Going underground in Exeter’s unique Passages

Down beneath the streets of Exeter lies a quirky and unique visitor attraction that is up and running again after being closed for more than two years.

Exeter’s Underground Passages is once again showing visitors beneath the surface. The Passages reopened this week (9 June) and are featured in a video from Greatest Hits Radio.

The Passages closed in 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, following government guidance.

Cllr Laura Wright, Lead Councillor for Culture, said: “We are delighted to be welcoming people back to the Passages. It’s been a long time, so I am sure there will be people who are very keen to get down there.

“The Underground Passages are one of Exeter’s most iconic attractions, there are very few places in Britain and even the world that have such a quirky underground place to explore and that is embedded in Exeter’s rich cultural history.”

The medieval passages have always fascinated local people. There are stories of wars and sieges, plague and pestilence.

They were designed to bring clean drinking water from natural springs outside the walled city. The water came through lead pipes into the heart of the city. The pipes sometimes leaked and repairs to buried pipes could only be carried out by digging them up as they are today. To avoid this disruption the passages were vaulted. It is through some of these vaulted passageways that visitors are guided.

Exeter is the only city in the UK to have underground passages of this type. Guided tours have taken place here since the 1930s. Today the passages are lit throughout, but still fascinate for all who enter.

Before taking a guided tour underground, visitors pass through an exciting interpretation centre. This is packed full of interactive displays, including:

  • a talking figure of a medieval man
  • a high-speed video fly-through of the Passages
  • a full size model of a section of the Passages
  • artefacts from the Princesshay archaeological dig

A visit to Exeter’s Underground Passages includes:

  • a 10 minute film presentation
  • a 25 minute tour underground
  • an opportunity to explore the exhibition.

The Passages are open Thursday to Sunday, 11am to 4pm. The first tour is at 11.30am and the last tour at 3.00pm. Prices: Adult £7.50; Children £5; Concessions £6.00; Family (two adults and up to three children) £22.00.

Under 5s are not permitted on tours of Exeter’s Underground Passages. Free access to the exhibition is permitted with an accompanying adult. Wheelchair and pushchair access is restricted to the exhibition only.

Visitors should be aware that the Passages are constricted and low in places. They are not suitable for those who suffer from claustrophobia. Sensible footwear is recommended.

To find out more and to book tickets visit the Underground Passages on the City Council website at  https://exeter.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/our-attractions/underground-passages/opening-times-and-entry-fees/

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