It's hard to imagine that the quiet town of Bodmin was actually the former county town of Cornwall during the tin mining era. In its rabble-rousing days it was the centre of the Cornish Rebellion in 1497 and the later Prayer Book Rebellion. Situated on the edge of Tamar Valley, this ancient town is linked to Padstow via the 17-mile long Camel Trail. Along with the Grade I listed church, it is home to Bodmin Jail, Berry Tower and the Victoria Barracks which now house an excellent regimental museum.
Here are our 5 worthwhile reasons to visit Bodmin:
- St Petroc's Parish Church in Bodmin is totally out of proportion to the current size of the town. In fact it was the largest church in Cornwall until Truro Cathedral was built. The current church dates back to 1469, on foundations believed to have been laid by St Petroc around 540AD. You can have fun on a treasure hunt inside the church looking for the man with five fingers and a thumb immortalised in the carved misericords (hinged seats in the choir stalls). Easier to find are the 12th century font, the effigy of Prior Vivian lying on a chest and the holy well of St Guron in the churchyard.
- Bodmin Gaol is now a tourist attraction after being the last prison in Cornwall to close, in 1927. Built in 1779, the early prisoners hauled 20,000 tons of granite from the nearby Cuckoo Quarry to build the jail. More than 50 people were hanged during its 150 years history, including the last known public hanging in the UK, in 1909.
Not surprisingly, Bodmin Gaol is said to be haunted. There are regular guided Ghost Walks and all-night ghost-watches with a psychic medium. The jail is open daily for self-guided tours. Explore the 6 floors of exhibits, the naval prison and the cells before visiting the Warder's Room Restaurant.
- Visitors to Bodmin should pay a visit to the lonely Jamaica Inn on the A30 at Bolventor. This old coaching inn became world-famous after Daphne du Maurier visited it and wrote a novel of the same name about smugglers, pirates and rogues. Sip Cornish ale in the olde worlde bar, enjoy a meal in the award-winning restaurant and visit the adjoining Smugglers Museum for more tales of Cornish history.
- Enjoy a walk to the Bodmin Beacon on the outskirts of Bodmin Moor. It is set in an award-winning 83-acre nature reserve just 5 minutes from the town centre. The tree-covered walks and flower-covered hills are a haven for birds, butterflies and other wildlife. The 144-foot-high Bodmin Beacon is a local landmark that was erected in 1856 in memory of Sir Walter Raleigh Gilbert for his distinguished service in India. He was born in Bodmin in 1785, but is not related to his even more famous namesake.
- Take a nostalgic trip on the Bodmin and Wenford Railway, the only standard gauge railway in the UK to operate both diesel and steam trains. Take a 13-mile journey through Cornwall's scenic countryside on this restored heritage railway to reach the Camel Trail or Lanhydrock House. Look out for special events including dining train experiences, murder mystery evenings, Jazz evenings and the annual Santa by Steam.
5 fun facts about Bodmin
- Bodmin was the only Cornish town to be recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086. The Domesday Book was actually hidden in Bodmin Jail during World War 1 along with the Crown Jewels.
- The Beast of Bodmin, a black panther-like cat, is Bodmin's answer to the Loch Ness Monster!
- The name “Bodmin” comes from the Cornish “Bod-Menegh” which means home of monks. This refers to the religious settlement founded in Bodmin in 540AD by St Petroc.
- The Bodmin and Wenford Railway was the first steam-driven railway in Cornwall and one of the earliest in the world. It was also one of the first passenger trains in Britain.
- Bodmin Jail was ahead of its time when it opened in 1778. It was the first prison to offer separate cells rather than communal living areas.
Have you ever visited Bodmin or do you pass quickly through by road or rail? Does our article inspire you to visit? Let us know what you like best about this quiet Cornish town.