We’ve never spent any part of Autumn in Cornwall before, though it’s something we’ve talked a lot about trying one day. Even though we go to Bude every year, we usually prefer to visit during the Easter holidays in April and we have occasionally spent a week there during the summer holidays as well. There’s something about the idea of Autumn in Cornwall that really appealed to us though: less crowds; empty beaches; crunchy leaves; golden light and long walks followed by cosy evenings indoors snuggled up on the sofa with a good book.
When an unexpected, last-minute opportunity came up for us to stay at The Beach Haven during October half term we enthusiastically jumped at the chance to see what Autumn in Cornwall is like, keeping it a secret from the girls until the day before we were due to drive down as we wanted to surprise them.
It ended up being the wettest, windiest holiday to Bude that we’ve ever been on!
The daily, unrelenting, torrential rain could have put a dampener on things but truthfully we were so happy to have been able to escape for a much needed break by the sea in our happy place that it didn’t matter. We went for soggy walks, ate ice creams in the rain, marvelled at the height of the enormous waves consuming the beach, listened to the unearthly booming reverberations as the water crashed furiously into the rocks, nearly got blown off the clifftops by the wind whilst surrounded by bubbles of sea foam soaring upwards and tried to make the most of every day as best as we could.
We arrived home on the day that Lockdown part 2 was announced, even more grateful to have been able to squeeze in a bonus trip to Bude during this tumultuous year.
This post is part 1 of our travel diary from our trip. Here’s what we got up to in Autumn in Cornwall…
DAY 1: SATURDAY
We left our home at 6am as usual, in order to beat the traffic and have as much time in Bude as possible. Never have I been more thankful that my husband is a confident driver. Epic rain hurled itself at us the entire way down, visibility was poor and we took it steadily, arriving at about 11am after a short stop for a toilet and tea/hot chocolate break.
Despite the rain, we headed straight for the beach just as we always do, the girls chasing down to the water’s edge as fast as their legs would carry them over the slippery rocks, soaking their shoes within seconds.
We spent ages there running away from the waves and hunting for shells – it really is the simple things that make the best memories. I was thrilled to discover our very first piece of seaglass! We’ve never found any before, despite combing the shoreline meticulously every single year. I’d been watching the girls playing, happened to look down at my feet and there it was, nestled comfortably in between some pebbles. I felt like I’d found buried treasure! A good omen that we were meant to be there perhaps.
We walked ‘over the top’ from Crooklets Beach to Summerleaze Beach, the sea an indistinguishable froth of white foam, like beaten egg whites, rolling angrily beneath us. We stopped to watch brave surfers determinedly battle their way out to deeper water through the waves that relentlessly forced them backwards towards the beach with every stroke.
We sheltered in a cafe for lunch, defrosting numb fingers and freezing toes in the cosy atmosphere, checking the weather app every few minutes and planning when might be best to venture out for a day trip over the coming week. There was time for a quick wander around the shops, masked up and socially distant of course, and then before we knew it The Beach Haven was ready for us so we headed to our home-from-home and got settled in for the evening.
DAY 2: SUNDAY
We awoke on Sunday to the persistent clatter of raindrops on the roof, threatening grey skies and howling winds. This called for a lazy morning spent in pyjamas, watching TV and playing board games.
The Beach Haven has a brilliant range of games for all ages (Harry Potter Cluedo is our favourite!) and the ‘quarantine box’ system is still in place whilst Covid-19 is still around. Anything that we play with (along with any books we read from their little library and any CDs/DVDs we use) during our stay have to be put in a special box and those items all get quarantined for a week after we leave. The next family to stay there then gets a different selection of games to play with instead. It works really well and helped us feel that all the cleaning regulations had been well thought out and were firmly in place.
We took advantage of a short break in the rain to head outside, back down to the beach. Typically, the downpour started again as soon as we arrived but we stayed anyway. There’s something special about the beach in the rain. We were pretty much the only ones crazy enough to be there. That’s one of the best things about Autumn in Cornwall – there are definitely fewer crowds when the weather isn’t quite so good!
Neil, Mimi and Lola are pretty hardcore and hung out there for quite a while despite the girls’ fingers and toes turning blue and them shivering uncontrollably. Meanwhile Ella and I headed home after half an hour or so to make toasted sandwiches and hot drinks for lunch, ready for when the others got home.
By the time late afternoon rolled around I could tell that there was going to be a good sunset, so I headed back out on my own in the rain with my camera to try and capture it whilst everyone else rather sensibly stayed snuggled up in the warm and dry at The Beach Haven.
Sunrises and sunsets are two of my favourite things and watching them over the ocean is something that will never cease to amaze me. It still blows my mind every time that nature can create something so spectacular that is different every single time.
It’s only a ten minute walk to the beach from where we stay and I got completely soaked through within seconds of being outside, despite wearing four layers of clothes (put it like this – when I got home even my underwear was drenched enough that I could wring the water out of it!). I was genuinely worried that my camera might have got waterlogged beyond repair, though thankfully it’s pretty sturdy and has seemed to just about survive.
The rain was heavy, forceful and unforgiving and the wind whipped it in every direction – an umbrella wouldn’t have stood a chance. It was worth it though and I would 100% have made the same choice to go out in that wild weather again.
I arrived home, bedraggled and cold deep in my bones, to the promise of a hot shower and a takeaway from our favourite Indian restaurant in Bude – Bude Tandoori. We have a little tradition to have a takeaway from there every time we visit Bude and it’s always SO good.
DAY 3: MONDAY
It must have rained itself out during the night because the day dawned bright and sunny, with a glorious rainbow arching it’s way over the fields behind The Beach Haven. A beautiful way to start what was supposed to be the only dry day of our time in Bude.
We’d already planned to spend the day in Padstow. It’s somewhere we’ve been wanting to visit for ages and in all our years of visiting Cornwall have never quite made it to.
When we were in Cornwall earlier this year in July, we’d intended to do the Camel Trail (cycling from Wadebridge to Padstow) but in the end decided against it because of how busy the trail would be during the summer holidays and the fact that we would need to hire bikes which didn’t seem to be a particularly responsible thing to do in the middle of a pandemic. We came to the same conclusion this trip as well and opted to drive to Padstow instead. Maybe next year will be our year to finally tick the Camel Trail off of our travel bucket list!
Padstow is about an hour away from Bude so we cranked up the family playlist in the car and headed over mid-morning. We expected it to be a little bit busy because a/ it was half term and b/ Autumn in Cornwall is still a popular time to visit, especially on a good weather day like this day. We were not expecting it to be quite as overcrowded as it was.
It was almost impossible to find a parking space – we tried three different public car parks to no avail and eventually the husband dropped the girls and I off on a residential road to make our way down to the harbour on foot whilst he went to find a space on a hidden side street. We didn’t mind too much – I love wandering round and exploring off the beaten track as a way of getting a feel for a new-to-us town.
Once we reached the main part of Padstow social distancing seemed to be non-existent and I have to admit that I did feel quite uncomfortable a lot of the time – it was almost as if coronavirus didn’t even exist. We also spent a ridiculous amount of time queuing for a fish-and-chips lunch and ice creams as well – the latter was definitely worth the wait though!
The enormous seagulls definitely didn’t stick to Covid rules, clamouring loudly for scraps of food in large groups, like a gang of menacing teenagers bullying a smaller child. We eyed them nervously and they brazenly stared right back at us, daring us to drop a chip that they could swoop down on and triumphantly retrieve. During our adventures in Cornwall last year we spent an afternoon in Port Isaac and Mimi lost her ice cream to one particularly confident seagull who snatched it right out of her hand as it flew past! Here in Padstow she determinedly protected herself (and her ice cream) as if her life depended on it.
However, despite these niggles, Padstow itself was almost ridiculously pretty. Cobbled streets, higgeldy-piggeldy buildings, tiny cafes, boats of all shapes and sizes bobbing contentedly in the picturesque harbour, delicious sweet bakery smells mingling with the salt being carried inland on the sea breeze… Everything that we’ve come to expect from a Cornish coastal town and more.
I took Ella and Lola to get their hair braided (something they’ve been wanting to do for ages so when we spotted a stall right next to the waterfront we couldn’t resist) whilst Neil and Mimi looked around the shops.
We meandered down to the sea walls and harbour entrance in the late afternoon. The sun was already beginning to lower in the sky, it’s golden light spilling over the rooftops of the houses perched on the hills above the harbour and kissing the water, illuminating it as if it were something holy. It was utterly beautiful.
I wish we’d had more time to spend there so we could have explored further. We barely touched the surface of all the things there are to see and do in Padstow and I know there will be some hidden treasures a little more inland away from the water (and the crowds) as well. We’ll definitely be back.
Part two of our travel diary from our trip during Autumn in Cornwall will follow soon.
In the meantime, if you’re heading to Bude any time soon, or contemplating booking a holiday here next year, do check out my other Cornwall posts for ideas: