Great restaurants, sandy surfing beaches and a free tidal pool make Bude, Cornwall’s most northern town a perfect destination for a family holiday. Words: Alex Fisher

With dramatic sandstone cliffs and expansive golden beaches, Bude has attracted an array of visitors over the years. A thriving port in the 18th century, it was a haven for wreckers, who made a living plundering the numerous ships that met their end on the reefs surrounding the bay. In Victorian times it became a classy holiday destination, leaving behind the large hotels and tidal pool that are still popular today, but when the railway station was closed in 1966 the town went into decline. However, in recent years, a flurry of newly refurbished hotels and restaurants indicates a revival in Bude’s fortunes. Tourists who want to avoid the bustle and traffic of St Ives and Padstow have edged further north and are rediscovering the huge appeal of this friendly, laid-back town.
Always popular with surfers and walkers, Bude has played to its strengths and now offers visitors a vast range of sports facilities and outdoors activities – enough to wear out children of all ages! And at the heart of this seaside resort is the tidal pool on Summerleaze Beach. A testament to the town’s community spirit, it was taken over by residents when council funding was withdrawn, and remains free to both locals and visitors.
When owners Jamie and Emma Stevenson first visited this boutique hotel in 2012, they knew they’d never find a better view. High on the cliffs, looking down across the Atlantic towards Bude, it’s a great place to arrive, put your feet up and let someone else do the cooking after a long drive. The modern, fresh, décor, gardens and boules are loved by adults and children alike, as are their homemade pizzas and Italian gelato. It’s also a perfect spot to watch the sunset (, 01288 352386).
We have a light breakfastand head off for a bike ride. There are traffic-free cycle paths along the canal and Bude Bike Hire has easy access to these flat, family-friendly routes. They offer mountain and trekking bikes, as well as a wheelchair tandem. With two young children in tow, we make our way to The Weir, a wildlife centre, which is a scenic three-mile cycle ride out of town (, 01288 353748).
The Weir bistro and wildlife centre is the perfect place to take a break. You can sit outside and enjoy the glorious views over the lake whilst the kids run riot in the play area, or learn about local wildlife in the interactive education room. Enjoy a brunch of ham and eggs or fried mushrooms and Cornish blue cheese, washed down with great coffee (, 01288 362234).
You can’t visit Bude without swimming in the tidal pool. Nestled beneath the cliffs on Summerleaze Beach, it offers spectacular views of the Atlantic ocean. The partially natural pool, created in the 1930s, is now run by Friends of Bude Sea Pool, which was set up by local residents when the council withdrew funding for repairs. Not only is use of the pool free, but they also offer children free swimming lessons during the school holidays. You can become a ‘friend’ online at
For a top-class fish supper with stunning views of the sea, it’s hard to beat Life’s a Beach. Hugely popular with the locals, this family-owned venue serves quality burgers during the day, but at night it transforms into the best seafood restaurant for miles. Focusing on locally caught produce, served in Bude’s inimitable relaxed and friendly fashion, it is one of Cornwall’s best-kept secrets. We tried their mouth-watering homemade Thai fish cakes to start, followed by salt baked bream with Sicilian salad and salsa verde. An unforgettable meal. If you visit in the summer, remember to book (, 01288 355222).

If you’re searching for a staycation hotspot for your Cornish break, try these top Cornwall hotels.

Bude Surf Experience offers lessons for all the family and I book a session with company founder Scott Marshall for myself and my nine-year-old son. The lessons take place on Summerleaze Beach, and we meet just a few hundred yards up the road at the Adventure International Centre, where we can shower and change into our wetsuits. Scott is an experienced and patient teacher, and my son is soon standing on his board, and sailing to the shore – while I continue to practise popping up. All of Scott’s surf instructors are RLSS Beach Lifeguards and BSA qualified coaches (, 07779 117746).
Having worked up an appetite we head to the Hebasca Grill for lunch. This boutique hotel and restaurant serves Texan-sized steaks, ribs and burgers, with sides of homemade Hebasca slaw and chunky chips. You may be tempted to order a starter, but you won’t need it. Run by the Van Rensburg family, who have been Bude residents for 40 years, Hebasca has a policy of using local food, local staff and supporting local craftsmen. They make their own peri-peri and barbecue sauce from scratch, following Susan Van Rensburg’s mother’s recipe, and it shows. For those who baulk at 12oz rump steaks, there are tasty veggie options, including tempura vegetables and spinach and ricotta cannelloni (, 01288 352361).
If the children still have energy to burn, run them up to the Milky Way. This traditional holiday theme park is just a 30-minute drive up the coast road. As well as a rollercoaster and dodgems, the park offers archery, an indoor play arena and a Bird of Prey Centre. Entry to the park includes free admission to a range of shows, from falconry to magic and juggling (, 01237 431255).
For more ideas for weekends away by the British coast click here.


The newly refurbished hotel has 23 bedrooms, which start at £85 per night, including breakfast (, 01288 352361). 
Helpful holidays 
Helpful Holidays offers family cottages in Bude. Prices range from £270 a week in low season and £1000 a week in high season (, 01647 433593).
The Beach
This stylish hotel overlooks Summerleaze Beach. Rooms start at £95 per night (, 01288 389800).
By car 
Leave the M5 at Junction 27, and follow the road past Barnstaple, Bideford and straight into Bude on the Atlantic Highway.  
By train 
Trains run from London Paddington to Penzance.  Alight at Exeter St David’s Station.  From Exeter St David’s, First and Western Greyhound operate the X9 and 599 services which run from outside the station to Okehampton, then on to Bude.  
By bus
In the summer, National Express runs a direct service from Paddington, London, to Bude. 
For more information on the area go to or call 01288 354240.