This fantastic eight-mile circular walk from Gwelmor combines contrasting views of north Cornwall’s rugged coast with the tranquillity of Bude canal path, a haven for wildlife and flora along its entirety.
It’s an easy walk with a couple of steep inclines along the coast to get the heart rate up and can easily be done in one go, but with Bude town centre at the halfway point, there’s plenty of opportunity stop for a spot of lunch.
Armed with a backpack and our small army of cocker spaniels Molly, Indy and Margo, we set off from Gwelmor dog-friendly holiday cottage and made for Widemouth beach car park at the bottom of the hill.
With the sea in front of us and Widemouth Café to our left, we turned eastwards (right) up over the sand dunes past The Beach House to join the South West Coast Path just past Gerry’s Ice Cream Parlour.
This section of the Coast Path to Bude is very rugged with some dramatic plunges along it’s stretch, so do take care with any over-excitable pups or young children.
At the top a short climb, the path splits in two. The right-hand fork heads straight past the upper Widemouth car park, or round to the left on a sweeping detour. The later option is well worth the effort as there’s some lovely views looking back over Widemouth Bay and out to sea for miles and miles.
At the top of the hill, the giant satellite dishes of GCHQ Bude come into view far in the distance. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is home to some of the most high-tech digital security and intelligence operations in the world. If you fancy getting a closer look, try our South West Coast Path walk from Morwenstow to Bude – but be warned, it’s a toughie!
Anyway, back to our circular walk and there’s a further easy climb up past Elements restaurant on the opposite side of Marine Drive, where some dramatic cliff-faces come into view up ahead.
Just before you reach Upton check out the ragged rocks below that look like blades in the water. At the edge of Upton, coastal erosion has meant the path has been diverted away from the edge and along the pavement for a short distance, before turning left to re-join the Path.
Through a kissing gate we begin the decent into a wide-open field with Bude town coming into view in the distance. There’s often sheep in this field, and we’re walking in lambing season, so dogs on leads at this point please.
The field narrows to another gate and then widens once more up a steep climb where eventually The Storm Tower comes into view. Built in 1835, this Grade II listed iconic building is of octagonal design with points of the compass etched into the cornice of each side.
A fundraising campaign was launched to save the historic Tower which stands proudly above Bude Bay at Compass Point. The Storm Tower was brought inland from Compass Point to its current position in 1881 but is now, with coastal erosion, it is teetering on the cliff edge edge once more, and campaigners successfully launched a Crowdfunder appeal to raise enough money to bring it inland once more. Read more about the campaign on Cornwall Live.
Heading down the hill and into Bude, the colourful beach huts of Summerleaze and Crooklets beaches come into view and Bude’s very own semi-nature Sea Pool nestled just beneath the cliffs.
At the bottom of the hill there’s the option to head left to the breakwater (but only at low tide of course) or right down onto the beaches.
We headed left as the tide was out and explored the walking the length of the stone-built breakwater before climbing down onto the beach. But before you come this way, just remember the River Neet runs from the town to the see here, so it’s socks and shoes off at this point in order to cross onto the golden sands of Summerleaze and Crooklets and then into Bude town itself.
For brunch, we opted for The Olive Tree, a cute bistro sitting on the edge of Bude Canal. A delicious English breakfast washed down with two cups of filter coffee had us refreshed, refuelled and ready for the second half of our walk. The stretch so far from Widemouth Bay to Bude is four miles.
Dogs rested and watered, we cross the bridge and walk along the Canal Path past Bude Marshes, declared a Local Nature Reserve in 1981, the very first in Cornwall.
There’s a viewing platform along the Canal Path where – if patient enough - you might be able to spot anything from otters to kingfishers among the fertile reeds and wet grassland of this nine-hectare site.
While the otters may have been hiding from us, our walk along the towpath saw us encounter several geese with their goslings – a few protective hisses in our direction so be careful with little ones and dogs on leads once again - rafts of ducks and their offspring, morehens and in the background a concert of bird song along its entire stretch. The marsh is home to birds such as Chiffchaffs, Sedge Warblers and Sand Martins, but my ‘twitching’ experience is limited so I can’t report what we heard!
Eventually, the Canal Path arrives at The Weir restaurant where you opt for a second break overlooking the lake. Still full from brunch, we pressed on, crossing over at the car park and followed the Whalesborough Trail back to Marine Drive in Widemouth Bay.
I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve actually done this circular walk in all the years I’ve been coming to Widemouth Bay, and I can safely say, it won’t be my last. A thoroughly enjoyable day.
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