Looking for a festive day out where you can sit back, relax and watch the world go by? Set sail with Stuart Line Cruises this December and treat yourself to a cruise along the oldest shipping canal in Europe before exploring the wonderful Christmas scenes around Exeter. Complete your trip by taking the train back to Exmouth, a short journey that offers splendid river views stretching from countryside to coast.

Sail away

Your journey begins from Exmouth on Thursday 7th December, with a departure time of either 11am or 2pm. From here it's destination Exeter as you join the crew for a relaxing sail up the river and along Exeter Canal. Spot some wildlife, soak up the majestic scenery, watch the locks come to life and pass through the swing bridge as you reach Exeter's historic Quayside. Enjoy the views from the open-top deck, complete with a blanket if it's a bit chilly or reside in the heated saloon on the lower deck. Refreshments are also available on board to treat yourself!

Interesting fact

Exeter canal was the first to be built in Britain since Roman times and the oldest working shipping canal in Europe linking Exeter and Exmouth.

Arriving at Exeter Quay you're treated to one of the most beautiful parts of the city. With its unique architecture and mix of historic and contemporary design, there's lots to explore and it's worth heading to Custom House Visitor Centre, which occupies one of the most historic buildings on the waterfront. There are plenty of antique shops, boutiques and a range of cafes, restaurants and bars for you to enjoy some great food whilst soaking up the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the Quay.

Interesting fact 

By the 17th Century, Exeter was the fourth largest port and city in England.

A short stroll from the Quayside and you're in the heart of Exeter, where you can truly get in the festive mood with a visit to Exeter Cathedral's Christmas Market. Wonderfully atmospheric and set among a labyrinth of winding paths, wander amongst the festive chalets which showcase a wide range of local, regional, national and international suppliers, with plenty to tempt your taste buds too. If this doesn't get you in the festive mood and full of holiday cheer then nothing will.

If you fancy indulging in a little retail therapy, or seeking some inspiration then stroll along to Princesshay. Full of festive atmosphere, you'll be dazzled by thousands of warm twinkly lights, beautifully decorated green wreaths, a stunning new Christmas Tree in Princesshay Square and multiple ‘on the ground’ photo opportunities including Santa’s Sleigh, Angel Wings and huge walk through JOY letters.

All aboard

Catching the train back to Exmouth is quick and simple, with services running regularly throughout the day and into the evening, taking around half an hour from city to sea. Exeter Central station is the most conviently positioned and just a short, flat walk from the city centre, while the mainline of Exeter St David's involves a slightly longer walk downhill if you wanted to stretch your legs. The two stations are linked and offer regular services through the day and into the evening, taking around half an hour to reach Exmouth

Top tip

If you're taking the train from Exeter Central, and want to enjoy the picturesque sea views from your window then take a seat going backwards on the left side. This is because you'll be going to Exeter St David's and then changing lines so after a few minutes going one way, you'll then be perfectly positioned for capturing the best view along the river to Exmouth and facing forwards. If taking the train from Exeter St David's then simply take a seat on the right side.

Full details of times and prices can be found at Great Western Railway.

A boat trip isn't just for Christmas though as Stuart Line Cruises offer a range of trips all year round. From bird watching and coastal cruises to cream tea and band nights, as well as a visit from Santa, there's plenty to choose from and everyone's welcome aboard.


Stuart Line Cruises
Boat Trip
Geology Day Trip

A family owned passenger boat business operating from Exmouth. With sailings along the East & South Devon coastline & River Exe. A large variety of trips available from scenic river cruises to all day excursions. Operating all year round.

Great Western Railway
GWR train on Dawlish line

Great Western Railway operates trains to Devon from over 270 destinations. Direct, high-speed services operate from London Paddington to Exeter St. Davids. While visiting the city, customers can catch local services to Okehampton for Dartmoor National Park, Exmouth for the Jurassic Coast, Barnstaple for Exmoor and the North Devon coast, and Torquay and Paignton for the English Riviera.

Exeter Cathedral Christmas Market
Exeter Christmas Market on Cathedral Green

Exeter Cathedral's popular Christmas Market is back for 2023, from Friday 17 November – Sunday 17 December. Taking place on Exeter's Cathedral Green, the Cathedral Christmas Market is wonderfully atmospheric, set among a labyrinth of winding paths, festooned with fairy lights and laced with the seasonal sights and smells of festive chalets, showcasing a wide range of local, regional, national and international suppliers, offering crafts and gifts, and seasonal food and drink.

Custom House Visitor Centre
Heritage/Visitor Centre
Exeter Custom House (c) Philip Vile Photography

The Custom House Visitor Centre is in the centre of Exeter's historic quayside & occupies one of the most historic buildings on the waterfront.



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