Pocket Britain
Britain > Cornwall > Bodmin

One of Cornwall's oldest towns adjacent to its largest area of moorland

Listen to this article


St Petroc Church
Bodmin Jail
Bodmin & Wenford Railway
Stone Circles
Dozmary Pool
Jamaica Inn
Bodmin is one of the oldest towns in Cornwall, that lies at the south-western edge of Cornwall's largest area of moorland, Bodmin Moor. It has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The bridge at Bowithick, Bodmin Moor
Photo Mark Camp
The name Bodmin comes from the ancient Cornish word for "monk" and it is no surprise that this town's history started with the founding of a monastery at Bodmin during the 6th century. The monastery was founded by St. Petroc from which Bodmin gets its alternative name of Petrockstow. While nothing remains of the monastery, the parish church of St Petroc still stands as a permanent reminder of Bodmin's religious past and it is the largest parish church in Cornwall. There is a stained glass window showing St Petroc inside the church.

St Petroc Church in Bodmin

Bodmin Jail

Bodmin Jail was originally built in 1779 for King George III. Since then it has stored the Domesday Book during WW1 and at one stage even provided a safe haven for the Crown Jewels. This former jail is now a fascinating tourist attraction where visitors can enter the cold dank cells, look up at the thin light filtering through a small barred window and imagine being sentenced. You can visit the execution pits and even take an overnight ghost walk!
With the advent of the railway, Bodmin became an important stopping point on the Cornish Mainline, the backbone connecting Cornwall to the rest of the country, including London. It is still on the mainline and around 250,000 passengers use Bodmin Parkway railway station every year. This station is also the southern terminus of the Bodmin & Wenford Railway, operating steam and diesel trains to nearby Bodmin General and Boscarne Junction. The railway allows you to relax in style and enjoy a leisurely 13 mile round trip through beautiful countryside, taking in the sights, sound and smells of a bygone age, as the era of a Cornish branch line in the 1950s reveals itself during the course of your journey.

The Bodmin & Wenford Railway
Photo Phill Scott
Extending North East from the town of Bodmin is Bodmin Moor, an area of granite moorland, extending for 80 square miles (200 square km). The moor is rugged, wild and remote, but its raw beauty is there for all to see, covered with rough pasture or overgrown with heather. The moor is the source of many Cornish rivers including the River Fowey, River Tiddy and River Camel. It is also used as a breeding ground for cattle, including cows, ewes, horses and ponies.

The Cheesewring, a natural granite formation on the southern edge of Bodmin Moor
Photo Mick Knapton

Horses on Bodmin Moor
Photo Kevin Walsh
Man has been hunting on the moor for over 10,000 years, when it was wooded and more temperate than it is today. Archaeologists have found several flint based tools from this period. Evidence from later periods however, are more visible on the moor. Bronze Age monuments, including stone circles and standing stones, can still be seen, including those at Altarnun and the Hurlers, near Liskeard.

The ring of stones at Altarnun
Photo Jim Champion
Bodmin Moor is famous for its myths and legends. The most famous story is the Beast of Bodmin, a phantom wild cat that is said to roam the moor. Scientists dismiss the beasts existence, but sightings continue and farmers report mutilated livestock. Stories of big cats and wild black dogs will continue to haunt us for years to come, much in the same way that it inspired stories such as the Hound of the Baskervilles.

Searching for the Hound of the Baskervilles
Picture in the Public Domain
Another famous local legend concerns Dozmary Pool, near Bolventor on the A30 road. Jan Tregeagle was a magistrate in the early 17th century and was known for being harsh. Stories circulated that he had murdered his wife and made a pact with the Devil. One story claims that sometime after his death, a case was going through court in which the defendant had illegally obtained some land. The defendant, sure that the dead Tregeagle could not testify against him, cried, "If Tregeagle ever saw it, I wish to God he would come and declare it!" To the court's astonishment, Tregeagle materialized in the witness box and testified that he had forged some crucial document! Justice having been done, the court would not send Tregeagle back to Hell, so they set him the task of emptying the water out of Dozmary Pool with a limpet shell to while away the time until Judgment Day!

Dozmary Pool near Bolventor
Photo Mick Knapton

Jamaica Inn

Photo Trish Steel
Standing high on Bodmin Moor, this 18th century Inn was a famous base for smugglers and claims to be one of the most haunted places in Britain. It was the setting of Daphne du Maurier's novel, later made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock and even a TV series starring Jane Seymour during the 1980's. The inn contains The Museum of Smuggling where you can learn the art of concealment and tax evasion! The Inn itself is full of atmosphere, including beamed ceilings and open fires in winter. Open daily from 9am. Jamaica Inn, Bolventor, PL15 7TS. Tel: 01566 86250
Visitor Information
Bodmin Tourist Information Centre, Shire Hall, Mount Folly, Bodmin, PL31 2DQ. Tel: 01208 76616
The Bodmin and Wenford Railway operates a scheduled service April to October (plus some weekends in winter). Tickets cost around £12 for an all day adult rover, £6 children. Bodmin & Wenford Railway, General Station, Bodmin, PL31 1AQ. Tel: 01208 73555
Bodmin Jail is open daily 10am till dusk. Entry costs around £7 for adults, £5 children. Bodmin Jail, Berrycoombe Road, Bodmin, PL31 2NR. Tel: 01208 76292

Back ~ Top ~ Home ~ Index

Pocket Britain is optimised for use on a smartphone or tablet with internet access. All content is subject to copyright. All reasonable methods have been used to ensure information supplied is accurate at the time of publication. However, it is advisable to check information before relying on it. Privacy Policy