The tourist destination of Bude in North Cornwall offers beautiful beaches, surfing and family-friendly festivals throughout the summer months
With great beaches and lots of events taking place in August, this is a great month to explore the North Cornwall holiday resort of Bude, writes IAN WILKINSON...
Of all North Cornwall's holiday resorts, Bude is different. Full of character, it is a tourist destination that has welcomed visitors since Victorian times. Bude has an easy-going charm and a relaxed ambiance, its facilities are superb and a host of carnivals, fêtes, agricultural shows and music festivals keep both locals and visitors entertained throughout the year.
Get off to a good start
Bude has one of the finest Tourist Information Centres in the South West and it's an ideal place to begin your visit. It is situated at the main entrance to the town, close to the canal, and is served by one of the towns large car parks. The staff are helpful and knowledgeable and there are a number of free leaflets about activities, attractions and walks including an excellent guidebook to Bude and the surrounding area. Mark Hibbard is manager of the TIC and had this to say about his home town. Most people have heard about Bude's wonderful beaches and, of course, they are world class. Incidentally, some years ago a group of Australians started the first surf rescue service on the beach here and that was the beginning of the RNLI's lifeguard service. But there's much more to Bude than superb beaches. We have a famous golf course, a wonderful canal regeneration project that was completed last year, some superb walking on the coastal paths and, of course, the town itself. You won't find many retail chains here most of the shops are independently owned, and there are also some very good restaurants.
Why visit now?
There's more going on in Bude in August than in any other month, so its a great time to visit. The surf season will be in full swing, and if you don't surf, its a great spectator sport. The best beach for surfing is Crooklets, which is on the north side of the town and therefore more exposed to the Atlantic swell than Bude's main beach, Summerleaze. The latter beach is ideal for gentle swimming or just paddling and it also has a part natural, part man-made sea pool that is scoured by each successive tide. There's lots of other entertainment in the summer most notably the Bude Jazz Festival which is one of the largest in the UK, with over 144 jazz events taking place during the last week of August. Other events this month include brass band concerts, canal guided walks, rockpool rambles, an art exhibition, a farmers' market and, last but not least, the Bude Carnival.
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The Heritage Centre in Bude Castle is well worth a visit. Entrance to the exhibition gallery is free and there is also a very nice restaurant where you can enjoy a meal, or just a coffee and cake. A small charge is made to visit the heritage displays, which are beautifully assembled and explain the local history, ecology and geology of the town and surrounding area. Another feature of Bude that you shouldn't miss is the canal, which was originally built in the 19th century to transport sand, coal and limestone to farms in North Cornwall and West Devon. The intention was that it would eventually extend some 90 miles inland to meet up with the Tamar at Calstock but sadly this goal was never achieved, and in the 1930s the 35-mile stretch of canal that had been completed fell into disuse.
Today, the canal has recently been the subject of a 5.5 million regeneration scheme. For a taster there is a short and pleasant walk along the towpath from Budes magnificent sea lock to Marhamchurch. Before starting out its worth visiting the Canal Visitor and Tourist Information Centre for a map of the route and lots of interesting information about the history and future plans for the canal.
There are any number of restaurants in Bude catering for almost any taste including Asian, Chinese, Continental, seafood and traditional English. In addition to the restaurants both of the pubs on the Strand offer good value bar meals.
For a very special meal you could try T. This is the oldest coaching inn in North Cornwall and occupies a truly imposing building overlooking the canal. The hotel restaurant, Tennyson's, serves fine cuisine in some very elegant surroundings. Alternatively, in Castle Bude, offers fine locally sourced food with some absolutely spectacular sea views.
For atotally different type of treat why not book a day's surfing lesson? There are at least five surf schools operating in Bude and all offer expert tuition at a variety of levels, so if you've never caught a wave in your life it really doesn't matter. Lessons cost around £25 per session.
An absolute must-see is Bude Marshes Nature Reserve. This was the first area in Cornwall to be declared a nature reserve and during the past few years all types of species have flourished. The large areas of reed marsh are home to sedge and reed warbler, moorhen, willow warbler, reed bunting and mallard in summer, while winter sees the arrival of migrant birds such as bittern, night heron and garganey duck. The marsh has a variety of habitats supporting a diverse range of plants and animals including bee and marsh orchids, dragonflies and otters. It is accessed from behind the Tourist Information Centre and from the canal towpath.
Enjoy the view
There are some spectacular views in and around Bude, particularly from the South West Coast Path. However, my choice involves minimal effort. It's the Life's a Beach café on Summerleaze Beach a mere stones throw from the towns main car park. Apart from the view of the sea and the cliffs there's always something happening on the beach so it's an ideal spot to enjoy a cup of tea or an ice cream and while away some time. If you're there in the evening, the café transforms itself into a smart bistro, with a growing reputation for seafood. Langoustine and a glass of Chardonnay as the sun goes down what a way to end your day in Bude!