Bodmin Jail has always been a key part of this historic Cornish town – but since a recent £8.5 million refurbishment at the start of 2020 it’s hoped that the updated attraction will draw visitors from far and wide revitalising regional tourism and giving a boost to the local economy. As we all know the tourism industry has been hit hard by the impact of Covid this year. However since the tier system has been introduced Cornwall has managed to avoid many of the significant closures that other areas of the country have seen – at the time of writing (December 2020) Bodmin Jail is very much open and ready for guests! We had the pleasure of visiting Bodmin Jail in the week before Christmas to test out the new immersive experience for ourselves..
What you need to know..
Location: Bodmin Jail is located just 2 minutes from Bodmin town centre. It’s right on the Camel Cycle Trail or there are several public car parks a short walk away. Bodmin is also just a short distance away from Newquay and it’s airport where there are even more great family days to be had.
Price: £52.50 for a family of 4. Allow around 2 hours for a visit.
Who will enjoy it?: Some parts of the Jail experience are quite scary – our 5 year old coped (just) but I would say that older Primary age children onwards would enjoy this the most.
The Dark Walk
As a result of the recent investment the Jail offers an incredible, immersive experience walking visitors through the history of the jail and surrounding moorlands. The Dark Walk is truly captivating and completely engaging for all ages (as mentioned before younger visitors might find this part a bit full on). Expect rooms coming alive with virtual characters, ships crashing into shore, tales of legendary beasts as well as the sounds and stories of true local legends. With senses fully alert descending into the first of a series of underground chambers recalling local tragic tales of murder and arson takes a degree of bravery in itself.. but this is how we all learn best isn’t it? This walk through experience taught us all things about Cornish history I know we’ll never forget thanks to the Jail’s interactive and essentially fully engaging approach to it’s audience.
I don’t have any photos of the Dark Walk – the jail wants to keep it a surprise so you’ll just have to visit to find out what it’s really like!
The tour continues onto the Naval wing where you can get a sense of life in one of the grotty cells, the Administration Block (watch out for ghosts here!) finishing at the hanging pit where inmates spent their very final moments. It is all quite sinister but really brings history alive delivering a true sense of jail life for the poor folk who ended up here.
The Jolly Hangman
The jail’s onsite eatery, diner and wine bar The Jolly Hangman only recently opened at the end of October 2020 as part of the site’s upcoming new hotel development. The restaurant goes above and beyond what you might expect from an attraction based food provider offering quality coffees, wines and an extensive menu. We happily took the opportunity to refuel feasting on freshly made pizza, traditional pasties and the chef’s soup of the day. The Jolly Hangman is the part of the Jail’s continued re-development which will also see the opening of the Bodmin Jail Hotel in February giving guests the chance to stay in boutique style accommodation in former prison cells!
We were really impressed with our visit to Bodmin Jail – there has clearly been a focus on making the experience as engaging and interactive as possible. The recent re-investment in key areas such as The Dark Walk means this attraction now stands in line with the Eden Project and Tate St Ives as a key contender on the Cornish tourist trail. Despite visiting in strange times (thanks to Covid) we found the staff welcoming and professional with excellent attention to health and hygiene. The quality of food and service at The Jolly Hangman was a really pleasant surprise offering a taster of the expected quality of the hotel when it opens next year. A quality day out for the whole family (yes, even the adults will enjoy this one) just make sure you wear your big girl pants for the scary parts!
Disclosure: We were invited to Bodmin Jail for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are our own.