Carmen Paddock lists her top ten favourite places to find artistic inspiration within Exeter city.
Needing a bit of artistic inspiration but unable to escape to Paris, Barcelona, or Florence? It’s totally understandable – weekly timetables, course work, looming exams, and the dwindling bank account make such adventures difficult to schedule and afford. However if you’re looking for places to relax, recharge, and re-ignite those creative ideas, you don’t even need to leave our lovely Devon city. Exeter has plenty of places to inspire artists of all kinds, and the following ten – two of which are on campus, the rest an easy walk therefrom – are just a small sample to get you started:
1. The Exeter Cathedral and the Cathedral Green
A classic – the cathedral interior itself is magnificent (and entry is free for Exeter students!), and you can’t beat sitting outside, especially on a sunny day, surrounded by the centuries-old architecture.
2. The Quay
Not only is a stroll along the canals wonderfully rejuvenating, but the Quay is packed with artistic shops and adorable cafés of all varieties – perfect places to explore, relax and find inspiration.
3. Reed Hall Gardens
Hidden benches lining these exquisitely-groomed flower gardens are great places to read, write, sketch, paint, and plan your next artistic endeavour.
4. Campus nature paths
Behind the Business School is a winding web of little paths which, although incredibly close to university life, are surprisingly devoid of human activity. Ideal for enjoying the peace and quiet of Nature in the midst of a hectic study day.
5. Tea on the Green
The old-fashioned, clean decor of this charming restaurant and tearoom on the Cathedral Green invites you to savour scrumptious breakfasts, hearty lunches, and decadent afternoon teas and cakes – a perfect atmosphere to escape life’s chaos and to refuel (figuratively and literally).
4. Merlin’s Cave at the Crystal Café
This is one of Fore Street’s hidden gems; following signs through the new-age shop Evolutions leads you to a gorgeous, canopied garden where you can enjoy tea from artisan pottery, gourmet vegetarian and vegan meals, delightfully personable service, and often live music.
7. Rougemont and Northernhay Gardens
The numerous paths across these two connected gardens – the former more natural, the latter filled with flowerbeds and monuments – allow for aimless wandering through their idyllic scenery. Photographers may especially appreciate the juxtaposition of ruins, blossoms, trees, and statues.
8. The Real McCoy Café
Located on Fore Street, this indoor/outdoor café is the perfect place to enjoy a light bite whilst exploring the eponymous arcade’s artsy and retro shops and, on Saturday afternoons, relishing live music from local performers.
9. Exeter Castle and City Wall
Situated just inside Rougemont Gardens’ gate, this decrepit yet still-imposing structure is a beautiful, quiet, often isolated place to enjoy medieval relics and natural scenery.
10. The Old Firehouse
This may seem like an odd one, but on weekday afternoons the famous pub is much quieter than it is during late-night pizza rushes. Its dark, antique aesthetic makes it a wonderful place to mull over creative ideas, especially with one of their hearty mains and/or a pint.
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