trails and quiz to spot creatures and symbols on sculptures.
  • Drawing materials and touch screens on medieval life.
  • Dressing up costumes – Take on a monk or chorister role!
  • Café with outdoor play patio.

Children are invited to engage creatively with the Cathedral to form meaningful connections with the heritage.

drums at exeter cathedral

Visitor Facilities

The Quad Café provides light lunches, hot drinks and cakes with outdoor courtyard seating. The gift shop stocks souvenirs from guidebooks to ornaments and jewellery representing the Cathedral’s fine craftsmanship.

Whether you’re simply appreciating the magnificent Norman towers or taking a guided journey through the eras, Exeter Cathedral impresses all who enter with its scale, beauty and historic significance.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Exeter Cathedral accessible for wheelchairs? – Yes, there is space to access the Cathedral, but some of the upper ramparts are much steeper to reach. You can hire a wheelchair if you prebook with the Cathedral office.

Are dogs allowed? Yes, if kept under control and on a lead

Do you have to book a tour of the Cathedral? – No, you can just arrive and take a tour as they run regularly, but if you are in a large group, booking is advisable to avoid a delay.

Other Nearby Attractions

There are many great places to go in Exeter including:

  • Exeter Underground Passages – Explore the medieval tunnels beneath the city on a costumed guided tour and discover Exeter’s hidden history.
  • Royal Albert Memorial Museum – Eclectic and extensive collections of world cultures, local history and natural sciences housed in a striking Gothic building.
  • Clip ‘n Climb Exeter – Indoor adventure centre featuring climbing walls and challenges for all abilities and ages to test their skills. Fun family activity.
  • Powderham Castle – 600 year old castle near Exeter, home to the Earl of Devon. Guided tours offer a glimpse into stately living.
  • Crealy Adventure Park – Top family theme park near Exeter packed with over 60 rides and attractions including animals, rollercoasters and water fun.
  • Bicton Park Botanical Gardens – Beautiful ornamental gardens from the 18th century containing glasshouses, woodland walks, play zones and railway.
  • Pecorama Pleasure Gardens – Quirky miniature world including intricate model railways, scenic gardens and exhibitions. Ride on the Beer Heights Light Railway.
  • Devon County Show – Major agricultural event and annual 3-day summer show championing Devon food, farming and rural crafts.
  • World of Country Life – Indoor recreation of a 19th century rural village including costumed re-enactors demonstrating traditional crafts.

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