the thick stone walled entrance to the bodmin jail experience

The Bodmin Jail Experience, Cornwall

Cornwall has a rich and bloody history. It’s a County full of tales of smugglers and fantastical legend and people who ended up on the wrong side of the law. Where better to learn some of their tales than the Bodmin Jail experience on the edge of Bodmin Moor. This is a brilliant interactive museum which is the perfect place to keep the kids entertained on a rainy day in Cornwall.

main gatehouse entrance to bodmin jail

The Dark Walk at Bodmin Jail

Your visit to the Bodmin Jail experience starts on the dark walk. I really don’t want to ruin this part as half the fun is in the unexpected. I just want to say that the whole walk is brilliantly done, it’s an immersive experience so there’s plenty to watch, listen to and feel as you wander through the various exhibits. As the name suggests, it’s a bit dark but not so much you struggle to see the amazing theatrical effects. Yes the sense of the unknown makes it a little scary but not too much. It’s more thrill than fear.

piper quinn pulling a book from a shelf at the bodmin jail experience
This is where your visit begins!

The Bodmin Jail Museum

The cells

Once you’ve finished the dark walk you’ll move into the museum section of the experience. Starting in the old cells you’ll learn more about some of their inhabitants and what life was like to be incarcerated at Bodmin Jail. The walls are thick, it’s cold and dingy and the stories are chilling. We learnt about the children who lived in the prison, prisoners rights and the health and safety struggles the jail went through.

plague doctor costume in a cell at bodmin jail with red lighting

Piper loved the scale model of the jail learning about the different areas and then being able to explore them in real life. Also the interactive exhibits where she could experience some of the punishments prisoners went through. We had long discussions about the rule that one bath was allowed every three months and how it might have smelt in the cells and about the very spooky looking plague doctor and why they wore those terrifying masks.

piper quinn looking at a model of bodmin jail in a glass cabinet

The Governors Office

Next it was into the governors office and more opportunity to understand the history of the jail and daily life in the prison. Unsurprisingly Piper was fascinated by prisoners food rations and the jobs carried out daily by the wardens.

piper quinn sat at the huge wooden governors dest reading an old book at bodin jail

The Beast of Bodmin Moor

The section dedicated to the Beast of Bodmin moor was one of my favourites in the jail, it’s one of Cornwall’s best loved legends. Since the late seventies there have been reports of a large black cat like creature stalking the moors. The beast has been blamed for the death of many livestock but its existence has never been proved (or disproved!). You can read more about the Beast of Bodmin Moor here.

skull which is apparantly the beast of bodmin moor is a glass dome

Hauntings at Bodmin Jail

Bodmin Jail is said to be England’s most haunted place. Walking through its grounds definitely feels a bit creepy. Strange smells, ghostly figures and even faintings have all been reported in the buildings.

If you want to learn more about the hauntings at Bodmin Jail you can book a paranormal tour round the prison. This take place between 9pm and 3am, I imagine the building would be super creepy after dark!

many tv sreens depicting hauntings at bodmin jail

Executions

Your visit to the Bodmin Jail experience ends at the UKs only working execution pit. This really is a haunting part of the prison and I got goosebumps just being there. 55 prisoners were put to death here for crimes ranging from theft to murder. 8 of these were women. There is a small cinematic attraction you can watch in a separate room, it’s incredibly well done and thought provoking but probably skip this part if you or the kids are sensitive.

multi media image of a woman in victrian costume with a bag on her head. she is about to be hanged

Bodmin Jail History

Bodmin Jail was built in 1779 by military engineer Sir John Call. The designs of the building were based on the plans of Prison reformer John Howard and ticked off many firsts in UK prison history. It had hot running water, separate areas for men and women and individual cells.

bodmin jail building seen through the decorative bars of the gates

The prison was totally rebuilt during the Victorian Times as more space was required to further segregate inmates. The prison finally closed its doors in 1927.

£8.5 million was spent on the newly revamped Bodmin Jail to turn it into the brilliant visitor attraction it is today. The Experience opened its doors in 2020.

exploring the cells in bodmin jail

Is the Bodmin Jail Experience scary?

Yes, parts of it are. Probably more so for the adults as we tend to put ourselves in the position of the inmates. The Execution exhibit is particularly spine chilling but this can easily be bypassed if you want to avoid it.

bypass sign at bodmin jail

Bodmin Jail recommend the experience is suitable for kids aged eight and over. Parental discretion is advised. My daughter is 11 and she absolutely loved it. She kept pretty close to me at the the start of the dark walk as she didn’t know what to expect but she soon relaxed as we went round. On the self guided walk you won’t experience jump scares or actors running out at you. You may not want your kids to read and see everything there is but most exhibits are easy to skip through. I do think it’s important for our children to learn about all parts of the UKs past and hands on, up close experiences are the best way to do it. Bodmin jail is a great education for all ages.

piper quinn learning about prisoners meals at bodmin jail

Where is Bodmin Jail in Cornwall?

Bodmin Jail is located on the edge of Bodmin Moor, inland between Port Isaac and Fowey. Head to Bodmin and the jail is found a couple of minutes out of town. You can use the postcode PL31 2PL or follow the brown tourism signs. There are plenty of pay and display car parks in Bodmin which are all just a short walk from the jail. The carpark located opposite the Jail was not open on the day we visited, I recommend using the one for the Camel Trail which is just 5 minutes walk away. Use postcode PL31 2NR.

painting of the beast of bodmin moor

Where to stay near Bodmin Jail

The very best place to stay for a visit to Bodmin Jail is the 4 star Bodmin Jail Boutique hotel. Located inside the main building, rooms and bathrooms are converted cells. Many of the buildings original features have been restored and it really does look gorgeous.

Click here to check the best prices for your stay at the Bodmin Jail Hotel and read more reviews.

entrance to the bodmin jail hotel under a bright blue sky

Bodmin Jail Restaurant

The Jolly Hangman restaurant is a fantastic place to pop in to after your visit to the Jail. They have a great selection of burgers, pizzas and sandwiches and do a brilliant Cornish cream tea.

the jolly hangman tavern at bodmin jail

Tickets for the Bodmin Jail Experience

You can pre book your tickets for the Bodmin Jail experience online on the Bodmin Jail Website.

cells at bdmin jail with cut outs of children in behind black bars

What else is there to do near Bodmin Jail

Cardinham Woods

Cardinham Woods is an absolutely stunning place for a walk and is just 10 minutes drive from Bodmin Jail. It’s home to miles of cycle trails and hiking paths and the recently opened superworm trail to keep the little ones entertained.

Lanhydrock National Trust

Located just under 4 miles from Bodmin Jail, Lanhydrock is a gorgeous National Trust Estate. On a rainy day you can explore the Victorian mansion and wonderful stable restaurant but this is best visited in the dry as the grounds are absolutely beautiful. Plus it has a brilliant outdoor play area for the kids.

Lanhydrock House in Cornwall
Lanhydrock House

The Camel Trail

The Camel Trail from Bodmin to Padstow is a 12 mile long, mainly traffic free stretch of cycle trail. You can hire bikes at the start and cycle as long as you like along the route. It’s great for kids as it’s pretty flat and wide and takes in some gorgeous scenery.

Padstow

One of my favourite fishing villages in Cornwall is Padstow on the North coast. Whilst it gets incredibly busy in summer, out of season it’s a delightful place for a wander. Home to some amazing restaurants and independent retail shops, kids will also love the quirky Padstow lobster hatchery. It’s around a 25 minute drive from Bodmin. Read all about what to do in Padstow with kids in my earlier blog.

padstow fishing harbour in winter
Pretty Padstow in winter

For more great ideas on how to keep the kids entertained in Cornwall make sure you check out my ultimate guide to visiting Cornwall with kids.

Or for some more seasonal ideas for when the weather isn’t great have a look at this guide to Cornwall in winter.

We were gifted two tickets to the Bodmin Jail Experience for the purpose of this review. As always our opinions are our own, we genuinely did have a wonderful time and can’t wait to return.

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