If you enjoy tales of eccentric, genius Victorian inventors, shipwrecks, fossils, and railways, Bude Castle Heritage Centre is the perfect place to start discovering the history of Bude. The Grade II listed building was constructed by Cornwall's "Forgotten Genius", Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, in 1830. It overlooks safe and popular Summerleaze Beach and lies alongside the Bude Canal.
Find out about the wreck of the Bencoolen, as well as the town's little-known link to the Titanic. Relive the English Civil War Battle of Stratton, or step back to the drama of World War Two, when US Rangers used the cliffs as a practice site before heading to the Normandy beaches. The three galleries showcase the work of local craftspeople and artists, including animations, ceramics, paintings, photography, and textiles. There are over 30 exhibitions each year.
Behind the elegant Victorian façade, which is unaltered, the exhibition spaces and rooms are airy and light and laid out in a sympathetic Victorian period style. The Heritage Centre itself is in the middle section of the Castle, on the ground and first floors. It's divided into several themed areas, including a special exhibition area dedicated to Sir Goldsworthy Gurney himself.
Sir Goldsworthy Gurney's contemporaries scoffed at his plans to build a home amidst the sand dunes, but he was not to be deterred, and the structure has stood the test of time. Gurney trained as a surgeon and was also an excellent scientist, inventor, and engineer. One of his most innovative ideas included a new system of lighting, the Bude Light, used to light up The Castle itself as well as the Houses of Parliament, Pall Mall, and Trafalgar Square. Other inventions included a system to make the working environment in mines safe via fumigation.
Enjoy a scenic snack in the conservatory at Café Limelight on site, which looks out over the Canal, as well as Barrel Rock and Summerleaze Beach. Weather permitting, you can also enjoy an alfresco meal on the outdoor patio area, located inside the original garden walls (plus the kitchen garden).
The Castle has been owned by Bude Urban District Council since 1947. It has housed various council facilities including the town library and magistrate's court and was converted to a heritage centre in 2007. The Castle is licenced for weddings in three beautiful rooms of varying sizes, all with stunning views.
There is good access for users of wheelchair and mobility buggies, including a fully accessible lift to the first floor. Those making a visit to Bude Castle Heritage Centre independently might want to ask for assistance with some of the doors – check with the centre for details; advance enquiries are welcomed.