Despite the name, The Castle isn’t actually a castle, but a fine building located close to the beach in Bude, Cornwall. It’s more of a heritage centre than anything else; but one worth visiting if you’re interested in the history of the area.
The Castle was built by and was the home of noted Cornishman, Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, who was a pioneering engineer and inventor; surgeon, chemist, lecturer, consultant, architect and builder in the Victorian era. In 1830 he set about building a new house in the sand hills of Summerleaze Beach. The house was built on an innovative concrete raft foundation; making it the first building of its kind in the UK. The house still stands today, though it has been extended and converted into the art gallery and heritage centre.
The Castle is free to enter and contains displays and information about Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, shipwrecks and the history of lifesaving in the area. Battles and the English Civil War, the Bude Canal and Railway and the geology of the area. There is a really interesting display bout the second world war too. I really like that the building is packed full of history, right up to the present day. There’s a lot packed in and it’s a fine way to spend an hour or two.
Downstairs there is a large room dedicated to the history of Bude. I especially liked the display which showed how long it takes for litter and plastics to biodegrade. There are also examples of the geology of North Cornwall and my favourite bit, a selection of artefacts from boats which were wrecked in Bude. There’s also a fascinating display about the life of Archie Jewell who was a local boy who worked as a look-out on the Titanic.
Upstairs is the Cafe Limelight; a lovely cafe with panoramic views from its conservatory towards Bude Canal, the harbour and Summerleaze beach. There’s also a good gift shop and two galleries which host an ever-changing exhibition programme showcasing the talents of local artists and craftspeople.
It’s a fine place to stop off for a while if you’re visiting Bude. I like to pop in each time I’m in the area for a look around and a cup of coffee in the cafe. It’s obviously a popular hub for local people and the galleries are always worth visiting.
It’s not a castle, so don’t visit with expectations of medieval stonework and tales of kings and queens. What you will find is a good heritage centre full of interesting pieces of local history; a great cafe and a real hub for local artists.
The Castle, Bude is open daily between 10am – 5pm and it’s free to visit. It’s located at The Wharf, Bude, EX23 8LG. For more information, visit their website.
We are frequent visitors to Cornwall and we’ve visited Launceston many times over the years, but we’ve never visited Launceston Castle. The boy has been learning about castles at school, so whilst we were in the area we decided to pay a visit to the castle and learn a bit more about life there.
Launceston Castle is in the north Cornish town of Launceston. You can’t miss it, it’s right on the top of a hill and really dominates the surrounding landscape. It is believed there has been a castle on the site for around 1000 years. Launceston Castle was built after the Norman conquest but was redeveloped by Richard, Earl of Cornwall in the 13th century and was originally his administrative headquarters.
Launceston Castle is a motte and bailey style castle. The castle has a fairly unusual design. It has unusual keep consisting of a 13th century round tower which is set within an earlier circular shell-keep. The top of the tower is reached by an internal stone staircase and once you are up there you’ll find breathtaking views of the town and the countryside beyond.
Although Launceston Castle doesn’t have any on-site parking, you can park in nearby car parks. You access the castle through the 13th century southern gatehouse which leads you up to the bailey where the ruins of the great hall, kitchen and hall can be seen.
The wider grounds of the castle are free to access and explore. When we visited there were several families enjoying picnics and exploring the ruins of the great hall, kitchen and hall. If you want to visit the castle itself you need to enter via the shop. Entry is currently £5.20 per adult and £3.10 per child, with Gift Aid.
Walking through the shop area, the tour begins with a small exhibition space which is packed with information about the history of the castle. There are a number of artefacts which have been excavated from the site; as well as examples of the style of clothing worn by the inhabitants of the castle. For children, they can try their hand at brass rubbing and signing their name with a quill.
Moving on, we walked up the hill, or motte, crossed the wooden bridge by the well and climbed the 145 steps to the top of the castle. We explored the outer shell keep, before climbing the stone steps to the top of the high tower. I’m not going to lie and say it was an easy climb; but the view once you get to the top is spectacular.
Launceston Castle is a really interesting place to visit, especially if you’ve been recently learning about castles at school. Ben was able to tell us lots of facts about the construction and it was good for him to visit a real castle and see how things looked and worked there.
I’m not sure you could spend more than an hour or so exploring the castle; but if you’re in the area it’s worth visiting for the views from both the bailey and from the top of the high tower. My advice would be, take a picnic and enjoy it in the grounds. It’s a great place to sit and admire the undulating Cornish countryside and imagine being Earl of it all.
We’re currently holidaying in Cornwall, and keen to make the most of our Merlin Annual Passes, this week we had a drive down to Gweek to visit the Cornish Seal Sanctuary which this year is celebrating 60 years of seal rescue, rehabilitation and release.
The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is part of the SEA LIFE group of attractions and set in the picturesque Helford Estuary, by the village of Gweek, in Cornwall. It’s probably the most southerly Merlin attraction in the UK; but well worth remembering to pack your passes for if you have them.
One of the most exciting reasons to visit the Cornish Seal Sanctuary was that I’d spotted on their website that it was dog friendly. It’s harder than you’d think to find attractions which are genuinely dog friendly, so were delighted to get through the door and see so many happy dogs on days out with their families.
The sanctuary is located on the fairly steep side of the Helford Estuary. There is a safari bus to take people from the top to the bottom of the steep hill, but it isn’t by their own admission the most accessible of attractions; though they’ve tried their best and help is always at hand if you need it. Me, being unsteady on my feet took the safari bus option with my son, whilst my husband walked the dog down to the bottom. He beat us there and back both times, but the bus is brilliant for little legs, or unsteady adult ones.
The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is the first port of call for local seals who have been injured or who are ill. Each year around 50 seals are taken in by the sanctuary and given the care they need to get better. Most go on to be released back into the sea, but some have life changing injuries or conditions which can be best managed at the sanctuary.
At the sanctuary you can find common seals, grey seals, penguins, otters, sea lions as well as ponies, sheep and goats. There is also a rockpool area to explore and a wildlife walk through the woods. There’s a lot of learning to be had, from conservation work, to things we can do at home to help the plant. We found this very interesting and a great talking point.
The self-led tour begins at the seal rescue hospital. We skipped the hospital as there were no seals in there, which is a good thing and carried to the bottom of the hill where there are a number of different pools; the common seals were in a new-ish looking pool next to the nursery pool which held the youngest pups in the sanctuary.
There were various talks and experiences throughout the day. The feeding sessions seemed to be the most popular; watching the resident seals in the convalescent pool get fed their fishy lunch whilst we were given a talk about the seals and what had happened to bring them to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary was especially interesting. The feeding of the penguins was also great fun.
The woodland walk was a really great addition. There’s a 500 metre walk to Otter Creek, but along the way there are lots of signs with facts and activities on. It’s also great for dogs (on leads) to stretch their legs in the cool shade of the woods.
There are both permanent and temporary residents in the seal sanctuary, so the number of animals to visit can vary. However it is really well done, there is always a programme of events and a permanent selection of seals, penguins, sea lions and otters to see and learn about. The wildlife walk was great, very informative and a great place for kids to run off a bit of steam.
We were also really impressed with the cafes on site. They were not wildly expensive and we enjoyed a good lunch, though you can take a picnic if you’d prefer.
We had a really enjoyable and informative visit to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. It’s a genuinely dog friendly family attraction in Cornwall which we all really enjoyed visiting.
Every summer for the last 15 years we have holidayed near Bude in North Cornwall. It’s an area we both know pretty well, we have both separately been coming here since we were babes in arms. It’s stunning, when the sun shines there is nowhere better and there are things to do if you can tear yourself away from the beach. Now we have the boy and the dog to entertain, our holidays are less book-beach-pub and more play-paddle-ice cream. Today we decided to do something different, we downloaded a Treasure Trails map, explored Bude and discovered something new about one of our favourite places.
The Bude Treasure Trails map has a murder mystery theme and we’d picked it (there were a few different trails in the area) because it was short and dog friendly. The route should have taken 90 minutes and was only 1.5 miles. I’m not sure if the distance was accurate, but I clocked up 9000 steps on my fitbit during the walk.
We began in the car park near the Tourist Information Centre and made our way up to St Michael and All Angels Church (I’m going to be a bit vague about the route, lest I give any clues away). Fortuitously, we arrived at the church during coffee morning, so we left clutching courgette and poppy-seed buns to nibble as we walked.
The map and clues took us on a winding route down by the Bude canal and over to Bude Castle – a building I’ve never explored before but one we will be visiting properly later in the week. We ambled into town, up the high street and across to the headland with stunning views over Summerleaze beach, the famous Bude Sea Pool and beyond.
The route took us over 3 hours, but we had several pit-stops along the way; coffee at Bude Castle; a spot of lunch at Life’s a Beach, overlooking Summerleaze beach and of course the coffee morning at the church.
We discovered some beautiful, secret, interesting parts of Bude we’ve never noticed before. The Treasure Trails map encouraged us to look up, look down, look at nooks and crannies and to really take note of our surroundings. Plus finding out who dunnit was pretty fun too!
Top Tips for doing Treasure Trails
⊗ Take a pen
⊗ Don’t entrust your only pen to the person most likely to lose it
⊗ Put your map in a plastic pocket to protect it from the elements
⊗ Wear shoes you’re comfortable walking in
⊗ Don’t forget your sun cream (and brolly)
⊗ Allow extra time for coffee breaks and ice cream
Order your Treasure Trail online and either print it out yourself, or they can send you your trail in the post. There are 1000 trails to choose from across the UK, you can search for a trail on the Treasure Trails website. The description helpfully tells you how much walking (or sometimes cycling or driving) you will need to do; how long it should take and if the trail is accessible or not.
Each Trail is an A5 booklet of 8 pages and costs £6.99. They have three themes; Murder Mystery, Treasure Hunt and Spy Mission. It depends on your location which theme you’ll be given, but all the details for each trail can be found on their website.
The Treasure Trails are a brilliant way to spend a few hours exploring with your family. We had such a fun time together. Our six year old has been asking (and asking, and asking) about doing another one tomorrow – a ringing endorsement if ever there was one!
Last month we jetted off to Cornwall for a “Sharp’s Adventure” weekend with Sharp’s Brewery. Alongside five other lucky couples, we were invited to join Sharp’s Brewery and Chef Nathan Outlaw for a food and drink adventure. The details were sketchy, but we knew not to have a big breakfast and to wear good stout shoes. Throw in a two night stay in a gorgeous 4 star hotel and the weekend had me written all over it!
We flew from Manchester to Newquay Airport on Friday morning, taking a taxi from the Airport to the hotel we had the chance to take in some of the lush Cornish countryside. We checked into the St Moritz Hotel, Trebetherick, Wadebridge, quickly unpacked and I headed to the spa for the afternoon. Himself took the complimentary Land Rover taxi down to Rock to explore, before joining me in the spa. It’s a hard life.
That night we had dinner and drinks in the very fine restaurant at the hotel, before retiring and having the best night sleep we’d had in a long time. The next morning we were up and ready for adventure, whatever that adventure was.
We met the other couples in the hotel reception and in small groups we were taken down to Rock for a tour of the Rock Shellfish Company. Luke Marshall whose family have farmed oysters of the Camel Estuary for years gave us a tour, showing us the oysters in their mesh nets on trestle tables out in the estuary. The Porthilly Oysters are delicious and they are in high demand, especially from local chefs.
Luke showed us around the building where the oysters are purified in tanks before being sold on to wholesalers and restaurants. We also got a chance to taste these delicious molluscs, a rare treat to be able to try an oyster so fresh and pure. It was not an experience everyone relished, with several members of the group declining the chance to give them a try.
We were then given the directions to The Mariners Public House in Rock for lunch. The Mariners is a pub run by both Sharp’s Brewery and Nathan Outlaw and they champion seasonal local food, as well as serving a wide and glorious selection of Sharp’s beers.
Lunch was excellent, if a little rushed, we had a minibus waiting outside ready to take us on our next adventure. All of the plates were as pretty as a picture and each item on the menu was listed with a matched beer. Had I had the afternoon free to imbibe, I would have thoroughly explored this option.
Starters at The Mariners included pea and ham hock soup and Cropwell Bishop blue cheese salad with chicory and walnut. The most popular main on the table was the breaded hake with tartare sauce and romaine salad – a thick fillet of hake served with bitter romaine offset with a zingy and well executed tartare.
Pudding, not that we had much room left, was a choice between steamed treacle and ginger sponge with custard or St. Clements posset, granita and shortbread. I opted for the steamed sponge, I’m a slave to my school dinner cravings, but the pudding was as light and fluffy as it was possible to be. Comforting enough to induce a little nap on the minibus to our next destination.
From Rock, the minibus sped us an hour and a half down the coast to our next and final destination, a field somewhere on the Zennon Peninsula where chef Nathan Outlaw was busy with a barbecue, some tables had been beautifully set and ominously a row of hard hats and harnesses lay on the floor.
Regrettably my bad back meant I had to stay at the top of the hill drinking beer and watching Nathan Outlaw cook for us, but my intrepid husband donned a hard hat and had a go at abseiling with the rest of the group under the expert guidance of The Newquay Activity Centre. I was sad to miss out on that particular adventure, but up at the top of the hill we were having a bovine adventure of our own.
As Nathan and the other chefs were preparing our meal, a herd of cows wandered into the field to check out what we were up to. They were pretty friendly cows and needed to be gently persuaded to leave our al fresco set up alone. Thankfully they did, and most of the cows had moved on by the time everyone was back up after their abseiling adventure.
Given that dinner was prepared almost entirely using two small barbecues and on a slightly wobbly table in a field, Nathan had prepared a real seafood feast for us all. Watching him grill flatbreads, pineapple, monkfish, prawns, scallops and an array of vegetables for our barbecue banquet was a bit of a privilege for a foodie like me.
Our seafood feast began with smoked mackerel and seaweed pate; seafood ceviche (barbecued brill, prawns, scallops and lobster) with tomato, red onion and coriander; and a barbecued octopus salad with tomatoes, watercress and cucumber, all served with flatbread.
The main course was barbecued monkfish which had been marinaded in potted shrimp spice and served with crushed new potatoes, grilled fennel and capers. Dessert was barbecued pineapple with meringue, spiced rum syrup and lime cream. It was all delicious and it was a real privilege to be cooked such a personal and exceptional meal by Nathan.
Dinner was matched with beers from Sharp’s Brewery. Favourites included their biggest selling beer, Doom Bar, their new-ish Pilsner and my new favourite, Atlantic Pale Ale – a fruity ale packed with citrus flavours and sweet notes which worked exceptionally well with the seafood.
Sadly our Sharp’s adventure was drawing to a close, all twelve of us clamoured onto the minibus back to the hotel, tired but very, very happy.
We’d eaten incredibly well, we’d drunk many excellent beers and discovered a few new ones, and we’d had a real Sharp’s adventure. Sharp’s Brewery had treated us to a once in a lifetime, money can’t buy experience, and I think we were all sad it was over.
Thank you to Sharp’s Brewery and the St Moritz Hotel, The Rock Shellfish Company, The Mariners Pub, The Newquay Activity Centre and Nathan Outlaw for showing us a good time and for making our Sharp’s Adventure an incredibly memorable one!
A last minute break in what we think is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Smack bang on the North Devon and Cornwall border this is Welcombe Mouth, with gorse and heather covered cliffs, it’s own waterfall, jagged rocks and great surfing. What’s not to love?
For a year now I’ve been following Fiona @CoombeMill on Twitter. She takes the most beautiful pictures of the place where her and her family live and work, Coombe Mill. A couple of months ago I casually mentioned that’d we’d be nearby for our summer holiday, Fiona very kindly invited us to swing by and spend the day exploring. So we did.
Coombe Mill is a 30 acre estate in North Cornwall. Fiona and family have some lovely Scandinavian lodges and stone cottages which families can book for their holidays, the accommodation is beautiful, but the real reason people stay at Coombe Mill is that is it fantastic for kids. It has it’s own working (but very safe) farm, as well as a model railway, playground and play areas, and an under construction fairy garden. It’s ace.
We arrived just before 9am and Fiona treated us to a massive mug of much needed coffee. We were waiting for her husband, aka Farmer Nick to come round with the tractor, so we could join him and all the other children staying at Coombe Mill for the morning feed run.
We hopped aboard the tractor and headed off across the stream to feed the animals. The small boy is obsessed (understatement) with farms and animals, so he was utterly delighted to meet the the pigs, goats, chickens, ducks, geese, peacocks, donkeys, deer and wallabies at Coombe Mill.
We pootled around feeding them all and collected eggs from the chickens which he loved doing. He met some baby chicks, hopped after the wallabies (Bruce and Sheila, naturally) and fell in love with the cheeky goats.
The highlight for us was the “deer hunt” which was not as sinister as it sounds. They have a herd of fallow deer and a few of the ladies were pregnant and due any day, Farmer Nick had an inkling that we might find a newborn deer if we were very good, very quiet and very lucky. We searched through the bracken, around the trees and rocks and we found, nestled in a gap in the rocks, a baby deer. I tried to take a picture but it was impossible to get a good look at it. But it was a real privilege.
After feeding time with Farmer Nick, the small boy got to help drive the tractor back to Coombe Mill, and we took of freshly laid eggs and had egg of toast with Fiona. It’s a simple but rare pleasure, a freshly laid egg, but it was a real treat.
Fiona then gave us a little tour of the site and the lodges (which are beautiful and spacious), she then took us to the little railway they’ve constructed, which wasn’t running until later that day, but even that provided a good half hours entertainment for the small boy.
It’s such a beautiful place. In truth we were eyeing it up with a view to staying there next year and I think it’s the perfect holiday spot for anyone with little ones. The small boy had an absolute ball and has talked of nothing else since which is always a good sign.
We had a lovely day and send a big thank you to Fiona and Farmer Nick for including us in their busy day. Coombe Mill is a great place, I can see why everyone adores it!