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July 18, 2017
Pausing to catch breath, I watched three surfer silhouettes paddle out to their first break. My early morning run brought me over sand dunes to the top of a hill, overlooking the cream curve of Widemouth Bay. Ahead, the rugged path hugged the Atlantic coast as far as the eye could see.
Although the view was worth the sweaty climb, I was relieved that breakfast was within staggering distance. Our idyllic holiday home was just ten minutes from this section of the South West Coastal Path in north Cornwall.
Renowned as a dream destination for families and crowned Best UK Coastal Resort in the British Tourism Awards, Bude has child-friendly beaches and attractions aplenty. Seeking respite from our busy London lives, we treated ourselves and our two year-old son to a week at Gwelmor, a luxurious self-catering hideaway.
With its three spacious bedrooms including a master en-suite, open-plan living space and kitchen, Gwelmor was a stylish and comfortable home from home.
Toddler Harvey was well provided for too, with a cosy cot and highchair as well as plenty of toys, books and dvds. The fully enclosed garden meant he could kick his football around without us worrying about either of them escaping.
Each morning we enjoyed breakfast outside on the patio, while sunny evenings found us stoking up the barbecue.
Even when we were inside, we enjoyed a real sense of being by the sea thanks to the light interiors and bright colour scheme. Decorative fish made from wood, twisted metal and glass enhance the ocean vibes, with the most striking piece being a beautiful shoal which graces the wall of the kitchen diner. Created by internationally acclaimed, fused glass artist from Launceston, Jo Downs, it is one of numerous pieces by local talents throughout Gwelmor.
Devon-based textile artist Jackie Gale is showcased in the hallway and we particularly loved the three giant contemporary pieces depicting local views by Cornish figurative artist Neil Butler.
Keen to support a wide range of local tradespeople, the owners commissioned bespoke wooden furniture from Chunky Monkey, and organic handmade mattresses by NaturalMat, both based in Exeter.
As well as being great for families, Gwelmor is perfectly equipped for four-legged friends, with drinking bowls, towels to dry off wet fur and bedding at the ready. Many of the beaches in the area, including Widemouth Bay, have designated dog-friendly sections.
Options for dining out locally are abundant. Our favourite was the Bay View Inn, just a short walk from the bungalow and serving up huge portions of seaside classics like fish pie and cod and chips. We sipped wine and enjoyed the sea views, while Harvey burnt off any remaining energy in the restaurant’s ‘beach’ playground.
A little further along the same road, Elements offers more sophisticated dining, with an Italian menu of antipasti, sharing platters, pizza and pasta.
More cafes and restaurants are in Bude itself, along with various family-friendly attractions. We overcame our adult embarrassment and bowed to Harvey’s demands to hire a pedalo shaped like a car, in which we cruised slowly – if not stylishly – along the canal.
Bude’s main beaches, Summerleaze and Crooklets, provide more safe paddling opportunities.
We caught crabs in warm rock pools; we jumped in shallow puddles left on the beach at low tide; we sat in the hot sun and raced to eat ice creams before they dribbled over our hands.
We lost track of time and forgot that we only put two hours in the parking meter.
With everything we needed on our doorstep, it took some motivation to explore. But this area of Cornwall is blessed with countless picturesque villages, beautiful coves and sandy beaches.
One cooler day we drove over to Tintagel to see the ruins of the eponymous castle and wander around the pretty town. The protected bay at Crackington Haven offered up hours of shallow paddling and a cafe serving fresh crab sandwiches. In the late afternoon, we nursed beers at the adjacent pub as the sun sank behind the sea.
Of course, when in the west country, at least one good afternoon cream tea is essential. We found the perfect spot at The Rectory Farm tearooms in Morwenstow, in the heart of the Hartland Cornwall Heritage Coast. Freshly baked scones were served with pots of clotted cream, while Harvey got his fingers sticky with their delicious ginger and rhubarb jam.
On our drive back we discovered the gorgeous spot of Sandymouth Beach. Owned by the National Trust it features spectacular cliff formations and a beautiful stretch of silky soft sand. We stayed here watching Harvey build sandcastles until the tide came in and pushed us back up to the rocks.
Yet again we wish we’d put more than two hours in the car parking.
A week at Gwelmor ranges from £500 in low season and £1,485 in peak summer. The spacious bungalow sleeps six plus cot and allows up to three well-behaved dogs. It can also be booked for long weekends.
Sleeping in style at Gwelmor in Widemouth Bay