Towns & Villages: Exeter


Population: 450 (2011 census)

Brief History

Exeter is the most "English" of all the villages of the Highlands.

Its leafy streets and lanes, its clipped hedges and grand rows of trees give the impression of an age-old village in the "old country". Yet this picturesque village is just over 100 years old.

The land on which most of Exeter stands was originally part of the Badgery properties, one of the earliest settlers in the Highlands (1820s).

Like most, the village owes its existence to the coming of the railway in the 1860s, when part of the property was subdivided. Little development followed, however, for the next 20 years.

For most of its life Exeter has been a rural centre, with church, school, general store, blacksmith etc. serving surrounding farms.

Apart from a gold mine, which operated in the 1880s, the main industry - and the one which did so much to transform the appearance of the village - was horticultural nurseries.

The famous firms of Yates, and Searles, had extensive seed-raising nurseries on both sides of the railway line from the 1890s. Between them these companies provided the majority of the seed stock used by farmers and gardeners in the cities for many years.

No doubt the influence of their nurseries and gardens inspired others, and local landowners and householders became prolific tree, hedge, and garden planters - preferring the cold climate European trees and plants which grow so well in the mountain climate. Indeed some of the most magnificent gardens of the Highlands are to be found in and about Exeter, some opening occasionally for Open Garden inspections.

Today these hedges and trees give Exeter its special character, and pleasant hours can be spent walking or cycling through its country lanes, or picnicking on its village green.

Halcyon Cottage
Halcyon Cottage (c.1889) - originally the village bakery

Some excellent old buildings add to the streetscapes, most in a good state of preservation or restoration. The village today boasts only a corner store and post office, but good antique shops which attract many visitors - even from interstate.

A visit to Exeter is worthwhile for the traveller passing through, or as an excursion from other parts of the Highlands - especially in spring and autumn.

For further details see our Past and Present pages.

St. Aidans, Exeter
St. Aidans Church (1896)

School of Arts
School of Arts (1906)

What to See and Do
For Visitors.
Exeter's main attractions are its beautiful country lanes and gardens, and some fine old buildings: no cafes, restaurants or hotels.

The best way to enjoy it is to get out of the car and go for a stroll; picnic on the village green, where you may see a game of cricket in summer, or croquet on the nearby croquet court.

Exeter's beauty is largely due to the famous nurseries and seed farms which existed here a century ago - their heritage seen in the mature trees, hedgerows and gardens in many of its residences. Even its railway station is a unique example of railway heritage.

Better still, enjoy Exeter by staying for a day or two - no better way for family and friends to get away and relax. Exeter has a good B&B in an historic cottage and several self contained accommodation cottages.

Explore the churchyard with its unusual church, and inspect some of the interesting old buildings and residences.

There are two antique shops worth a visit, and nearby a cool climate vineyard and winery with cellar door.

For Kids.
Park and playground. Interesting things to find in the antique stores (including old toys). Explore the country lanes (good for cycling.)

If you have some friends with you, play cricket on the village green - chances are you will have it to yourself in the middle of the week!

Last updated 11/9/14