Walking Tour: Exeter City Walls

  • Start Castle Ruins
  • End Roman Walk
  • Length 2 miles; 2.5 hours
  • Difficulty Easy

Start at the gatehouse to Exeter's Castle Ruins, the remains of a fortification built by the Normans after an 18-day siege. A plaque commemorates three Devon women, hanged after being tried here for witchcraft in 1685. In Northernhay Gardens, take the path along the wall that is crowned by Civil War–era parapets; in an era of shifting loyalties, Exeter had to defend itself against both Royalists and Parliamentarians.

Pass the arch of 12th-century Athelstan’s Tower. Here the Roman wall survives to its original height; clues are the uniform texture and pebbly mortar. Head through the archway in the wall and follow the path through the park, cutting right at the rainbow sun sculpture to emerge beside the Exeter Phoenix.

Paul St leads to Bartholomew Cemetery, a swathe of green. Stepping through its gate sees you standing on top of 19th-century catacombs. At Bartholomew St East’s right-hand bend, turn off into the Mint, passing the crumbly red walls of the 11th-century St Nicholas Priory.

Turn right down Fore St, before cutting left down John St, where the Fat Pig microbrewery is a friendly place to pause for a drink. Next stroll on towards cobbled Stepcote Hill, where half-timbered houses lead to the russet-red St Mary’s Steps Church, complete with ornate figure-flanked clock.

Cross busy Western Way, then pass some of the city wall on the left, making your way along to historic Exeter Quay. Here, On the Waterfront is another enjoyable refreshment stop. After a break, climb the hill, cutting left up steps to the car park; the footpath on its eastern edge runs along the top of the historic wall itself. Climb steps to the footbridge, looking down to see Roman facework and volcanic blocks.

From South St, branch off into the Palace Gate to admire the architecture of Cathedral Close, before cutting north along Southernhay West, then up Bedford St and into the walkways of the Princesshay Shopping Centre. You'll finish your tour alongside a well-preserved Roman section of wall on aptly named Roman Walk.