Exeter

Should you rent a car in ExeterUK>Exeter

Much of this advice assumes you are heading west towards Cornwall.

It is essentially aimed at people flying into Exeter airport. It could equally apply to people taking the train out of London or other parts of the UK.

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  • For the usual reasons of flexibility. Looking west, train services between Exeter and Plymouth are extremely good. However, once you move away from this central artery, public transport options are limited.
  • There are numerous delightful villages in Devon and Cornwal. Travelling around these places by bus is slow and inconvenient.
  • There are two large national parks close to Exeter: Exmoor and Dartmoor. It is much easier to get around these areas with a car.
  • Looking back up towards Bristol, a car is ideal for exploring places like Cheddar Gorge and Wookey Hole.
  • The scenic rail routes in this part of the world are fine if you enjoy the journey as much is getting to the destination, but if you actually want to move at any pace, then you will need to drive. For example, the routes between Plymouth and Gunnislake and between Liskeard and Looe both have manually operated switchbacks which add to the journey time – rail buffs love it, but it slows the journey down.
  • If you are driving as far as Land’s End, you will certainly be better off in a car, as the bus takes the best part of an hour to get here from Penzance.

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  • Devon and Cornwall have some of the most scenic train lines in the UK. The main line between Exeter and Plymouth, which hugs the coast for much of the route is a strong personal favourite — the area around Dawlish Warren is famous for having the waves crashing against the railway line in rough seas.
  • Trains provide easy connections down to the English Riviera of Torbay, or through Plymouth and into Cornwall. Once in Cornwall, a huge selection of scenic branch lines is on offer, and these are a must for anyone, whether rail buff or not.
  • This part of the country has a number of heritage railway lines, with the route down to Kingswear on the Dartmouth Steam Railway being particularly famous.
  • Sometimes there are extra hidden costs of taking a car — for example arriving at the Eden project by bus, by bike or on foot will get you a discount, whereas honeypot tourist villages like Mevagissey charge a small fortune for parking.
  • Devon and Cornwall are natural magnets for cyclists, with a small number of off road cycle paths also being available.
  • The Camel Trail – this is arguably the most scenic cycle route in the UK, and since it follows the route of an oldrailway, it’s almost entirely off road. From Exeter, you can take a train to Bodmin Parkway, followed by a local bus to Bodmin, or other points on the route, where cycle hire facilities are widely available,
  • A number of excellent value travel passes are available from First Great Western, who operate most of the trains in the Devon and Cornwall area, as well as a number of bus services. Tickets usually give and limited travel in Devon and all Cornwall for a fixed period of time, and are valid on all trains and buses, whether operated by First great Western or not. For example a day ranger covering anywhere in Devon costs just £10, whereas a ticket covering 4 days travel (in any 8) in Devon and Cornwall is £40.
  • There are a number of large estuaries in Devon and Cornwall, with ferry services providing a crossing between the two sides. The majority of these ferries are for foot passengers only.
  • The city of Exeter itself has plenty of bus services, and the centre is compact and walkable.
  • The same can also be said of Plymouth, whose 1960s tree-lined Armada Way precinct development is surprisingly pleasant, considering when it was built.
  • Most of the other towns in Devon and Cornwall are relatively small, so they are easy to walk around, although some coastal towns such as Penzance can sprawl for several miles along the seafront.
  • The Scilly Isles are a popular excursion by sea or helicopter from Penzance, or by air from a number of different regional airports in the south-west. Passenger ferry services offer no facility to take cars to the Scilly Isles, nor are there any car rental facilities on the islands.

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As with anywhere, a car can give a lot more flexibility, especially as there are many parts of the South West which are extremely rural. However, many of the most impressive destinations in Cornwall in particular are connected to the central spine of the London to Penzance Great Western Railway, and as so many of these routes are scenic, we think the best way to enjoy this part of the world is to do so by train.

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Author: Carometer

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