Cornwall has over 250 miles of coastline, with some fantastic beaches and cliff-top walks, so why would anyone want to spend time in a small town five miles from the sea? Read on to find out why Wadebridge in north Cornwall is well worth a look.
Straddling the River Camel, five miles inland from Padstow and eight miles from the larger town of Bodmin, Wadebridge is arguably Cornwall’s nicest town. True, it might not have much competition as St. Austell, Camborne, Redruth, Penzance, Newquay and Bodmin are not the prettiest (Truro is lovely, but by virtue of its cathedral is classed as a city rather than a town, the only one in the county). So what is there to see and do in this market-town of just over 6,000 inhabitants?
There has been a bridge across the River Camel at Wadebridge since the 15th Century – according to legend its foundations were built on sacks of wool. Before then, the settlement was called Wade. Nowadays, the 15 arches of the bridge play host to a busy main road.
The arches are lit up with individual bulbs at night, making the Old Bridge as it is called look like bridges you might see in Amsterdam. It’s one of the oldest and finest bridges in England.
Bridge aficionados will be happy to learn there is one more bridge nearby. Fans of old-school TV will remember Anneka Rice in her yellow jump-suit, presenting “Challenge Anneka”. In 1991, her team built the footbridge (below) crossing the River Camel just to the south of the town centre.
The best view in Wadebridge is from Coronation Park, a good fifteen minute walk up a steep hill from the town centre. It was opened to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. From here you can see the whole of the town below you, Bodmin Moor beyond the war memorial and Cornwall’s highest peak, Brown Willy, in the distance.
When one of the best things to do in Wadebridge is to get out of the place, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s not much going on here. The Camel Trail is a pedestrianized path that follows the course of the old disused railway from Padstow to Bodmin, and Wadebridge is right at its heart. Hire bikes from Bridge Bike Hire, near Lidl, and cycle the five miles to one of the prettiest seaside towns in England, Padstow.
You should also head in the other direction (towards Bodmin) on the Camel Trail, either on foot or by bike, and spend a few hours at Camel Valley Vineyards. You can sit on the terrace and sample some award winning wines – the sparkling white Annies’ Anniversary is the best of the bunch, named in honour of owner Annie Lindo. Remember to buy a bottle or two to take home with you from the vineyard shop.
When hunger calls, my go-to places in Wadebridge are The Bridge Bistro on the Old Bridge, for sandwiches, burgers and grills, and The Dancing Taipan on The Platt for quality Chinese food. For the best Cornish pasties in the area, look for the red and white chequered shop-fronts of Malcolm Barnecutt – there are two branches, one on Molesworth Street and one on The Platt.
As for pubs, they can be split into two – those owned by St. Austell Inns for Tribute, Korev and Proper Job, or Sharp’s pubs for Doom Bar, Sharp’s Atlantic and Sharp’s Cornish Pilsner. The Ship Inn does the best Sharp’s Atlantic, then it’s back over the bridge to The Swan for some Proper Job before ending the night on the Doom Bar at the more lively Bridge on Wool, where there are regular live bands.
Wadebridge is not blessed with a plethora of accommodation choices – not a problem for me, as I stay with the in-law’s whenever I visit. There is a fairly new Travelodge on West Hill and a few B&Bs. Whatever you can find, staying for a night or two in Wadebridge in addition to your Cornish seaside holiday will give you an alternative take on England’s most attractive county.