What it’s like to stay in Cornwall’s most haunted inn

“Your room’s the most haunted in the inn. People staying in it have felt a hand on their shoulder in the middle of the night…” Allen Jackson, the owner of Jamaica Inn, told my partner and I over an appropriately named Jamaica Inn Ale in the dark bar of the hotel. 

For my partner’s birthday, I’d booked us a room at what is often thought to be Cornwall’s most haunted hotel. Fascinated by the smuggling connection, we’d visited the restaurant the year prior and were curious to return and spend the night. 

Jamaica Inn’s haunted past

Sitting in the middle of the brooding Bodmin Moor, Jamaica Inn started life as an 18th-century coaching inn; the earliest records date back to when John Broad purchased it in 1760. 

A retiring sea captain, John Broad had connections with Jamaica – which is how the name, Jamaica Inn, was conceived! 

While Jamaica Inn is a long way from the coast (in Cornwall terms, at least), it was on the smuggling routes that cut through the middle of Cornwall; and its isolation, in the middle of the inhospitable Bodmin Moor, means that authorities often never checked the inn for contraband. 

Allegedly, there are secret underground routes from Jamaica Inn all the way to the beach – although these are unconfirmed! 

The inn made legendary

You might recognise the name Jamaica Inn from the Daphne Du Maurier book of the same name. 

In the 20th century, Daphne Du Marier was out riding on the moor, when a thick fog enveloped her (which frequently happens on the expansive moorland). She ended up getting lost and finding Jamaica Inn, staying here for a few days and learning about the fascinating smuggling tales. 

Her bestselling novel is fictional but based on Jamaica Inn’s turbulent smuggling past. 

Visiting Jamaica Inn today

Jamaica Inn has always welcomed weary travellers, even in the smuggling times – but today, it’s been renovated while maintaining its historic connections.

Rooms are both in the historic building and modern wing. The rooms boast comfy beds, flat-screen TVs with channels including Sky Sports, high-speed WiFi, and chests of drawers filled with tea, squash, and locally-made biscuits. Deluxe bathrooms feature beautiful bathtubs and power showers, complete with shampoo and body wash dispensers.

The downstairs bar 

The downstairs bar still replicates a smuggling tavern; it’s dark, with huge oak tables and beams from the ceiling. 

However, the menu is refreshingly modern, with a fusion of dishes to suit every palate, including vegetarian and vegan options. 

After a few drinks at the bar (my partner tried the Jamaica Inn Spiced Rum, made by Jackson one night!), we headed up to the most haunted room of the hotel. 

Sleeping in the most haunted room in Cornwall

I had a long soak in the bath, and then sunk into our four-poster bed. The mattress felt like a cloud, and I soon heard my partner drift off to sleep. 

But something was keeping me awake. I’m not a good sleeper as it is, but I got a sense that somewhere, something was watching me… 

I strode over to the window and looked outside; which reminded me of a scene from Du Marier’s novel where Mary Yellan, the protagonist, glances outside to see the gang of smugglers. 

But there was none of that in 2022, just a deserted courtyard and closed up smuggler’s museum.

I went back to bed. “It’s all in your head” I told myself, and gradually drifted into an uneasy sleep.

The next morning

When we woke in the morning, I still felt a little uneasy. “I’m sure it was just a dream”, I told my partner, but it felt like somebody grabbed my shoulder in the night”. 

Nonetheless, we made it through the night unscathed and went downstairs for a full Cornish fry up (included in the room rate). 

It’s worth taking some time to enjoy the surrounding Bodmin Moor, visit the on-site smuggling museum and browse the farm shop in the morning. 

Around 11 am, we drove back over the moor, leaving the haunted inn behind us, following the footsteps of smugglers before us as we travelled towards the River Tamar. 

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