Things to do in Exeter, Devon

1. Royal Albert Memorial Museum: Reopened a year ago, interesting for its architecture and its exhibits. Praised by The Art Fund judges for its “ambition and imagination” the Royal Albert Memorial won Museum of the Year 2012. There is lots of amazing taxidermy including Gerald the giraffe, which is best viewed from the mezzanine so you can see all of his extra long neck! Free entry.

2. Dustbin lid sized pizzas at On the Waterfront, a nineteeth century industrial warehouse. Try their speciality Duck and Hoi Sin sauce pizza. If you ask nicely they will take you through to the private dining area at the back with leather booth seating.

3. Walk from On the Waterfront to the Double Locks pub, along Exeter Ship Canal. Exeter’s first folk festival takes place this year on April 20th with live music and local ale. Play board games in the winter and volleyball in the Summer. PS. Two burgers for £10 every Monday.

4. Visit the redeveloped University of Exeter campus, Sunday Times University of the Year 2012-13. The stunning Forum is a lovely place to see and explore.

5. Stay at the Magdalen Chapter Hotel. A beautiful building, incredible food and a Ren Spa with an indoor-outdoor pool. Spa days start at just £40 (including massage, lunch, tea and cake on arrival and full use of the facilities.) Fizz Friday in the bar and lounge is also a great venue to have a cocktail. Guests get an iPad with their room.

6. And for a fun night out try out Exeter’s famous independent club, The Cavern. Go on a Saturday night for Indie Disco, its most mainstream offering.

Advance single fares from London Paddington to Tiverton Parkway are available from £12.50 each way. For the best value tickets and fares buy before you board at or 08457 000125

Bickleigh Castle, Devon

Bickleigh Castle in Devon is a popular wedding venue but we found this historic hotel ideal for a relaxing weekend away from London. The expansive grounds are beautiful especially in the morning mist, it was immediately obvious to me why so many people choose this place as the location to celebrate their special day.

Just a few hours drive from London, the tranquillity and quiet will instantly calm you. I found the clean fresh air invigorating, after a brief walk through the stunning grounds I felt healthier and happier. Bickleigh Castle offers guest accommodation with 17 bedrooms (twin and double) in newly renovated thatched cottages. Each cottage has its own character, picturesque and pretty, fully furnished with tea and coffee making facilities. For the bride and groom a very special room in the castle is available, completing their fairy-tale weekend. The cottage rooms are homely but luxurious, with soft fabrics in muted colours and fresh pretty décor.

The owners at Bickleigh are very hands on and passionate about their impressive property. Recognising the importance of unique tailored weddings, they ensure every couple receives exemplary personalised service, no challenge is too much, every wedding dream can be realised here. We stayed one night at Bickleigh, visiting a nearby pub for a tasty supper and enjoying a lazy morning at the castle. Our room was very comfortable, with a bath and shower and complimentary toiletries. After a long deep sleep and a cup of tea, we wandered downstairs where guests can enjoy a simple continental breakfast or tuck into a more indulgent full English. After toast and coffee, we were treated to a full tour of the epic site. The castle is full of gems, historic artefacts, paintings and interesting details that illustrate its amazing history. I loved the little chapel, with stunning stained glass windows and a gorgeous little organ. Aside from exploring, it was interesting to learn about the castle’s eventful past, about which our tour guide was impressively informed.

Castles have always been mysterious museums to me, historically important and inspiring buildings for seeing but not touching. At Bickleigh Castle you have the rare and special opportunity to stay in the idyllic grounds only moments away from the epic castle. The perfect location for a wedding or a lovely weekend away.

Visit the Bickleigh Castle website for more information and to book here.