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.
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).
If you’re driving to North Cornwall in a plug-in electric vehicle, see our list of charging locations here.
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.
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 £2.20 an hour to £10 per day during summer (at the time of writing) with cheaper all-day parking in winter from £1. 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.
Foodies will be pleased to learn there are some special places to eat 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.
If you’re a sucker for seafood 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.
Potters ©James Capsule Studio
Bude’s traditional seaside charm, colourful beach huts and golden sandy beaches make this the ideal Cornish holiday.