Having children not only gives you a new perspective on life, it opens your eyes to new things about places too. Even if you think you knew them like the back of your hand already.
Brown tourist signs are suddenly a very real point of interest. Spotting that reassuring National Trust logo feels like stumbling across a shortcut to the pot of gold at the foot of a rainbow when you’re desperate to break a long (and loud) car journey (Milly isn’t a great traveller). Rockpools and piles of pebbles are potential boredom busters rather than unremarkable blips on the landscape. Wet, stodgy sand is no longer inferior to a dusty, white beach but to be greeted with glee and celebrated for its sand castle making perfection. A windy day becomes perfect for flying a kite rather than a reason to sulk indoors with a book, whilst grunting something every 10 minutes or so about the abysmal English weather.
People moan (a lot) about the bad sides of holidaying kids but it’s not all suncream in their eyes scream-a-thons and disappointing earlybird dinners. Honest.
We bought Cottons Cottage, our little Cornish bolthole nestled in a lovely bit of countryside between Widemouth Bay and Bude, back in 2010. By the time we took Poppy there for the first time at the tail end of 2012, we thought we knew everything there was to know about our little stretch of the North Cornwall coast. We were wrong. Now with a baby and toddler in tow we’re starting to uncover even more. Here are our top things to do* (within a one hour drive of Bude) from our recent trip.
1. Sand castles. Never underestimate the pleasure a bucket and spade can provide. The sand at Widemouth Bay beach is perfect for constructing the finest sand mansions (although Poppy finds the destruction phase far too tempting for us to build anything more impressive than something resembling a medieval ruin).
2. Rockpools (or just puddles). Poppy is yet to fully appreciate the nature side of rockpooling but present her with some “little sea” (as she calls it) and she is happy to splash for hours. Milly also dabbles her toes. Crooklets beach in Bude and Widemouth Bay are our favourite splash spots.
3. Wave jumping. Dipping your toes in the ocean and being ‘chased’ to the shore by a wave just has to be done. Whatever your age. The surf-perfect waves of the bigger North Cornish beaches may not always be ideal for a baby and toddler but this is when the smaller, more sheltered bays come into their own. We love Crackington Haven and Daymar Bay, near Rock, with its expanse of calm waves and shallow water.
4. Beach walks. We’ve resisted (so far) getting a double buggy. However, it can be tricky convincing Poppy to walk any great distance without a park in her eyeline as a bribe. Milly, on the other hand, loves a nap on the move (except not in a car strangely). The solution? Beach walks. We popped snoozy Milly in her sling and Poppy seems happy to walk (or run) between the many distractions a shoreline offers. Get your tide times right and the walk from Summerleaze beach in Bude, through to Crooklets, onto Margaret’s quirky cafe at Northcott and maybe (if you’re feeling adventurous) onwards past the shipwreck to Sandymouth is a great walk. The beach walk from Daymar Bay to Rock is also a good one.
5. Bikes. We took the girls on their first bike ride this holiday and we all loved it. With help from the very knowledgeable Bude Bikes, Poppy sat on a seat on the back of Mr J’s bike and I dragged Milly around in a nifty trailer in which we’d secured her car seat (we’re not sure if this is an official way to do things so copy only if you feel your seat fits securely!). We rode along the bike route from Bude to Marhamchurch, then picked up a cycle route to Widemouth Bay. It was a five mile circuit (with plenty of coffee shops en route), which was a perfect introduction to family cycling for the Johnson foursome. We’ve heard the Camel Trail is great too.
6. Buggy friendly walks. There’s more to discover via four mini wheels than you may expect once you know where to look. The stretch of canal from Marhamchurch to Bude is great for walking with a buggy and offers plenty of wildlife for a toddler to gawp at en route (sheep, cows, ducks, geese and birds aplenty), coffee shops at either end and the beach when you get to Bude. There are also lots of tracked walks starting at The Weir restaurant located conveniently on the A39.
7. Kite flying. Now Cornwall isn’t always sun, sun, sun. Luckily the blustery coastline isn’t just great for surfers, mini kite flyers love it too.
8. Boats. Now you can zoom around in speedboats but we’re not quite ready for that just yet. For now, taking the mini ferry from Rock to Padstow is high octane enough!
9. A baby-friendly bolthole. Yes, this is an unashamed plug for our little cottage. (Applause for waiting until point 9 please!) But having two small children has hammered it home to us how important having somewhere nice and family-friendly to stay is, especially for late afternoons when the little ones are tired and just need somewhere to veg out with Peppa Pig (yes, you know that hour before dinner when even the nicest children turn into demons).
10. Eating out. Yes, really. We’ve found the local eating establishments around Bude are just brilliant for family dining. Rosie’s Kitchen (equipped with play area, small soft play shed and ice cream parlour) and Tommy Jacks (great aquariums) near Crooklets make dining with little mouths hassle free (mostly). The Bay View Inn and Elements are also great family options in Widemouth Bay
11. And of course cream teas! Our favourite spot is the beach front Trelawny Tearoom at Widemouth Bay (the best cream tea and cakes in Cornwall courtesy of Vicky).
* Of course there are numerous more organised (and spendy) attractions from theme parks to animal sanctuaries within easy access of Bude but to be honest, we didn’t feel the need to brave this level of chaos just yet!