Cornwall Weekender: A Muddy Guide to Bude
Bude is the north coast surf town where Cornwall begins and although it’s only just a hop over the Devon border, it has everything that’s good about the Duchy in spades. With its spectacular beaches, great foodie spots, boutique hotels, contemporary rentals and walking, cycling and surfing galore, Bude is a holiday destination on the up.
Last year this often-overlooked town was voted Best UK Coastal Resort in the British Travel Awards and Summerleaze was named Britain’s Best Town Beach by The Times (pipping Newquay’s Fistral Beach to the top spot). So when the chance arose to take a weekend away here in one of Beach Retreats’ stylish self-catering properties, I tapped my network of spies for lots of great local recommendations. These and my own discoveries are listed below and if you have any favourites of your own, please comment on the post and let me know!
Hit the beach at Summerleaze, Widemouth Bay or Crackington Haven
This beautiful stretch of the North Cornish coastline offers up a choice of beaches that all bring something slightly different to the party. Backed with colourful beach huts and popular with surfers, Summerleaze is one of the two town beaches. It has a protective harbor wall and a glorious expanse of sand at low tide, making it perfect for barefoot beach walks. Next-door Widemouth is a long, open bay (3 miles from Bude along the coast path) that’s also great for surfing, dog walking and rock pooling at low tide. A little further down the coast you’ll find the pretty shingle cove of Crackington Haven, which is flanked by tall cliffs — ideal for a spot of dramatic coast path walking (here’s one Muddy did earlier).
Stay at The Old Bakery
An easy walk (with a surf board) from Summerleaze Beach and the canal, shops and restaurants in town, self-catering property The Old Bakery is the perfect base for a stay in Bude. It’s totally possible to park your car in the garage and forget about it all weekend. The stylish and contemporary, beach house interior manages to feel spacious but cosy at the same time, with two outside areas, an amazing sunset window and four comfortable bedrooms. It is a reverse design, with a sociable, open-plan living space upstairs, that includes a really well appointed kitchen as well as dining and soft seating areas that open onto a sun-deck, with a table and chairs for meals alfresco. Other bonuses are the outside shower, to hose down sandy folk and the amazing welcome hamper from Food 4 My Holiday, containing everything you need for a serious Cornish breakfast. Hog’s pudding anyone?
Beach Retreats has several great properties in Bude (and nearby Boscastle). Find one to suit you here
Grab a bite with a view at Life’s a Beach
Not exactly off-the-beaten-track, Life’s A Beach occupies prime position overlooking Summerleaze. Perfect for anyone who’s worked up an appetite in the waves, they serve great beach café fare by day, including a hot sausage and caramelised onion baguette that looked amazing, Cornish mackerel salad and local Launceston burgers, eight ways. Then by night the place becomes a relaxed bistro, with a local seafood menu as well as the odd steak or lamb dish, for dedicated carnivores.
Swim in the Tide Pool
There’s something so romantic about a dip in a tide pool (as opposed to a trip to the local leisure centre) and this is one of my favourites in Cornwall, sitting beneath the cliffs at Summerleaze Beach. Some hardy local souls swim daily in the 91 x 45 metre pool that was built in 1930 to offer free and safe bathing to the people of Bude. It is managed by local charity, Friends of Bude Sea Pool, who happily accept donations to keep this semi-natural swimming spot open to the public. They also run swimming events and water safety sessions for children in the summer.
Enjoy seafood & cocktails at The Beach
My spies tell me great things about this boutique hotel and seafood restaurant that The Times says ‘rivals Rick Stein.’ Head Chef, Joe Simmonds is classically trained (under Sam Moody at Michelin Starred Restaurant, The Priory) and has a passion for whipping up tasty and beautiful dishes that make the most of local Cornish produce. You can play it safe with a steak or fish and chips or try out Joe’s beautiful fish dishes, such as confit fillet of sea trout with salsify chips, samphire and smoked mussel fritters or charred filet of mackerel with beetroot and hazelnut salad. I looked particularly wistfully at the impressive cocktail menu, as we strolled past on our way home from the beach.
Take a trip to Boscastle & Tintagel
Some way between Bude and the tourist honeypots of Port Issac and Padstow, you’ll find the historic castle of Tintagel and the ancient harbour town of Boscastle. You can walk the five miles between the two along the coast path, which is a stunning stretch that takes in rugged cliffs, aquamarine coves, waterfalls and ‘Merlin’s’ cave (keep a look out for Lundy island too). If you only have time to visit one, I’d plump for Boscastle, which is looked after by the National Trust and is slightly less full of dubious Arthurian-themed souvenirs. We took a picnic but there are pasty shops and café’s aplenty in both towns.
Try the New Orleans-inspired cuisine at La Bouche Creole
A top Bude tip from Sharon, my colleague over at Muddy Devon, is La Bouche Creole — the restaurant at Atlantic House Hotel, run by chef Todd Varnedoe, who hails from Baton Rogue, Louisiana. The big-taste food of New Orleans, Creole cuisine is a melting pot of flavours from African, Spanish and French cooking, with signature dishes like jambalaya, gumbo and crab cakes starring on the menu. And it’s got to be a case of ‘in for a penny’ here because there’s no way I could resist Todd’s classic American desserts, Mississippi mud pie, pecan pie or brownies.
Explore the canal & coastline on two wheels
A pretty canal runs through the centre of Bude to the beach, which can be easily explored by bike, whatever your age or ability. There are also plenty of off-road cycle paths that will take you along the coastline or in-land to check out some of the pretty local villages. If you have little people like us, this is a great way to kill half a day and wear them out, especially on days when it’s a bit chilly for the beach. Bude Bike Hire rents out wheels of all kinds – hybrids, tandems, electric bikes, kids’ bikes with stabilisers – you name it, you can ride it! Booking in advance is recommended during the summer months.
Stop for breakfast / coffee & cake at The Weir
A perfect pit-stop for walkers and cyclists, The Weir is easily accessible from the local cycle paths, canal footpath and southwest coast path. This café and bistro near Marhamchurch (3 miles south of Bude) doubles up as a wildlife centre, with interactive computers and displays that will tell you all you need to know about the café’s furry and feathered friends and keep your kids busy, so you can enjoy your coffee in peace (a pleasure that can’t be overestimated). After you’ve had a bite, you’re welcome to roam the woodland and fields of the farm, which stretch all the way to Widemouth Bay.
Relax at Penleaze Salon
This Muddy tried and tested beauty salon is situated in the quiet village of Marhamchurch, a short drive (or cycle) from Bude. It has an amazing reputation, with clients travelling miles for their treatments. The highly qualified staff offers a full menu of everything from Dermalogica facials and painless Lycon waxing to HD eyebrows and chemical peels. The Penleaze team also provides in-room treatments at The Beach for hotel guests.
Sample the Sunday roast at The Coombe Barton Inn
I’m told one of the best spots for a cosy pub roast locally is The Coombe Barton Inn at Crackington Haven (a finalist in last year’s Muddy Stilettos awards no less).There’s great walking around here too, if you feel the need to earn your Sunday feast. This gem-of-a-pub-by-the-sea serves British classics, such as fish and chips and Cornish crab salad as well as a choice of tasty roasts. Look out for occasional themed food nights and live music evenings.
Time your visit for Leopallooza & Gigs at The Wyldes
Described as the UK’s greatest house party in a field, Leopallooza Festival (25 mins from Bude) is the hottest ticket in Cornwall. The line-up for this cult festival focuses on new and breaking bands, with the likes of Bastille, Kodaline, Everything Everything, Jamie Lawson and Izzy Bizu making appearances here in their early days. In addition to the July festival – there are lots more great gigs to catch at The Wyldes this year, including Rag and Bone Man and Chase and Status in May and the Cornwall Comedy Festival in August.