We visit Bude in North Cornwall to discover why it is still a popular visitor destination
PUBLISHED: 17:14 11 August 2010 | UPDATED: 15:40 20 February 2013
In this January issue we visit Bude in North Cornwall discover why it is still a popular visitor destination - even out of season
It's been the destination of choice for visitors to North Cornwall for more than a hundred years. Cornwall Life explores this charming resort
From its humble origins as a small coastal trading harbour, to its metamorphosis into a genteel Victorian seaside resort and its final emergence as a lively tourist destination and surfing centre, North Cornwall's charming resort of Bude has a past governed by the sea.
Wander along any of the town's streets and, when the tides and wind are right, all you'll hear are waves crashing onto the beach - and the beach comes right into town. Park the car, pick up the board, bucket and spade and 100 yards later you're in the water.
Bude first came to note in the early 1700s as a coastal port shipping goods across the Bristol Channel and beyond. As trade grew so did its warehouses, workers' cottages and houses. Even a canal was dug and opened to handle the growing trade. By the late 1800s Bude was connected to the national railway grid and within a few years its reputation as a town offering invigorating cleanliness, spectacular seascapes and a place 'to be seen' attracted many well-to-do holidaymakers.
The boom times continued until the start of the First World War when the steam engine and the expansion of the railway network meant that the port's trade suffered. But all was not lost, as tourism filled the void and to this day the tourist industry remains Bude's main employer.
With a population of around 9,000, Bude is the largest town in this part of Cornwall. Most of the usual shops, banks and professions are found here, with a healthy variety of specialist and novelty shops catering for visitors. Many of the minor streets are lined with terraces of substantial Victorian houses looking out over the foreshore to the sea beyond.
Where to stay
There are plenty of places to stay in and around Bude. If you need help choosing, just take a look at the town's Tourist Information Centre - it was voted the county's best in 2008 - or trawl the many sites on the web. Though most of the accommodation falls into the guest house/B&B category, there are some elegant hotels in the town and several others in the surrounding villages.
If B&B and guest house accommodation are more to your taste, there are scores from which to choose in and round the town centre. Camping and caravanning enthusiasts can also take their pick, with a couple of sites just outside the town.
Because of where it is, it's the sea, sandy beaches and heritage coastline that attract most of Bude's many visitors. Summerleaze and Crooklets, with their huge expanses of golden sand interspersed with mussel-covered outcrops of rock, are the two main beaches and on an incoming tide, the swell builds and the surf comes thundering in. This is a place to play. Whether you seek your fun on a surfboard (yes, some people surf even in January), searching through a rock pool or enjoying a beachside coffee in one of the surrounding cafs, playtime doesn't come much better.
Just a five-minute stroll from the beach is the picturesque Bude Canal with its unique sea lock. Built more than 180 years ago to carry coal, sand and limestone into inland Cornwall and North Devon, it sadly fell into disrepair some 80 years later but with the aid of a 5m lottery grant a 21/2-mile section from Bude to Helebridge will be fully restored by the end of March this year. The remaining 33 miles is now a dedicated nature reserve, ideal for strolling along the towpath to see the many birds that live along its length.
Unlike many resort destinations, Bude, even when busy, never feels overcrowded. Shoppers have space to explore the independent shops lining the high street and the smaller streets leading off it. From surf shops and clothing boutiques to furniture, office machinery, jewellery, hand-made gifts and souvenirs, there's something for everyone's tastes. When you need a rest, there are plenty of restaurants and coffee shops. Bude has two good-size supermarkets, one in the town centre and one on the edge of town.
Things to do
With its outstanding golf links, shoreline walks, choice of beaches, surf schools, tennis and squash courts, leisure pool and sports hall, finding something to do is never a problem in Bude. And if you're not tempted by the more run-of-the-mill activities you can always have a go at horse-riding, rock-climbing, abseiling, karting, fishing, windsurfing, archery or kayaking - all are available locally. Just pop into the Bude Visitor Centre: it's down by the canal car park and they will almost certainly be able to help.
Three things to take home
It may be a bit of a clich but a good Cornish pasty can be manna from heaven. And they don't come much better than those served up at the Pengenna Bakery in the town centre.
What about a memory of a glorious sunset? Wander up to the downs alongside the golf links at sunset to watch the golden orb sink below the horizon.
How about some memories of the South West Coast Path? Passing almost through the centre of town before heading off over the adjacent cliffs, headlands and beaches, this glorious natural asset is the UK's longest continuous footpath and you can walk part of it from here. The views are unforgettable. Visit the website to search for routes (details below).
Though it's at the northern extremity of the county, Bude certainly has a great selection of restaurants, pubs, bistros and cafs. The local restaurants serve locally caught lobster, exquisite fish and seafood, as well as a range of dishes made from the best of Cornish produce. There is a great choice from some top-quality eateries providing diners with a gourmet meal or just a quick snack from one of the coffee shops.
Tourist Information Centre: (01288) 354240, www.visitbude.info
www.bude.co.uk: for the latest on news, events and accommodation
South West Coast Path: (01392) 383560, www.southwestcoastpath.com
RNLI Bude Beaches/Lifeguards (summer only): (01288) 352971
Newquay Airport: (01637) 860600,
22nd Bude Jazz Festival: 29 August - 5 September 2009.