With its pastel-painted beach huts, watersports and walking, as well as two sandy beaches with entry-level surfing and a wealth of other surf spots nearby, it’s no surprise that Bude is a favoured holiday destination. It’s a Victorian resort town, and it looks it – the architecture is more comforting than medieval, and there are a wealth of attractive town houses and a generally welcoming atmosphere.
How To Get There
Bude is on (off) the A39, known as the Atlantic Highway. This scenic and spectacular trunk road (the UK’s route 66, perhaps) winds down the north coast of Devon from Barnstaple. It’s the coastal road option from the motorways (M4/M5) to the tip of Cornwall, and Bude is one of the first places it encounters in the Duchy.
Trains run to Exeter St David’s Station, which is on the main line from London Paddington to Penzance. From there you change to a Stagecoach coach for the enjoyable final approach to Bude. There are direct bus services to and from many local towns including Wadebridge, Tintagel, Newquay, Padstow, Holsworthy, Bideford, Barnstaple and many in between. A National Express coach also runs from Exeter via Okehampton.
History and Other Old Stuff
The Cornish name for Bude is Porthbud, presumably derived from its former name of Bude Haven. In the Middle Ages, the sole dwelling here was Efford Manor with its chapel of St Leonard. The main conurbation in the area was the nearby town of Stratton. Hence the saying:
“Stratton was a market town when Bude was just a furzy down”, which means that Stratton was long established when Bude was just fuzzy moorland (gorse-covered).
Bude Canal was built primarily to transport agricultural sand which was used for the fields further inland. It now provides an excellent sheltered inland boating area which supplements the activities at Summerleaze Beach.
In the 18th-century, the breakwater was built next to Summerleaze beach to protect the harbour from the worst excesses of the Atlantic Ocean’s winter storms, and to help boats navigate the entrance to the channel. You can stroll over to the original watchtower, at Compass Point (known locally as the ‘Pepper Pot’) to look back at Bude from beyond the surf.
Bude Castle, which was designed by the 19th-century inventor Sir Godsworthy Gurney, is now used as the local council offices. It’s believed to have been the first building in Britain built on sand using a concrete raft.
Like the rest of Cornwall, Bude experiences a maritime climate warmed by the Gulf Stream. Which ensures pleasant summers and mild winters, generally speaking. Temperature extremes measured by the Met Office weather station at Bude range from −11.1C (12.0°F) in February 1969 to 32.2C (90.0°F) in June 1976. The Met Office also report Bude as having been the sunniest place in the UK during the summer of 2013, with a whopping 783 hours of sun. For more detailed information about the climate we enjoy here in Cornwall, why not visit our comprehensive weather info page by clicking this link?
A holiday by the sea wouldn’t be at all complete without doing a spot of surfing, or at least some surf-watching. Bude is one of the county’s favoured surfing destinations. The town is fortunate to have several beaches for differing conditions, and other top surf spots nearby. So one need never travel far to catch the perfect wave. Summerleaze is the main beach and often has surfable waves. At low tide Crooklets beach from Summerleaze to Northcott Mouth with rideable waves all the way along its length. Northcott is three miles (5km) north of Bude and has multiple peaks. Widemouth and Black Rock are about the same distance to the south.
Bude has a proper nightclub, the Bude’s End Destination or BED, a relatively modern and vibrant club with live music and DJ’s from all over the UK. There are also a lot of pubs with varying vibes depending on the time of year.
The three restaurants that have been voted the finest in Bude by visitors are Life’s a Beach (best for crab and scallops), Bay View Inn for the best of pub food, and the Olive Tree for breakfast, lunch or dinner or just coffee. There’s also the Tandoori Indian restaurant serving authentic Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine, and many more cafés and restaurants to suit almost every kind of taste.
Bude Carnival dates from 1920 and is now held on the third Saturday in August each year. Events include a charity fête and a procession with floats and fancy dress. This all starts at about 2pm at the Castle Grounds, with the procession taking place in the early evening. Every year has a different theme for the costumes and floats.
BAAMFest, usually held in June, is three evenings of live music and comedy, art, entertainment, workshops, craft, food and even more music – all in the grounds of The Castle. Bude & Stratton Folk Festival is held on the weekend of the second May Bank Holiday, a fun-filled four days of music, song, stories and dance by the sea. Then we have Bude Jazz Carnival at the end of August which is a celebration of trad-jazz and New Orleans style with something for the modernists too.
Bude For Food is a food festival, usually held in mid-September, celebrating the abundance of locally sourced produce that Bude and its surrounding area can provide.
Special Things to Do and Visit
One of the unusual attractions at Bude is the sea-water swimming pool beneath Summerleaze Downs which provides a safe haven for swimmers even at low tide. Bude’s sea pool is approximately 290′ (88m) long by 140′ (42m) wide and has a walkway all around the edge.
There’s a semi-routed walk know as the Bude Walk taking the visitor on a circular journey from the car park of the Tourist Information Centre around the downs and cliff-tops. For the more adventurous, the South West Coast Path passes through Bude. West to Crackington Haven is a strenuous ten-miler (16km) and the fifteen miles (25km) up the coast to Hartland Quay is described by the SWCP website as “severe”! The Bude Aquaduct Trail is an interesting but relatively easy five hour long walk of about ten miles (16km), which starts and finishes at Tamar Lakes (see below).
The relatively modern (19th century) Bude Castle boasts an art gallery, heritage centre and historic document archives. There is also a gift and book shop and a café/restaurant. The castle can also be hired as a wedding venue! Why not say “I do” at The Castle, Bude?
The Heritage Centre is a museum of the making of Cornwall’s geography, the sea and the canal and its wharf. It also covers shipwrecks and seafaring, and other interests from local crafts to lifesaving. A good place to begin before going out to explore the area. Free entry, too!
The Castle Green is a lovely expanse of grass dotted with exotic trees of the kind that rarely grow outside of Cornwall. There are a number of seats in the castle gardens for public use and unusually, the castle welcomes picnickers with open, well, lawns anyway. It is also possible to hire games from the Castle Shop which can be played on the grass.
Bude & North Cornwall Golf Club, almost in the centre of Bude the town and close to the sea, is a challenging eighteen hole links course established in 1891. Thanks to their superb greenkeepers and clever drainage systems, the course remains playable through the year – they really pay a lot of attention to keeping the course in great condition.
Travel in style on a horse-drawn carriage, along the castle drive and across the historic bridge over the canal. Carriage Hire Cornwall is excellent value for all the family. For those who prefer to be in the saddle, there are two riding stables nearby: Broomhill Manor and Gooseham Barton.
An escape for the petrolheads in the party, St Eval Circuit an hour away has the UK’s largest children’s karting circuit and the south-west’s biggest and fastest track. Keypitts Off-road Adventure offers quad-driving for everyone from six years upwards and a good excuse to get muddy.
Bude’s Rebel Cinema is a modern but traditional style independent movie theatre. It has the latest in high-tech equipment, including 3D, and screens all the current film releases.
Budehaven Recreation Ground has a mixture of outdoor and indoor activities. Play racquet sports like tennis or squash, table tennis, racketball get your club on for crazy golf and putting, or try your hand at bowls! All the activities are at surprisingly affordable prices, too.
Budehaven Leisure Centre has tennis courts, badminton, trampolines and gymnastics as well as holiday programmes that include sports like football, tennis, athletics and racket sports, but also climbing, dance, and art and crafts.
Bude’s Splash Leisure Pool is an indoor swimming alternative, with a 33m lanes pool as well as a wave machine and a monster flume. It also has a fitness suite/gym which can be used without membership on a per visit basis.
Harlequinn’s Leisure offers indoor entertainment, with ten-pin bowling, food and drink and six floors of fun including soft play, slides and ball pits. Ideal for a rainy day with the kids and open seven days a week.
Tamar Lakes Country Park
The Tamar Lakes Country Park Outdoor Activity Centre is six miles (10km) from Bude and has something for everyone to enjoy, even the dog! A wide range of activities on this inland water includes windsurfing, sailing, kayaking and canoeing or pedalos. There’s a tea-room, and anglers can also enjoy one of the lakes after purchasing a permit on site.
Crooklets is good for all types of surfers and popular for kayaking and rock climbing too. Summerleaze is the classic family holiday beach but also enjoys some surf, plus the river and canal and the sea pool.
Heading up the coast there are a number of trystish, secluded coves until Northcott Mouth, with surf and rockpools (but no toilets at the beach) and the slightly Jurassic stony Duckpool, which can be surfed too. Down the coast are more coves and then the twin surfing beaches of Widemouth and Black Rock, with cafés and the like.
At Summerleaze dogs are welcome all year round, but they must be kept on their leads between 21st May and 30th September from 10 am – 6 pm. Crooklets sticks to the easier to remember standard high season ban – no dogs from Easter to 1st October. At Northcott Mouth three miles away, dogs are welcome at all times. Widemouth, three miles south of Bude, has the standard summer dog ban but the Black Rock beach part (the southern half) has no restrictions all year.
Summerleaze, Crooklets, Widemouth and Northcott Mouth are all very suitable for children, with easy access, nearby facilities and lovely soft sand.
We have self-catering holiday cottages in Bude and the surrounding area:
Self-catering holidays in Cornwall have never been as good as they are now. Check out our online Cornwall Guide to discover more about what’s on, places to eat, places to visit and things to do in the town and in the rest of North Cornwall, all from your cottage in Bude.