The resort town of Bude is situated in the top right corner of Cornwall, right next to the Devon border. It is quite a remote spot and sits on its own stretch of wild and rugged coast backed by miles and miles of countryside. For this reason it is largely self-contained, yet has not become too big, or too commercial. Bude is quite compact and it doesn't take long to escape the crowds and find somewhere special to yourself.
Bude grew as a resort town in Victorian times - mainly due to the arrival of the branch railway. In the past Bude transported sand from the beach via its canal to the local area. The breakwater was constructed to provide shelter to the ships entering the lock gates from the sometimes cruel sea.
Nowadays Bude has a wide range of shops, cafes, pub and restaurants but still keeps its laid-back charm. You will not find too many high street names which only adds to its appeal. Situated on the South West Coastal path there is no shortage of walks offering spectacular viewpoints of the coast and town. The beaches offer swimming, surfing, kayaking, climbing, beach-combing and much more. Families can relax in the safety of the Bude Sea Pool
However, what really makes it special is the setting with the Atlantic coast to one side and rolling countryside the other, making this a great base for exploring the far North of Cornwall.
BUDE CASTLE HERITAGE CENTRE
Set between the River Neet and Bude Canal, overlooking Summerleaze beach is the Victorian castellated mansion known as Bude Castle. Sometimes referred to as the "castle built on sand" this was once the home of eminent inventor Sir Goldsworthy Gurney.
Regarded as Cornwall's "Forgotten Genius" Gurney was responsible for a number of inventions. One was an early steam-driven carriage, the mechanism from which went on to power George Stephenson's hugely famous "Rocket" locomotive. However, perhaps his most successful inventions were both concerned with lighting; Gurney created limelight, the lighting used in Victorian theatres, and Bude light, an intensely bright oil lamp which used oxygen. The latter was used in the Houses of Parliament for many years.
Today the inventor's beachside mansion has become a museum. There is a large exhibition dedicated to Gurney and his inventions, while the rest of the contains the diverse collections from the former Bude Stratton museum. These cover topics from prehistoric times and the unique local geology to shipwrecks and the English Civil War. There is also an interesting exhibition on Bude's history as a holiday resort - its rise and fall and rise.
With free entry to this intriguing mansion and museum, the Heritage Centre should be more than just a rainy day option.
We couldn't talk about Bude without mentioning the beaches. Whether you are looking for the best surfing beach or a secluded spot to relax, rock pools or sand for sandcastles, Bude has it all! Summerleaze and Crooklets are the main town beaches, these have all the facilities with ample parking and places to eat and drink. Widemouth is great for surfing, Sandymouth, Northcott and Duckpool are National Trust beaches with limited facilities but beautiful and rugged with plenty of sand when the tide is out. We are very passionate about our beaches, just tell us what you are looking for and we will point you in the right direction. Trevalgas Farm is within minutes from all of these, try one in the morning, pop back for lunch and another in the afternoon...and possibly yet another to have a bbq and watch the sunset!!
These days the Bude Canal forms a picturesque backdrop to Summerleaze beach. The section towards the breakwater is one of the prettiest parts of Bude, with cottages to one side of the canal, the beach to the other along with what passes for the town's harbour.
The canal was built in 1823 primarily to carry lime-rich sand from the beaches over 30 miles inland to be used on the poor, acidic farmland around Launceston and Holsworthy. Given that this is Cornwall the canal was something of an engineering feat as it had to climb 430 feet within the first 6 miles. This was achieved by a building a series of innovative locks known as inclined planes where wheeled "tub boats" were hauled up the slopes by chain.
Tucked in behind the breakwater is the opening of the canal at the Bude Sea Lock. This single lock with its massive oak gates allowed vessels of up to 300 tons to enter the canal basin. Despite being damaged by storms several times over the centuries the gates are still fully operational and are an impressive sight.
Whilst the canal ceased operation in the 1890s, replaced by the railway, it has had a second lease of life. Large sections of the Bude Canal are now open to walkers and the first couple of miles can easily be traversed by boat, canoe or kayak. In addition there are various inland trails from which it is still possible to gain a first-hand impression of this unique waterway.
BUDE SEA POOL
Located right on Bude's main Summerleaze beach is the 1930s sea pool. Given that all of the area's beaches face into the full might of the Atlantic Ocean and the currents can be strong this provides the perfect, safe environment for getting in the sea.
Part natural and part man-made the Bude Sea Pool is impressively large, measuring nearly 300 feet (90 metres) in length. That's longer than an Olympic swimming pool, so this tidal lido is big enough for even the most serious of swimmers. There are plenty of shallow parts of the pool and there is a seasonal lifeguard to keep even the youngest of bathers safe.
The pool was originally built with donations from a wealthy local family. These days it is as popular as ever although it has to rely on funding and volunteers from the Friends of Bude Sea Pool charity.
What a lot of people don't know is there is another open air pool tucked away by the breakwater on the other side of Summerleaze. Tommy's Pit is a smaller pool which dates back to the 1850s when it was a men-only bathing pool.
SOUTH WEST COAST PATH
The section of the Southwest Coast Path around Bude takes in some of the most dramatic and remote scenery of the entire Cornish leg. Characterised by high cliffs, plunging valleys and long sandy beaches this is demanding terrain, but well worth the effort. A good few of the highlights of the Bude coast are covered in this article, but plenty more can only be found by hitting the coastal trails.
The coast on the border with Devon is particularly rugged and was once home to smugglers and wreckers. It was also the haunt of the eccentric vicar of Morwenstow, Reverend Robert Hawker and you can see his little wooden hut built into the cliffs. This is where he is reputed to have spent much of his time writing poems and smoking opium.
South of Bude the coast path continues its ups and downs as it heads towards Boscastle. It is testimony to how rugged the North Cornwall coast is that Boscastle was ever considered as a harbour, the idea of sailing a boat in here with anything but the calmest seas is frankly terrifying. But before you reach Boscastle there is a good bit of climbing to be done; the V-shaped valleys of Millook and Crackington Haven will lead you to the highest point on the Cornish section of the coast path, the imaginatively named High Cliff. Standing at 723 feet the clifftop views over the Strangles beach are quite stunning.
The 'go to' place for deciding where to visit in the area has to be the Tourist Office in Bude, either in person to collect leaflets and maps or visit them online: https://www.visitbude.info/places-to-visit/.
Here are just a few ideas:
Travel North of Bude to visit Covelly, a picturesque fishing village, walk a section of the Tarka Line from Bideford to Barnstaple, Hartland Abbey and maybe a cream tea at Docton Mill. Inland to the Tamar Lakes for windsurfing or across to Launceston, the old capital of Cornwall with its castle ruins. Or maybe head south to Port Isaac, the home of "Doc Martin", wander around Boscastle, (don't forget to call in at the Boscastle Farm Shop for a quick bite to eat - the puddings are to die for!) or cross the bridge at Tintagel, the sculpture at the top is amazing!
Further afield, if you are making a day of it, you have The Eden Project, the Lost Gardens of Helligan, Padstow, the Camel Trail, to name but a few. We suggest, if you are thinking of visiting Padstow in the summer, it's worth considering parking at Rock and taking the boat across the estuary to Padstow - parking in Padstow can be a nightmare!
What about special interests, eg surfing, paddle boarding, walking, cycling, fishing, golfing or maybe art or photography or even the best places to eat out?