TheBeach at Bude – a boutique hotel in north Cornwall – sits just a few steps from surfer-beloved sands on the Cornish coast. However, this is no iron-landlady-run B&B: an industrial-chic bar, fine-dining restaurant with gourmet West Country goodies, and pastel-tinted New England-style interiors make this a stay for a thoroughly modern beach break.
10am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 4pm.
Double rooms from £145.01, including tax at 5 per cent.
Breakfast is £14.50 a person each day, including a Continental buffet with muffins, croissants, granola, yoghurts, smoothies and fruit and a hot dish from the à la carte menu.
Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
At the hotel
Lounge, concierge, DVD library, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV and DVD player, radio, mini fridge with free fresh milk and bottled water, tea and coffee. Deluxe rooms have Nespresso machines.
Our favourite rooms
Sea-facing rooms are the stars here. Deluxe Room 16 has got the goods when it comes to views and it’s also super spacious, with his ’n’ hers sitting areas. For outdoor space, request Room 11, which has a terrace where you can watch the sunset.
None on site, but if the sun’s shining you can shimmy into your swimwear and take a dip in unheated 90m Bude Sea Pool on Summerleaze Beach, set at the foot of the cliffs just two minutes’ walk from the hotel (you could cut out the middleman and jump straight into the sea, but this part-man-made, part-natural rockpool’s design means it’s cleaned daily by the tide).
Surfer girls (and boys) should pack their wetsuits to make the most of Summerleaze Beach’s ideal conditions; or pack a resilient pair of boots for a long ramble by the shore.
The hotel’s public areas are wheelchair-friendly, with ramps to the restaurant and bar. There’s also a lift and a Deluxe Double room on the ground floor.
The hotel is more of a grown-up stay, but children can stay on extra beds in some rooms (£30 a night for under-fives, £50 a night for older children). Call the hotel in advance of your stay to check availability.
Book for just before sunset and take a front-row seat at the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows.
Surfer chic accessorised with a tan and wave-tousled hair.
The beach restaurant has chic low-key decor – rustic wooden tables and grey and white wicker chairs – and a tempting menu of tasty local fare. Freshly caught fish and locally sourced meats take pride of place, with Rock Bay mussels, charred Cornish mackerel and Old Spot pork belly. Breakfast is served here too, or you can take it on the terrace; there's a generous cold buffet, or hearty à la carte picks such as salt-beef hash, eggs Benedict or a stack of spiced pancakes with clotted cream.
The buzzing Beach Bar favours industrial chic over nautical knick-knacks; its chrome-topped bar and orange leather chairs with metal backing look surprisingly inviting. Even more striking are the beach views from the terrace, and there’s a decadent list of cocktails to accompany it. We love the Cornish mojito, with cider brandy, mint, lime, cider and a shot of Gabriel Boudier Créme de Cassis de Dijon. Live music performances on Fridays and Sundays attract a lively crowd over the summer.
Order breakfast 7am–10am, Monday to Friday; 8am–10am at weekends. Dinner is served Mondays–Thursdays, 6pm–9pm (9.30pm Friday and Saturday); lunch is on offer noon–2.30pm Friday and Saturday. On Sundays, the restaurant opens noon–2.30pm and 6pm–8pm.
The hotel overlooks Summerleaze Beach to its right and seaside town Bude to its left. The hotel’s a 30-minute drive from alleged birthplace of King Arthur Tintagel, and a one-hour drive from Dartmoor and the Eden Project.
The nearest airport is Newquay (www.newquaycornwallairport.com) – a 40-mile drive from the hotel – where flights arrive frequently from London Gatwick, most major UK cities and the Scillies touch down. Exeter Airport (www.exeter-airport.co.uk), an 80-minute drive from the hotel, offers a wider range of European flights. A one-way taxi ride from Newquay costs roughly £60; a one-way trip from Exeter, around £80.
Direct trains from London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Reading (www.nationalrail.co.uk) arrive at Exeter St David’s station – an 80-minute drive from the hotel.
The hotel is a four-and-a-half-hour drive from London via the M4, M5 and the A30 from Exeter. Bristol is two-and-a-half-hours. A car isn’t essential once you’re in Bude (there’s rambling or beach loafing aplenty to do), but the area’s chocolate-box villages and scenic coastal roads make hiring some wheels worthwhile. There are Avis car-hire booths at Newquay and Exeter airports and free parking at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Aside from wolfing down the delights on the tapas and cocktail menus, and admiring the seaside views, the hotel offers little in the way of in-house activities. However, guests are spoilt with Summerleaze Beach a mere two-minute walk away, where surfers, sunbathers and swimmers congregate on the golden sands, and Bude offers quirky shops and cafés, and unspoilt countryside beyond. If you want to learn how to do a cutback and off the lip manoeuvre or you’d just like to stand up on a surfboard for more than a wobbly second, theBig Blue Surf School sits on the beach, offering one-on-one coaching, and group and individual lessons. If you fancy trying your hand at the salty-dog lifestyle, head to the sea-lock gates to negotiate chartering a boat for the day. If you haven’t got your sea legs quite yet, bomb down country trails and zoom through swathes of green on a bike; Bude’s bikes, a 20-minute walk away at Pethericks Mill.
The hotel concierge can organise horse riding across the downs nearby or on the beach, and golfing at Bude and North Cornwall Golf Club. They can point you in the right direction for a country hike too, along coastal paths, or through verdant farmland. Bude to Sandymouth or Widemouth Bay (both two-hour roundtrips) pass by sea-sprayed crags and patchwork fields, or tourist-bare Crooklets Beach is just a 20-minute walk away. Beyond Bude, you can clamber over the ruins of Tintagel Castle – where legendary monarch King Arthur was rumoured to be born. The gleaming white biomes of the Eden Project, and glorious green expanse Dartmoor National Park are both an hours’ drive away.
Set on Summerleaze Beach, blue-and-white clapboard eatery Life’s a Beach is just steps from the hotel. By day, it’s a café serving sandwiches, salads and piled-high burgers. After sundown, elegant bistro-style seafood dishes – crab bisque and River Exe mussels with smoked bacon – are served for an adult crowd, washed down with killer daiquiris and mojitos. Elements, an Italian eatery a five-minute drive (or 30-minute walk) from the hotel, serves simple yet hearty fare, such as burgers, intriguingly named and topped pizzas, pastas, salads and creamy desserts and gelato.
Rosie's Kitchen is a cheerful laid-back café on Crooklets Beach serves Cornish pasties, burgers, hotdogs, paninis and fish and chips made from fresh local produce. It’s also gained a reputation for its excellent coffee, award-winning ice cream and milkshake bar. Hot chocolates come with marshmallow-studded peaks of cream and waffles are precariously topped with sweet goodies.
Just five minutes’ walk from the hotel on Belle Vue Lane, Bar 35’s bold wallpaper prints, Pop Art-inspired wall hangings and mismatching furnishings are a stylish backdrop to locally loved live-music nights.
It’s a very English name for a hotel, isn’t it, The Beach at Bude? It’s got a robust simplicity and honesty to it, because there is indeed a beach – a wonderful, long, sandy, rangy, headline-grabbing beach – at Bude, and The Beach at Bude is on top of it. But before Mrs Smith and I got to marvel at the beach at Bude, before really we’d got to pretty much anything of our weekend on the beautiful north Cornish coast, there was gin. So that is where we will begin. With gin.
You’ll have heard, no doubt, of Plymouth Gin, but Cornish gin may be new to you. It was to me and indeed it’s relatively new to Cornwall, as until recently there hadn’t been one distilled there for over a century. But pretty soon after arriving, Mrs S and I had taken up a position at the bar and Mark, behind it, was showing us his collection. And before you could say ‘easy on the tonic’ I was something of an enthusiast. There was one called Curio, which had infusions of local rock samphire; Tarquin’s, which had grapefruit as a botanical; and Elemental, which I can’t tell you too much about, if I’m honest, because I’d had the other two by then. I can say, after some research, that my favourite, Tarquin’s, also does an anise-flavoured liquor, presumably just so they can call it – and you may be way ahead of me here – Cornish Pastis. But anyway, I can certainly recommend the gins at the bar at The Beach at Bude.
But you didn’t come here for cocktail tips (or maybe you did) – but let’s get back to the hotel. The Beach at Bude is a refurbed boutique hotel at the end of a row of Victorian villas on the edge of the town centre, which means it really is only a few seconds’ walk from Summerleaze beach. We’d booked a Superior room, which had beach views and a Juliet balcony. The room was bright, clean and contemporary, with Orla Keily lotions in a good-sized bathroom, and the bed was excellent; wide and comfy. Other rooms, I discovered later, have terraces and views over the Atlantic – best to book those.
Having checked out our accommodation let us head back down to where you first joined us reader, the bar. Kitted out in leather and metal it could as easily be at home in Shoreditch or Hackney, but thankfully it’s perfectly content where it is, and it does a fine job. (There’s a wood-decked terrace out front too, which gets plenty of action during the afternoon with couples and families watching the sun set behind the sea line.) By now rather nicely topped up with gin we slipped into the restaurant next to the bar, which was rather bright and noisy – the lack of soft furnishings means that the sounds of animated conversations and dining do clang somewhat. But that didn’t distract too much from an excellent lamb dish and a beautifully presented lemon cheesecake and salted caramel tart. Decent wines, too.
The next morning we set about exploring. Bude is a quaint little town, full of independent boutiquey shops and a pretty wharf area. Obviously the rules of a British beachside holiday dictate that you must have fish and chips within 24 hours of arrival, and we had a particularly good rendition of the old favourite at the Life’s A Beach cafe close to the hotel. Besides eating, there’s lots else to do nearby, from the sedate (bowling) to the more lively (surfing, waterskiing…). A cool (well, freezing, actually) seawater pool, industrially designed in concrete under the cliffs is refilled daily by the tide and was busy whenever we passed it even in autumn. But we were more than happy just to walk and walk. At low tide you can stride along the beach for miles, watching the surfers and dogs chasing waves and sticks. Hand in hand, salty air in our faces and with sand on our boots, Mrs S and I contemplated chucking it all in and buying one of the wide-windowed properties on the cliff tops.
Instead, we went for a curry. Bit random, but that’s what we fancied. Back at the hotel we fancied a little time in our bedroom – so we ordered some sticky-toffee pudding on room service. It duly arrived, with a couple more glasses brought up on the house as the puds took longer than they should have, apparently. And that summed up what was best about the Beach at Bude: not the beach, though it is truly beautiful; nor the bar, though that too was splendid; but the staff. Nothing was too much trouble and everything was taken care of (well, bar a few tables of breakfast dishes – but I’m not here to give housekeeping tips). So to Mark at the bar, and Kate on the desk, you deserve a drink. Did I mention the gin’s particularly good?