A Student’s Guide: Six things you should do as a student at Exeter University

Catherine at the beach in Exmouth

Catherine at the beach in Exmouth - Credit: Archant

Catherine Bird, who has returned to Exeter University for her second year, suggests six ways students can make the most of living in the Devon city

Exeter Quay

Exeter Quay - Credit: Archant

As another academic year starts at Exeter thousands of new students are arriving in the city to begin what might just be the best three years of their life.

Whilst it’s hardly in the same league as other university towns in terms of size - those of you who applied to the likes of Manchester or the London universities might find the city quaint by comparison - that will in no way hinder your enjoyment during your time here. In fact, you can’t beat it, which is what makes Exeter ‘probably the best university in the world’!

What stands out for me about Exeter as a student town is that it’s quirky. Even Timepiece, our largest club, hugely popular with all the students here, boasts a rustic pub and seating area underneath the dance floor, complete with fairy lights and its very own food van.

But places like Timepiece and other staple student venues will be thrust upon you in Fresher’s week whether you like it or not, so I am going to try and draw your attention to a few places that I think are essential to the life of any student at Exeter University that you might not already know about.

A BBQ on the beach in Exmouth makes for the perfect evening

A BBQ on the beach in Exmouth makes for the perfect evening - Credit: Archant

Exeter Quay

Picturesque boutiques and riverside walks make this particular area of the city so peaceful. A sunny afternoon down by the water is perfect for clearing away essay stress and there’s a beautiful cafe called The Coffee Cellar at the far end that you must go to - but watch out for the seagulls if you sit outside!

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The Old Firehouse

For rainy evenings a few cosy drinks at the Old Firehouse is definitely the answer. With hand baked rustic pizzas the size of the table (good for sharing, which makes them perfect for a date as well) and every flavour of cider under the sun from toffee to raspberry, this pub is hugely popular with both students and locals. It’s like Exeter’s little secret, tucked away on New North Road, so make sure you find it before the others do. Having said that, it’s always packed, and the abundance of fairy lights, lanterns, ivy and live music create a buzzing atmosphere. In fact, it is said that it is where Exeter alumni JK Rowling got her inspiration for the Leaky Cauldron in Harry Potter - and it’s just as magical. Visit their website here.

Great Western beach in Newquay before a January surf

Great Western beach in Newquay before a January surf - Credit: Archant

Exmouth and Dawlish beaches

If you have a student rail card a £2.70 return ticket to Exmouth on the train is going to be very convenient for weekend days or evenings spent at the beach, and will hardly damage your student loan. One of the best things about Exeter is that we are so close to some of Devon’s most beautiful coastline, so make the most of it! Take a few drinks and a disposable BBQ. The boys will bring a rugby ball without fail, and you’re sorted. And it’s pretty much unique to Exeter (well, the sea is warmer here than at the beaches up north anyway).


Talking of the Devon coastline, if you are lucky enough to have a car with you or know someone that does, spend a day catching some waves at some of the best surfing beaches in the UK. The choice is yours, head down to Cornwall for beaches like Fistral at Newquay and Polzeath, or head up to the north Devon coast for the likes of Croyde and Woolacombe, with Bude in between. I was more or less a beginner when I came to uni and I definitely caught the bug - you can’t beat the feeling of catching your first wave! And you don’t need to own a board or a wetsuit, you can hire them there. You can go all year round as well, although most beaches are only lifeguarded in the summer months, and be prepared for the ice cold breakers during the winter - a very bracing experience to say the least!

Ponies on Dartmoor

Ponies on Dartmoor - Credit: Archant


Not only are we blessed with beautiful coastline but with beautiful countryside as well. This is another one for car users, although it is possible to get there by bus as well. Take a picnic and make a day trip out of it, with some stunning scenery and of course the famous Dartmoor ponies. After your exams finish at the end of the year you will often have a few summer weeks before the end of term without lectures, which is the perfect opportunity to get out of the city. Visit the Dartmoor National Park website here.

Ottery St Mary Tar Barrels

If you’re living and working in the South West, you have to experience a bit of Devon tradition. Even if you only do it once, head to the town of Ottery St Mary on bonfire night (the university often provides shuttle buses), and watch the town come alive as men charge through crowded streets carrying flaming barrels of tar on their backs. Terrifying, I know! But very authentic and exciting, with stalls and hog roasts and even a mini fairground, I have never experienced anything quite like it! Visit their website here.

Tar barrels at Ottery St Mary on Bonfire Night

Tar barrels at Ottery St Mary on Bonfire Night - Credit: Archant

So there you have it, six opportunities you can’t miss as a student in this fantastic part of the world, and be able to truly say you belonged to Exeter. Make the most of it.

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