Devon Life visits the revitalised West Side of Exeter Quay

PUBLISHED: 13:52 13 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:43 20 February 2013

Devon Life visits the revitalised West Side of Exeter Quay

Devon Life visits the revitalised West Side of Exeter Quay

If you haven't visited Exeter's Quay recently, you might be pleasantly surprised by the revitalised west side of the river. Julia Hulland explores...

West Side Story

If you havent visited Exeters Quay recently, you might be pleasantly surprised by the revitalised west side of the river. Julia Hulland explores...

Exeters Quay has long been known as one of the must-see places in the city, with the historic Custom House, pubs and eateries, and a fine selection of craft shops under the arches of the former bonded warehouses. On sunny summer days, the area is filled with people walking, cycling and enjoying the al fresco dining opportunities on offer.

What you may not know is that on the west bank of the river Exe near the Piazza Terracina a wealth of new attractions have recently sprung up which are already proving to be a big draw for residents and visitors alike.

Ideal for a day out with a difference, here are the highlights

From the Quay you can cross the river in novel fashion for a 30p fee on Butts Ferry, which is the oldest hand-pulled ferry in the country. Or you can take a short walk or cycle ride across Cricklepit Bridge and in a matter of minutes you will reach the Quay Climbing Centre.

The centre, which opened in September last year, has sparked new life into the formerly derelict electricity generation station in Haven Road. This beautiful Victorian building has been transformed into a state-of-the-art indoor climbing venue.

Suitable for climbers of all abilities and ages, there are walls ranging from 7m to 14m in height, along with an abseil tower and two bouldering caves. For those new to climbing, family taster sessions are held throughout the week during school holidays. And for adventurous children aged seven and up, the centre offers birthday parties with a difference.

If scaling the heights has given you an appetite, then lunch is literally just a step away. Right next door to the climbing centre is new delicatessen Marmalade, which offers a selection of speciality treats from the best producers, here and abroad. Its the perfect place to grab a fresh coffee and a mouth-watering panini or baguette (pastrami, gherkin and mustard mayo is a favourite). Or you can stock up on some indulgent cheese, chutney and crackers for when you get home. When the weather is fine, you can take your gourmet lunch and find a nice spot by the waters edge to enjoy it.

If messing about on the river is more your thing, then just opposite the climbing centre is the relocated AS Watersports shop, which was voted kayak retailer of the year 2011 (by Canoe & Kayak magazine). Situated on the canal basin and selling myriad canoes, kayaks and accessories, the team will happily give advice on the right boat for you.

Or if you want to try before you buy, you can while away the afternoon on the canal by hiring a canoe from Saddles & Paddles at the Quay. If you prefer dry land, then take advantage of the flat, traffic-free cycle paths and explore the Riverside Valley Park by bike.

The canal basin is a hive of waterborne activity and this is set to increase when the expanded Haven Banks Activity Centre, which is currently being built, opens in May next year. Funded by Devon County Council and managed by Exeter College, the centre will provide a contemporary hub for outdoor adventure activities for young people and adults from Exeter and across the region.

During your post-lunch canoe or cycle trip, you may well spot the ideal place for some well-earned afternoon tea. Around 400m down the road from the climbing centre, where the ship canal meets the Exe, is the Welcome Cafe. This delightful transformation of the old Welcome Inn pub opened just after Easter and has become very popular by word of mouth alone.

The new place still retains its historic charm with sensitive but stylish decor and is backed up by great food and a friendly, family welcome from owners Roger and Miranda Olver, and their daughters Simone and Coralie. Along with a wide selection of savoury lunches, you will find a large array of fabulous cakes and desserts all made on site, as well as the classic Devonshire cream tea.

So the next time youre enjoying the delights of Exeter, take a walk on the west side of the river and see a forgotten side of the city.

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