Bude Holiday Guide & Visitor Info

Bude Holiday Guide

Categories: North Cornwall guide

Bude Holiday Guide


Why choose Bude?

People love to visit Bude time and again. Why? What is the magnetism of this compact seaside town in north east Cornwall? Bude is a more than just a place, it has a community feel that is easy to fall in love with, benefiting from beautiful beaches, with a chilled energy but also a safe, family vibe, a town for all age groups to enjoy.

How to get there

This bewitching border beach resort sits just off the A39 Atlantic Highway, between Bideford in Devon and Camelford in Cornwall. The easiest way to reach it is by car.

It is only 21 miles from the main A30 via the B3254, or you can reach it by leaving the M5 at Junction 31 Exeter, thereby skirting the north side of the dramatic landscape of Dartmoor as you head towards the A30.

Alternatively, take the M5 to Junction 27 at Tiverton and follow the North Devon Link Road (A361) thereby avoiding Exeter. This way, you arrive via the Atlantic Highway, a special stretch of A39 from Barnstaple to Newquay which creases and folds as it broadly follows the shape of the coastline. Somehow, it feels more romantic than larger roads (but is also slower with plenty of bends between the Bideford and Clovelly section).

Bude does not have a rail link (the station closed in 1966) but buses are available from Exeter St David’s railway station to Bude town centre. Some say its isolated geography is what makes it so beautiful, and there may be some truth in that.

Where to park in Bude

Beautiful Bude is generally fairly easy for parking but in high summer the beach car parks can become crowded. Outside high season, free town centre street parking is often available, but it is time-limited to 1-2 hours depending on location.

Cornwall Council has car parks at The Crescent (by the sea canal, with 190 spaces), Summerleaze (beach, 450 spaces), Crooklets (beach), The Wharf (canalside) and Widemouth (beach). There is extra parking on the grass at Crooklets in summer with a total of 320 spaces. All car parks have disabled parking spaces, and the Crescent car park by the Tourist Information Centre, also has an electric charge point.

Parking prices range from 70p an hour to £6.70 per day during summer (at the time of writing) with cheaper all-day parking in winter. A weekly parking pass costs £46.91 in the summer.

The Wharf car park is tucked away (so often a good bet) near the library with 64 spaces, while further along the coast, Widemouth Bay has 560 spaces. There are some free car parks in outlying villages, and the National Trust operates at Sandymouth and Northcott beaches, with attendants at Sandymouth but an honesty box at Northcott.

Meanwhile, the Town Council operates the car park to the rear of the Parkhouse Centre (handy for the Castle Heritage Centre), and parking bays along Neetside by the river. The cost is 80p per hour but this can work out cheaper than some others if you plan to stay for a few hours.

Burn View private car park by the Golf Club is easy to find (on a one-way street) and usually has spaces. It is very handy for going in to town. The spaces are quite large, so useful if you have a large 4 x 4, a people carrier or a van load of surfboards. It costs 50p for the first hour, £1 for 2 hours, so ideal for people eating out or shopping in Bude.

On – street parking is mainly limited to an hour except on Burn View where 2 hours are available. If shopping there, you can park at Sainsbury’s, at the top of Belle Vue, for 1.5 hours.

Best places to eat in Bude

Our Foodie Hotspots section takes you to some special places in Bude, beloved by the locals. Highlights include The Deck, a family-run venue which definitely needs advance booking (though a walk-in may occasionally be possible) for those coming fresh from the beach seeking cool cuisine. Providing good, friendly service, this place is popular with all age groups. Their signature dish is Hanging Skewers in all varieties from meat feasts to vegetables and halloumi, chargrilled to perfection, then brushed with dripping flavoured butters like sweet chilli, garlic, lemon, or paprika and sunblush tomatoes, to get those tastebuds buzzing.

Meanwhile, the understated Temple, tucked away on Granville Terrace, alongside the road to the Summerleaze car park, is an essential experience for food lovers. Small but celebrating all the good things in life, from great coffee to flavoursome fresh local produce, the daytime menus are creative, while the evening menu changes with the seasons.  Sharing is encouraged, so try wildly tasty options like chickpea fries, skillet-fried hake in garlic butter, crushed potatoes, chunky roasted veg, and smoked mackerel with kohlrabi pickle. Be sure to check out their newly opened terrace, too.

For a snack and a drink, where better than to sit on a wide-beamed barge on the canal? The Barge is a friendly tearoom/restaurant serving traditional and modern food. Check the specials as there are often hidden gems to be found, such as a delicious mushroom melt. The locally-sourced meats, vegetables and freshly-caught fish are all cooked in-house, portions are generous, and they have cakes to die for. Another popular spot, with outdoor tables by the canal is The Olive Tree. They offer specific menus for vegetarians and vegans and for gluten-free options, making life simpler.

Our personal favourite we have to mention for a special treat in a cosy intimate atmosphere is 2 Belle Vue a small relaxed friendly bistro.

If you’ve a penchant for fine dining then look no further than Potters. Run by local husband and wife duo, the relaxed restaurant in the centre of town, showcases a carefully selected menu of locally-sourced dishes, indulgent desserts, plus delicious cocktails.

What to do

With plenty of wide-open spaces, Bude is perfect for a range of outdoor activities. Even just looking out to sea makes you feel relaxed and free. If you visit on a fine day there are breathtaking walks along the beaches or the spectacular south-west coastal path, and generally, there is a café to be found along the route. From Life’s a Beach at Summerleaze to Crooklets Beach Café, Rosie’s Kitchen, and Sandymouth Café, you can punctuate your walk with refreshments, from ice creams to a full-blown meal, on this incredible section of coastal path. Or head off in the other direction towards Widemouth Bay and Black Rock with its magnificent clifftop scenery. For a gentler walk, try walking from Bude along the canal to the Weir, with its array of wild birds.

Budehaven Recreation Ground is centrally located near Bude Light and The Castle, with crazy golf, tennis, bowling, putting, squash and table tennis options. Down by the Canal, Friday is usually farmers’ market day, a perfect place to peruse and potter, finding local producers and crafters who are all happy to talk about their creations, plus some amazing street food.

On a perfect summer’s day watch the cricket at Bude’s scenic ground, or try pitch and putt on the grassy downs nearby.

Child friendly activities in Bude

Bude Boat Hire offers a leisurely family trip on Bude Canal. Buoyancy aids are provided. Choose from rowing boats with oars or a jolly swan or beetle pedalo. They are easy to find down at the Wharf. Or try the fun crazy golf mentioned above.

The iconic sea pool, refreshed twice daily by the tides, is also the site for free Swim Safe lessons most summer, so it is a great place to build skills and confidence. It is free to use, so enjoy a freshwater swim with no waves.

Indoor entertainment includes The Venue, Bude (situated near to Morrisons on Stucley Road) a centre for bowling and soft play. Right next door, if you want to make a day of it, is Bude Leisure Centre, with its 25m Swimming Pool. Children love the fun features such as the flume and wave machine. For a rainy day, just off the A39 at Poundstock is Bude’s independent cinema, The Rebel, popcorn at the ready.

Also, indoors, why not try The Kitchen Front for creativity, where Clair offers drop-in workshops for children? Located at Lower Wharf, it is also close to other amenities. Just across the nearby bridge, birds (mainly ducks and swans) gather in large groups, as children whoop with delighted when feed them. Food is available from Wharf Woodcraft. Neville’s workshop is known for its quality bird food at a very reasonable price.


For those who seek an adrenaline rush, Bude has epic surfing beaches (often with awesome end-of-day sunsets) which are lifeguarded in season. Our recommended surf school, Big Blue Surf School (who also offer adaptive surf lessons for people with autism and disabilities) operates from Summerleaze Beach all year round. A number of companies offer coasteering, kayaking and other water-based sports, with Outdoor Adventure, Shoreline Extreme and Saltwater Safari at Crooklets all recommended.

For the less confident in the water, there is paddleboarding at the sea pool (or swimming/paddling) where you can book individual sessions.

Art & Crafts

If you fancy trying out your creative prowess, then try The Kitchen Front for ceramic crafts. Nearby, Beau Nidol at Lower Wharf has fused, Tiffany and stained-glass workshops where you can make something beautiful.

To see an artist at work or to buy an original or print, then visit artist Lynne Holehouse at Wharf Studio. Lynne is a very versatile artist but is perhaps best known locally for her amazing painted surfboards. Harry McConville paints watercolour seascapes and landscapes of Bude. Both he and Lynne Holehouse run watercolour workshops.

Meanwhile, Bude’s renowned seascape artist, Sue Read, is based at her Wooda Studio, near Poughill, a short drive out. The Castle Heritage Centre (free entry) has regular art exhibitions from other local creatives, often with pieces available to buy. It also has various artefacts and exhibitions about Bude’s history, plus Café Limelight overlooking the river/canal.

Best beaches to visit in Bude

 Everyone in Bude has their own favourite beach but it is not far to walk from Summerleaze to Crooklets, so why not try them all? Some people head off to the Breakwater to escape, with its large rock swimming pool created in the nineteenth century, called Tommy’s Pit, still very popular.

Summerleaze is recommended because it is sandy, lifeguarded in season, plus has a large car park, toilets and a café with external seating and fabulous views at Life’s a Beach, while also being adjacent to the fabulous tidal sea pool. You can also hire a beach hut nearby if required.

Crooklets Beach is more pebbled at the top end but the plus of this is rock pools to explore. There are play areas close to both beaches. Rosie’s kitchen is popular and Crookets Beach Café has a great view. However, be aware there is a seasonal dog ban at Crooklets. The two are linked at low tide by Middle Beach, accessed via steps from the downs so generally quieter. Just beyond Rosie’s Kitchen, you are on the coastal path for more panoramic views.

While you’re here – fancy a beach clean?

While at the beach, why not be like a local and do a 2 minute beach clean? The 2 Minute Foundation was started in Bude by writer and surfer, Martin Dorey, whose campaign began in 2013 after furious Atlantic storms battered the beaches of his hometown, Bude. The first #2minutebeachclean stations were placed on 8 Cornish beaches in 2014. There are now over 800 in the UK and Ireland.

It costs nothing to do your bit for the environment and to keep Cornish beaches as plastic-free as possible.


Bude is not really a shopping metropolis, so if you like an array of big names, it is not the place for you. However, do explore for it has a cool, diverse selection of independent shops, ranging from boutiques to galleries. The Farmers’ and Craft Market is held on Fridays during summer at Lower Wharf, for top-notch food and Cornish products.

The town centre is relatively small and easy to walk around with a range of independent shops, and cafes where you can watch the world go by. Favourites include Spencer Thorn for books and toys, Bleujen for flowers and interior loveliness, Bellini’s Deli Kitchen on Queen Street for Cornish food produce, and Zuma Jay for surf/wetsuit hire and all things related. There are many other shops to explore for quality unusual gift items, such as The Jaunty Seagull which sells handmade creative items from across Cornwall. On Belle Vue Lane, you will find Bude’s Refill Shop, a social enterprise which sells foodstuffs, pampering gifts, chocolate and candles.

What to do on rainy days

If wet weather hits, then indoors is a good place to be. In previous sections, you will see mention of The Castle for art and heritage. Not a real castle, it was the home of inventor Goldsworthy Gurney who built it to prove a house could be built on sand. It is now a centre for all things pertaining to Bude’s history. Free of charge, it makes a fabulous family outing, and has a café/toilets. See the Kids and Arts/Crafts sections for other wet weather ideas.

Something different

Why not try horse riding? Broomhill Manor Stables caters for all ages and abilities. Alternatively, why not try a walk with a local? What Pete ‘Vicko’ Vickery doesn’t know about Bude isn’t worth knowing, so why not ‘rent a local’ for a walking tour? If you are into geo walks and talks, the very knowledgeable Dr Roger Higgs, whose doctorate was on the Bude rock formation, offers group or private tours.

Best walks in Bude

Bude has many well-marked footpaths. In the town sits the canal with a reasonably flat walk, perfect for pushchairs and scooters. You can also roam to the Bude marshes, teeming with birdlife. If you don’t like sand between your toes, a stroll along Summerleaze Down gives you a fabulous bird’s eye view of the beaches, the surfing waves and the distant coastline.

The Planekeepers’ Path is a lovely circular route in summer. It begins at the sea lock and takes around 5-6 hours (10 miles) as it takes in the canal tow path to Helebridge, then Marhamchurch and down towards Stratton via Launcells Church. The Planekeepers Path follows the route the boatmen took as they tended their cargoes from Bude to the Thurlibeer Inclined Plane. Info is available from Bude Tourist Information Centre, which has many other local walks for you to try, too. Or try this fabulous website/app, iWalkCornwall. This not only gives very clear directions but tells you what you will see as you walk, adding in a little detail about history, nature, and so on.

Special things to know about

Many visitors don’t know that the illustrator of the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck lived for some time and died in Bude. Pamela Colman Smith’s link has attracted many visitors, especially from across the Atlantic. She was buried in St Michael’s Churchyard and used to live at what is now the Bencoolen Inn. The Church reflects the history of the area so is worth a visit, and sometimes it is possible to find a sneaky parking place up there, too. A survivor of the Titanic, Archie Jewell, lived on King’s Street, in Bude. It was also home to the famous geographer Laurence Stamp, and briefly to Jean Rhys, author.

The Weather in Bude

Bude is glorious whatever the weather but, we kid you not, it also seems to have a micro-climate all of its own, often breaking records as the hottest place in the country on summer days. There is a reason. The cloud travelling up from the south breaks over the higher ground of Bodmin Moor, so the cloud break allows for more sunshine. Southerly winds also help bring sunnier weather and higher temperatures. Yet, just a couple of miles away, it can be hazy or cloudy. Bizarre but true.


Free toilets are available in Bude. The main ones are situated in the car parks: Crescent, Summerleaze Beach and Crooklets, but there are also some tucked away near the central post office, around the back of An Mor Hotel.

Wroe’s department store has a toilet on its first floor, not far from the café, if you are shopping there. Sainsbury’s also has a toilet at the rear of the store. Bude Castle also has toilets, so why not see the exhibitions or galleries while there?

Visit Bude for:

  • Sandy beaches
  • Surfing waves
  • The Bude Sea Pool
  • South West Coast Path walks
  • The Castle, home to galleries and heritage
  • Bude Canal/Wharf area
  • South West Coast Path walks
  • Friendly, family character

Bude Holiday Cottages & Luxury Homes

Bude’s traditional seaside charm, colourful beach huts and golden sandy beaches make this the ideal Cornish holiday.

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