Bude is a coastal town in Cornwall’s upper right corner next to the Devon border. It’s an isolated location with its own length of wild and rocky seashore surrounded by miles and miles of farmland. As a result, it is mainly self-contained, and while it is primarily a tourist destination, it is also a quirky town with an intriguing past. What truly sets it apart is its location. The Atlantic Ocean is on one side and there’s rolling farmland on the other. Bude is the ideal base for exploring the far north of Cornwall. The rolling waves of the Atlantic make Bude a popular destination for surfers and the combination of the wild cliffs and the farmland makes it popular with hikers. Here are the best things to do in Bude Cornwall to help you plan a great visit to Bude.
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Where to Stay in Bude
Bude is a quirky, but often busy seaside town in North Cornwall, and we’ve written about some fabulous places to stay here, we wrote about them here, but here are our top recommendations for the best hotel in Bude and the best holiday rental too.
Ocean View, Bude
With two stylish bedrooms, this modern top-floor holiday apartment in Bude can accommodate four people. It’s the ideal escape for small families or groups of friends looking to experience a classic holiday on the Cornish coast and it offers stunning sea views in a fabulous location. Just take a look at the photos for the view you’ll get!
The kitchen in this top-floor Bude holiday apartment is fully equipped with a gas range, electric oven, microwave, refrigerator, freezer, and washing machine. The beach is just a stone’s throw from this sumptuous two-storey apartment in Bude. There’s a well-lit lounge with stunning sea views and two spacious bedrooms. Ocean View books out quickly, so you’ll need to reserve early.
The Edgecumbe Hotel
This stylish four-star guest accommodation resembles a small boutique hotel, is near to the historic town centre and surrounded by stunning surf beaches. This lovely Bude Hotel has a relaxed and informal feel and you can check availability here.
The Edgcumbe Hotel is a family-run beachfront establishment with unmatched views of Summerleaze Beach, the Hills & Downs, and the Neet River Valley. It’s a great starting point from which to explore North Cornwall all year round. The onsite Deck Restaurant also offers a vibrant, vivacious informal eating experience. The Edgecumbe Hotel books out quickly, so you’ll need to reserve early.
The Best Things to Do in Bude, Cornwall
Bude in North Cornwall is a great place to go surfing, relax on the lovely beaches, and experience Cornish life, it’s just over the border from North Devon, so if you don’t want to venture too far down Cornwall then Bude is a great option. Bude is a wonderful area to stay in Cornwall if you appreciate beaches, surfing spots places, and a lively holiday environment. It’s a great place to experience the finest of the southwest without having to travel too far. Bude can become crowded in the height of summer, but you can always find a space on one of its numerous beaches! And let’s start there with the top things to do in Bude.
Find your favourite Beach in Bude
Bude is a beach and surfing town in North Cornwall with several safe swimming spots and it’s safe to safe what when it comes to what to do in Bude, heading to the beach is top of the list. Bude’s beaches and holiday ambience attract people year-round. Sandymouth and Summerleaze are two of the well-known beaches. Sandymouth Beach is a large beach around 15 minutes north of Bude. When the tide is in, the beach is primarily made up of stones, but enormous amounts of sand become visible as the tide recedes. Sandymouth beach, on the other hand, preserves a natural vibe and is an excellent place to go for a winter stroll or to observe some of the native wildlife. While Summerleaze, Bude’s main beach, is just a short distance from the town centre and offers excellent-good water quality. There’s more on the best beaches in North Cornwall here.
Learn to Surf in Bude
If you want to learn to surf, there are several beaches to visit in Bude. Bude’s waves have produced several European champion surfers and Widemouth Beach is one of the well-known surfing destinations. Widemouth Bay stretches for nearly a mile and a half, with surfers of all skill levels sharing the waves. This beach is ideal for beginners and expert surfers around high tide. Check out the webcam for current conditions and between April 30 and September 25, lifeguards patrol the beach every day. For learning to surf, then go with Outdoor Adventure or Freewave Surf Academy for surf rental and instruction. You couldn’t ask for a better place to learn to surf or enhance your current abilities, with friendly, certified trainers and all the surfing gear you need available for rental.
Visit Bude’s Sea Pool
Bude Sea Pool is a natural and man-made swimming pool in Summerleaze Beach. Since 1938, Bude’s Sea Pool has provided a spot for safer swimming. It’s one of the few public tidal pools remaining operating and is free all year, making it one of the best things to do in Bude for families and also one of the top free things to do in Bude. High tide fills the Pool daily and the Friends of Bude Sea Pool, a local volunteer-run nonprofit, manages the Sea Pool, which is supported through donations, grants, sponsorship, and membership. The Bude Sea Pool is about 91 metres long and 45 metres wide and has varying depths. The depth varies primarily because as the sea washes in twice a day (with the high tide), it also brings in sand and stones – so watch your step as you enter the pool. Diving isn’t allowed here, because of the uncertainty of the depth. The Bude Sea Pool temperature ranges from about 11c in April to 18c in August.
- Address of Bude’s Sea Pool: Summerleaze Beach, Bude, EX23 8LE, United Kingdom
- Cost to enter Bude’s Sea Pool: Admission is free
- Opening hours of Bude’s Sea Pool: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Visit Compass Point aka Storm Tower when in Bude
Bude’s Storm Tower gives a stunning perspective of Bude Bay, most people will see it when walking part of the South West Coast path in this area. The Storm Tower at Bude was designed by architect George Wightwick in 1835 as a coastguard shelter and aesthetic feature for Sir Thomas Acland. It was originally sited on the estate of the Acland family but had to be moved because of coastal erosion in 1880. Wightwick modelled this octagonal tower on Athens’ ‘Temple of the Winds.’ It sits on a pedestal with three granite stairs leading to the east door, with compass points engraved on each of the 8 sides of the building, which is made of local sandstone. Compass Point was classed as a Grade II listed building in 1985, and substantial renovation started with the completion of a Cornwall Council-funded Heritage Impact Assessment.
Shop at the Bude Farmers Market and Craft Market
From Easter to the last Friday in September, the Bude Farmers and Craft Market is open every Friday from 10 am to 3 pm. Here you’ll find fantastic local food and produce on sale, as well as stunning Cornish crafts. The Farmer’s Market in Bude is found on the Wharf along the Canal and all the booths at Bude Farmers & Craft Market offer their own products, which include food, plants, and crafts; everything is manufactured, cultivated, and produced locally. Local cheeses, chutneys, and pickles, a local farm selling their own meat, including a fabulous choice of sausages, and pie and cake booths are some of the great things you can pick up here.
- Address of Bude Farmers’ and Craft Market: 41 Kings Hill, Bude EX23 8LG, United Kingdom
- Opening hours of Bude Farmers’ and Craft Market: 10:00 am to 3:00 pm
Take a Treasure Trail in Bude
The self-guided Murder Mystery Treasure Trail in Bude is a great option using the buildings and monuments of Bude with some clever clues hidden then. This fun detective mystery Treasure Trail will have you on the trail of a criminal genius in the heart of Bude! You’ll have to search the canal for evidence, follow up on witness accounts at Bude Castle, and then patrol Summerleaze Downs in search of the missing clues. The Trail begins at the Tourist Information Centre in the Crescent car park. It proceeds down the canal, through Bude Castle, and to Summerleaze Downs before finishing at the RNLI Lifeboat House. Be prepared for breathtaking sea views, and don’t forget to bring your bucket and spade! You can buy your entrance to the Bude Treasure Trail here.
Visit Tamar Lakes Country Park
Tamar Lakes Country Park is close to Bude and is popular with walkers, runners, cyclists, families, sailors, birdwatchers, and fishermen. There are a couple of lakes here that provide a round-lake walk and bicycle route, a children’s play area, and a café popular with hikers, families, and scenery-lovers. Sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, and canoeing are also available at the Tamar Lakes Activity Centre. There’s also a peaceful campsite here too, that provides panoramic views of the lake for those who prefer to stay longer.
- Address of Tamar Lakes Country Park: Upper Tamar Lk, Bude EX23 9SB, United Kingdom
- Cost to enter Tamar Lakes Country Park: Admission is free
- Opening hours of Tamar Lakes Country Park: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Walk, Cycle or Kayak along Bude’s Canal
A walk or paddle along the historic Bude Canal is a must for every visitor. You can park on the Crescent, just next to the Tourist Information Centre (EX23 8LE), which is also a great place to start before exploring the canal for yourself. The Bude Canal was built to carry lime-rich sand from the beaches of Bude in 1823. The destination was the farmland near Launceston and Holsworth, and it was used to improve the soil there. Within the first 6 miles (10 kilometres) the canal had to climb 430 feet (128 metres) and this was achieved by building “inclined planes”, or locks where the canal boats- which also had wheels on – were pulled up the slopes by a chain. The entrance to the canal is the Bude Sea Lock, with enormous oak gates, which allowed boats up to 300 tons to enter the canal. The canal closed in the 1890s, replaced by the railway, but has since been opened to walkers and cyclists and for several miles, it can also be travelled by canoe or kayak. Due to its level setting, this is one of the best walks in Bude for all abilities.
Visit Bude Castle
Bude’s Castle is where you can find Bude’s historical centre, which details Bude’s history. Bude Heritage Centre is the place to go for rainy day activities and visiting Bude Castle is top of the things to do in Bude when it rains! (there’s more rainy day activities for Cornwall here) Bude Castle was built in 1830 by Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, who is described as Cornwall’s “forgotten genius. Sir Gurney invented, amongst other things, “Limelight” –a type of stage lighting used in theatres. The Castle in Bude was used during the Russian Revolution when it served as a safe haven for Russian princes and members of the Tolstoy family who fled Russia. In the late 20th century the castle passed to the town and served as the magistrate’s court and the library for a short while. Since 2007 its been the Bude Heritage Centre and now houses an exhibition that details the history of Bude Castle and what it’s like living here on the Cornwall-Devon border!
- Address of Bude Castle: The Wharf, Bude EX23 8LG, United Kingdom
- Cost to enter Bude Castle: Admission is free
- Opening hours of Bude Castle: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Visit the Poundstock Gildhouse
Five miles from Bude in the village of Poundstock, you’ll find the only church house in Cornwall still in use dating back to the early Tudor era. The Grade I listed Poundstock Gildhouse has a kitchen, brewhouse, and bakery and was designed for Church Ales. These were public holidays when ale was sold to generate revenue for the church. As Puritans took power in the 17th century, they were prohibited and so the Poundstock Gildhouse became a school and poorhouse. There’s more about the Poundstock Gildhouse here.
- Address of Poundstock Gildhouse: Poundstock, Bude, Cornwall, EX23 0AX, United Kingdom
- Cost to enter Poundstock Gildhouse: Admission is free
- Opening hours of Poundstock Gildhouse: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Fancy having a heavenly holiday in Cornwall? These converted chapels and churches are fabulous holiday homes.
Go for a Walk in Bude
The South West Coast Path is England’s longest footpath and is classified as a National Trail. It stretches 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset along the beaches of Devon and Cornwall to Poole Harbour in Dorset. The section of the trail close to Bude passes by various picturesque views, including Enys Dodnan Arch (Bob’s Arches), Carn Les Boel, and Logan Rock. And you’ll want to attempt the South West Coast Path from Bude to Crackington Haven. While it’s an easy start on the grassy cliff route from Bude the trail turns rocky and narrow and drops into steep valleys, including Scrade, one of Cornwall’s deepest and steepest valleys on the Cornwall portion of the Coast Path. This hike gives expansive views of the Atlantic from high clifftop routes, where the uneven soil and crumbling cliffs below you remind you of the sea and wind’s power. Aside from that, there are other little hidden coves and shorelines along the route where you may stop for lunch on the beach.
See the Hawkers Hut on the South West Coast Path
Hawker’s Hut is a dilapidated shelter built into a hillside by priest and poet Robert Stephen Hawker. It was built with wood recovered from shipwrecks along the Southwest Coast Path, which runs along the clifftops of the Hartland Cornwall Heritage Coast. The Hawker’s Hut is about 7 miles north of Bude on the SW Coast Path, in the opposite direction to Crackington Haven. This simple clifftop trail offers breathtaking views of the North Cornwall coast. You’ll come across a lovely church that is said to date back to Saxon times, as well as Hawker’s Hut. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see Lundy Island and you’ll be in famous company too, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, visited the hut in 1848.
Map of Things to do in Bude, Cornwall
You can also see this Bude things to do map here.
Things to do near Bude Cornwall
One of the best parts of visiting the Bude area is the chance to visit both Cornwall and Devon. There are several places to visit on a day trip from Bude. Perhaps this is why so many people come back again and again! If theme parks are your thing, there are thrilling rides to get your adrenaline flowing! Or if it’s a leisurely walk around a lovely garden you fancy, then there are gardens too. Here are some of the best things to do around Bude.
Visit Boscastle from Bude
The picturesque coastal village of Boscastle is less than 15 miles south of Bude and a 20-minute journey away. Boscastle stands out even on such a wonderful piece of coastline. The seaward approach to the port is guarded by the rocky islet of Meachard, which stands between the steep twin headlands of Penally Point and Willapark. The port and village are located in a steep valley that resembles a little fjord, which is not typical of the Cornish countryside. The Valency Valley lies beyond the long, curving entry to the little port. Boscastle was a lively port in the early 18th century, importing limestone and coal and exporting Delabole slate and other local goods. The National Trust now owns most of Boscastle and the coastal area, and it’s a lovely section of the Cornish coast for walking, although there aren’t many beaches nearby. If you don’t drive them the bus from Bude to Bocastle runs about once an hour from 7 am until 5 30pm and you can find the schedules here.
Visit Port Isaac from Bude
Port Isaac was made famous by the television show Doc Martin. However, it deserves to be acknowledged as a stand-alone destination. A friendly village atmosphere, a range of short-term activities, and easy access to other parts of Cornwall make it an ideal site to spend time in the region.
Despite its tiny size, Port Isaac offers lots to see and do to keep you entertained, although just wandering around the narrow streets and soaking in the ambience of this quaint Cornish fishing hamlet will keep you occupied for hours. There are welcoming bars, cafés, and restaurants within centuries-old bildings. There’s more on what to see and do in Port Isaac in our guide here. The drive from Bude to Port Isaac is about 40 minutes. The bus to Port Isaac from Bude takes about an hour and 45 minutes and runs once every two hours, the bus timetable is here.
Take a Day Trip to Lundy Island from Bude
If you’re staying in the North Cornwall (or North Devon area) then, a day trip to Lundy is a remarkable experience. Lundy is just 3 miles long and a half-mile wide but has 42 scheduled monuments and several listed buildings showcasing its 4,000-year history. The wildlife habitat here is often compared to the Galapagos Islands. Day trips to Lundy primarily go from Bideford in Devon aboard the German-built MS Oldenburg, Lundy’s ferry and supply ship. And the journey onboard this 1958 built ship is part of the adventure. The boat goes from Bideford (and sometimes Ilfracombe)) three times a week, with the crossing taking 2 hours, meaning that you’ll get between 4-6 hours to explore Lundy Island. To take a day trip to Lundy from Bude you’ll need to get to Bideford (or Ilfracombe – check the schedule here) and tickets cost £85 return for adults.
Visit Bodmin from Bude
Back in Cornwall, hikers looking for things to do near Bude can head to Bodmin Moor. Several trails are available in the mysterious moors, ranging from a few kilometres to all-day or multi-day excursions. The town of Bodmin is also worth a visit. At first view, it does not seem to be much (but you can see our guide to Bodmin here). The Bodmin Keep Museum, on the other hand, highlights Cornish military history and is highly fascinating. Equally, Bodmin Gaol is a very unique destination to see in Cornwall.
The Bodmin Gaol has recently been renovated with an immersive experience that allows tourists to view the Victorian prison system that includes compelling tales about real people. You can go from Bodmin to Bude via bus, taxi, or car. A direct bus runs from Bodmin, Lower Bore Street, to Bude, Bencoolen Road. Monday through Friday, services leave five times each week. The trip takes around 58 minutes.
Where is Bude?
Bude is a coastal town in northeast Cornwall, England, on the River Neet (also known locally as the River Strat). Bude’s beaches face the Celtic Sea, which is part of the Atlantic Ocean. Bude was formerly a busy harbour and a source of sea sand for improving inland soil, which was moved along the Bude Canal. From the Victorian era, with the onset of railway links, it became popular with Victorian tourists and then became a popular 20th-century beach resort. The famous Bradshaw’s Guide of 1866, described Bude as a “small harbour and lovely village”
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Final Words on the Best Things to do in Bude
Bude is a chilled-out coastal town in northeast Cornwall. It’s great for surfing without the raucous nightlife of Newquay and it’s great for big wide-open beaches. Located between the rolling waves of the Atlantic and rolling farmland it’s a lovely place to head to for a holiday, and there are plenty of Bude things to do to keep you occupied. Bude is laid back, friendly and a great place and there are some lovely things to do in Bude.
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