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Crafty visitors gather for the Exeter Craft Festival

Each year in early July Devon's capital city hosts the Exeter Craft Festival on Cathedral Green, with a range of crafts from artworks to tasty preserves.
One of Devon’s top historic attractions is Exeter Cathedral, and a tour of this lovely building can easily be included if you attend the Exeter Craft Festival. Cathedral Green makes a great outdoor event space for hosting this annual Craft Festival, which takes place the third Friday and Saturday in July.

Exeter Craft Festival is held on Cathedral Green

The 600-year old cathedral is located just behind the South Street shops in and is surrounded by a green expanse of grass and trees where stalls are erected to host this local craft event. Edged with black-and-white buildings as old as the cathedral itself, this normally quiet backwater is always a favourite place of mine to sit outdoors at one of the coffee shops, but on this occasion it might be rather crowded and noisy!

White canvas booths are erected around the cathedral to provide shade and/or shelter to the dozens of crafters who turn up to show and sell their handcrafted goods. Wood turning, jewellery making, hand knitted goods, glassware, artwork, floral displays, wooden toys and handmade items were all on display the year I attended this lively event.

It’s a great place to pick up small gifts and household items as well as being an impressive display of crafts kept alive by these talented Devonians. Artisans arrive as early as 6:30am on the Friday morning to set up their displays ready to open promptly to the public at 10am. The Exeter Craft Festival runs until 6pm on the Friday and from 9:30am to 5pm on the Saturday.

Crafts include artworks and handmade jewelry

If you want to buy a watercolour of the area, you can find a good selection of beautiful prints and original artworks at the event. Even if you’re not looking to buy, it is still a wonderful opportunity to browse and appreciate the amazing talents of Westcountry artists and jewelry-makers.

Handmade soap, pottery, bags, hats, decorated eggs, framed photography, candles and candle holders, textiles, lamps, silk scarves and leather goods all make an appearance. There are also larger items on display such as hand crafted wrought ironwork and stoneware pots for the garden. You’re sure to find something to buy as a souvenir of your visit.

Food lovers will enjoy sampling the homemade jams, chutneys and preserves along with locally brewed cider at this medley of stalls. The catering stands are well worth a visit for lunch and snacks. Appetising aromas drift across the grass making you feel hungry long before lunchtime, but there’s never a wrong time to indulge in a hot pasty or pie! For afters, try one of the local Devon ice creams from Rookbeare Farm.

If you are thinking of taking the family to the Exeter Craft Festival, there is plenty of street entertainment to keep youngsters happily amused. Mime artists, unicyclists, face painters, kids entertainers and local musicians add to the festive atmosphere. If the Irish dancers are attending again this year, they are well worth watching. In previous years they provided toe-tapping “Riverdance” style entertainment accompanied by the lively sounds of the accordion and flute.

Exeter Cathedral highlights

While you are visiting the city, do take a look inside the building with its early 13th century carved misericords (folding carved seats in the choir) and the longest vaulted ceiling in England. It has been the site for Christian worship for almost 1,000 years, with Norman foundations supporting the present-day 15th century Gothic building.

Look for the astronomical clock and you will see the door beneath the clock has a hole cut near the base. This was to allow the cathedral cat access to catch the mice and rats that would otherwise have damaged the clock mechanism!

The Exeter Craft Festival is a good excuse to visit this lovely city. Have you ever visited the Cathedral? What was the most memorable feature for you? If you visited for the Craft Festival or other event we’d love to hear your comments.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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