EXETER's sights are richer than those of any other town in Devon, the legacy of an eventful history since its Celtic foundation and the establishment here of the most westerly Roman outpost. After the Roman withdrawal, Exeter was refounded by Alfred the Great and became one of the largest towns in England, profiting from its position on the banks of the River Exe. The expansion of the wool trade sustained the city until the eighteenth century, and Exeter has maintained its status as commercial centre and county town; despite having much of its ancient centre gutted by World War II bombing, enough has survived to justify a lengthy exploration.
Exeter's centre is bounded to the southwest by the River Exe, where the port area is now mostly devoted to leisure activities, particularly around the old Quayside. Pubs, shops and cafés share the space with handsomely restored nineteenth-century warehouses and the smart Custom House, built in 1681, its opulence reflecting the former importance of the cloth trade. The area comes into its own at night, but is worth a wander at any time.