Looking for a historic city break with easy access to lovely beaches, then hear for Exeter in Devon. The Roman city, Isca, is now Exeter, the county capital, built high above the encircling River Exe. Despite heavy WW2 blitz bombings in 1942, there are so many intact evocative areas to grab a visitor's imagination.The city offers an excellent choice of self catering accommodation from luxury apartments to town houses and holiday cottages overlooking the old Quay, now a mecca for bars, bistros, shops and leisurely riverside strolls. Walk along the Roman Wall in Rougemont and Northernhay Gardens near the remains of William the Conqueror's Castle, visit the 14th Century Guildhall, the oldest in the country, and the Cathedral Green, where the magnificent 14th century cathedral dominates its surroundings of half-timbered buildings - look out for Mol's Coffee House especially. The West Front displays the largest collection of 14th century sculpture in England, and inside, you will find another glory, this time the longest unbroken Gothic roof rib-vaulting span in the world. The quaint and unusual are worth searching for - the 15th century astronomical Exeter Clock, still striking on the hour, the carved angels playing medieval musical instruments in the minstrels' gallery, a sculptured lady with two left feet, and the cat, the mouse and a Rugby player in the little St.James chapel replaces the original destroyed in the blitz.
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Another medieval building nearby is the 12th century St.Nicholas Priory; it displays the Elizabethan life-style and beautiful plaster ceilings and oak-panelling. Exeter is not all medieval history. Find the Bill Douglas Centre in the Prince of Wales Road, containing film memorabilia from magic lanterns to Star Wars.
The Quay offers exercise facilities for walkers, cyclists and kayakers along the river and the canal. And under the city, check out the (again)oldest system of 14/15th century underground passages still open in the whole country. Originally made to carry fresh water into the city, there are also tales of ghosts, epidemics and mayhem to be told on a guided tour. Hire a bike to cycle along the towpath, stopping off at the Double Locks pub for refreshments. At Starcross, take the ferry across to Exmouth with its lovely sandy beach close to your holiday cottage.
Tale time out to visit the fabled Devon coastline at Torquay, and at Babbacombe, where the kids will be intrigued by the 1920's funicular railway shuttling up and down the red cliffs; the extensive Zoo at Paignton, where the inhabitants are displayed in their appropriate habitats rather than in cages. Other seaside resorts within easy day or half-day trips from Exeter include the regency town of Sidmouth, Dawlish Warren (for shell collecting and childrens amusements) and the genteel town of Budleigh Salterton.