We are delighted to begin the phased reopening of The Institution from July, please follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for updates

Guided tours

Discover this heritage haven and living library in the heart of the city

We are delighted to begin a phased reopening of the Institution from July 2020.

This summer, we will be offering external tours of our historic site as part of the Heritage Outside programme.   Our tour includes areas not previously accessible to the general public and visitors will find out about the fascinating history of our building, parts of which date from the 12th Century.

Tours are available weekly from Wednesday 5th August from 1pm-4pm, tours every half hour.

Those wishing to take a tour may sign up on the day. Due to government guidelines we will need to take contact details for each individual participating.  Meet outside the Institution at 7 Cathedral Close.   If the current tour is busy, we will offer you a later time slot.  The group size will be restricted to five people per guide and we will maintain social distancing throughout the tour.  Tours suitable for all ages.


If you prefer to access our building from home, please try one of our virtual tours:

  • Take a tour of the Institution cottage which has been residence of Librarians and Housekeepers for over 200 years…to take the tour click here.
  • Step back to 2016 and take a virtual tour of our roof restoration in progress…to take the tour click here.
  • Discover the history of our building by reading the walls, to find out more click here.


When normal service resumes:

Free Wednesday Afternoon Tours

The Institution occupies historic premises at the heart of Exeter in Cathedral Close.  Adapted from what was once the townhouse of the Courtenay family, the library is housed in two elegant Georgian rooms which provide space for research and reading, educational activities, cultural events and lectures.

Every Wednesday afternoon we open our doors to the public for free guided tours between 1.00 – 4.00pm.  There’s no need to book, tours normally last around 20 mins, but can be individually tailored to you and your interests.

Our tour guides are a dedicated team of trained volunteers, drawn from our membership.  They are passionate about sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm for the building, it’s history, our collections and the Institution itself.

We are delighted to include a display of items from our historic collection of local newspapers, maps of the region, books and illustrations.

Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund 


“Amazing, fascinating, very entertaining and knowledgeable guide. Thank you!”

“So important that Institutions such as this survive, grow and continue to influence education and society.”

“A lovely find.  Thank you for taking the time to show us around.”

“I received a very welcome admission and was delighted to experience an interesting tour.  I will certainly be interested in membership.”

Group Tours

We are happy to arrange tours for groups at other times, group tours would normally last approx 30 mins and are followed by tea/coffee and cake in our delightful Courtenay Room.  If your group has a particular interest our Library Team will be happy to curate a suitable display, so please do complete this information on the form below.

Group tours must be arranged in advance and we charge £8 per person, with numbers limited to 15 per tour.

Educational groups should look at our Schools and Outreach Programme page for more information.

To arrange a group tour booking, please complete the booking form below or  if you should have any queries please contact us on 01392 274727 or email [email protected]

Guided tour - Group bookings

Venue Hire form and conditions for booking venue hire.
  • Please give your preferred times. Tours are approx 30 mins.
  • Max 15 per tour
  • Please include any specific areas of interest for your group, to enable us to curate a display for you to enjoy.