Are you looking for some things to do in Bodmin, Cornwall’s old county town? Read on for some essential Bodmin attractions, including some of the best things to do in Cornwall in the rain!
Bodmin is an inland town in Cornwall. It’s not far from the beach – nowhere in Cornwall is – but it’s a great spot to visit if you’ve seen all of the beaches in Cornwall and want to move away from the coast, especially if you want to try out hiking on Bodmin Moor.
Bodmin town itself has plenty of attractions. Most notable are perhaps its three museums, making it the ideal place to visit if the weather isn’t so great when you’re in Cornwall. Whether you’re on a Cornwall staycation or are visiting from abroad, here are some of the best things to do in Bodmin!
How to get to Bodmin
Bodmin is fairly easy to get to from other destinations in Cornwall and further afield. It has a station – Bodmin Parkway station is located in the town, which is on the Plymouth – Penzance line.
If you are driving, Bodmin is just off the A30. Take the A303 (connects to the M3, which connects to the M25 from London) or the M5 (from to Bristol or Birmingham) and then connect to the A30 into Cornwall.
Things to do in Bodmin
If you want to hike in Cornwall away from the South West Coast Path, Bodmin Moor AONB is your place. It’s an ancient granite moorland that has been the setting of myths and stories for centuries.
There are some wonderful spots on Bodmin Moor, including Siblyback Lake and Golitha Falls, which make it one of the most beautiful places to visit in Cornwall.
The two highest peaks in Cornwall – Brown Willy and Rough Tor – are also in Bodmin Moor. At the summit of either on a clear day, you’ll have amazing views over the surrounding area.
There is also a lot of ancient rich histories here – Bodmin Moor had a huge population during the Bronze Age, meaning that there are still a lot of stone circles and cairns that are worth checking out.
There’s also an abundance of wildlife, including plenty of local Cornish birds and moorland ponies!
Most tourists who visit Bodmin are there for hiking on Bodmin Moor. It’s worth it – it’s one of the most spectacular places to visit in South West England. There are a mixture of trails, from strenuous hikes to realed woodland walks, so whether you want a long or a short walk, you should find something to suit!
However, the moors can be very dangerous in bad weather, so make sure that you hike in the right weather conditions (read more about Cornwall weather here!) and ensure you have enough water, food, and a phone with decent coverage.
Bodmin Jail has recently been refurbished and has opened to become one of the best places to visit in Bodmin.
Tours will take you on an immersive experience around the ex-county jail, taking you back to the 19th century penal system and showing both the horrific way some prisoners were treated.
As well as its morbid history, tours focus on the big strides that were made during this period – particularly at Bodmin, which many other jails were modelled on.
You can visit Bodmin Jail independently, but I would really recommend a tour. You’ll get the chance to go around with a tour guide who really knows their stuff and learn all sorts about the history of the place. If you’re into the supernatural, they also do ghost tours too!
It’s definitely an unusual place to visit in Cornwall, but I’d argue that it’s one of the counties iconic attractions, especially if you want to learn about its history.
Bodmin Keep features an impressive collection of Cornish military memorabilia. The exhibition at the regimental museum will take you through the military history of Cornwall, featuring some interesting displays on aspects of soldiers’ lives that are rarely spoken about, such as PTSD.
Upstairs, there’s also a piece of the Berlin Wall!
It takes a couple of hours to look around all the exhibits of Bodmin Keep.
Jamaica Inn is set just outside of Bodmin, but it’s well worth stopping here either on your way to or from the town. The inn, which was built in around 1750, started life as a smuggler’s hideout – before the roads were built, they could easily hide away in the pub on Bodmin Moor knowing that the police wouldn’t risk the journey. Daphne Du Maurier’s book Jamaica Inn depicts this.
Nowadays, visiting is a much more relaxed affair. The attached museum has a collection of smuggling artefacts, discussing this part of Cornish history that not that many tourists explore. There is also a Daphne Du Maurier section that pays homage to Cornwall’s most renowned writer. It’s one of the most unique things to do in Cornwall, that’s for sure.
There’s a farm shop on site, and a cosy pub which serves decent food and local Cornish beer.
Lanhydrock is a National Trust owned country estate and mansion just south of Bodmin. It’s a great spot to visit to learn about the Victorian upper class and how life changed because of World War One – if you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, you’ll love the history here! Keep an eye out for the 17th century gatehouse on the grounds.
There are also some charming gardens to explore at Lanhydrock, and it’s a great place for an afternoon walk near Bodmin if you don’t feel like braving the moors!
Bodmin Town Museum
Bodmin Town Museum is free to enter and is a great spot to learn about the ex-county town of Cornwall. Here, there are exhibitions on all parts of Bodmin’s history, including some natural history exhibits – once you’ve visited the museum, the keep and the jail, you’ll be a Bodmin expert!
As this is a small, community museum, it is staffed entirely by volunteers and only open for the peak summer period. Nonetheless, it’s a great spot to learn about Cornish history, from ancient times up through to the two wars and modern day.
Bodmin Beacon is hike-able from the town, and it’s a vast grassy nature reserve with epic views over the town and moorland around it. It’s most famous for its memorial to Sir Walter Raileigh Gilbert. Visit during sunset for some of the best pictures of the memorial and breathtaking views of the town and moors!
Pencarrow House & Gardens
Pencarrow House and Gardens is one of the finest country houses in Cornwall – and it’s only a stone’s throw away from Bodmin town. The estate has been the residence of the Molesworth-St Aubyn family for nearly 500 years.
Nowadays, it comprises of a Georgian house and some lovely gardens, featuring an iron age fort and a children’s play area – so it’s ideal for a family day out. If you like historic houses with a fascinating history, this is a must-do while in Bodmin!
Camel Valley Vineyard
It’s a little known fact that Cornwall has some excellent vineyards. Camel Valley vineyard is only a ten minute drive from Bodmin. You can take a tour of the vineyard, sample some wine, or enjoy glasses of wine while looking over the beautiful vineyard.
Cycling Near Bodmin
From Bodmin town you can cycle out towards the coast at North Cornwall. The 18-mile Camel Trail connects Bodmin with Wadebridge and Padstow, and veers through mixed woodland and the scenic Cornish countryside. Click here for bike hire in Bodmin.
Of course, you could also use the trail as a walking route – if you make it all the way to Padstow, you can take the 11A bus back instead of doing the whole 18 mile route in reverse!
Bodmin & Wenford Steam Railway
The Bodmin & Wenford Railway is a 6 mile historic tourist railway. Perfect for kids, it rolls through beautiful countryside around Bodmin and is a fascinating vintage experience to have in Cornwall. Click here for more information about the railway.
Hole in the Wall
The Hole in the Wall is one of the most interesting places to visit in Bodmin. It was the old debtors prison from 1749 to 1779 – used before Bodmin Gaol was opened. It is named so because people used to pass food through the holes in the walls, and one of those holes is still viewable today!
Aside from holes in walls, it’s a decent pub – it has roaring fires in the winter and a beer garden in the summer, with hearty Cornish pub food served year round. If you’ve checked off all of the best things to do in Bodmin and are looking for somewhere to recharge, here’s your spot!
If you’ve read Jamaica Inn, you will be familiar with the Vicar of Altarnun. His involvement in the book is certainly unforgettable, but the actual village of Altarnun is a peaceful, charming country village on the edge of Bodmin Moor.
It’s an 18 minute drive across the moor to reach it, but it’s a nice contrast to Bodmin town.
Where to stay in Bodmin
Bodmin town’s attractions can be enjoyed in a day, but if you want to spend some time hiking, you might like to stay in Bodmin. In terms of places to stay in Cornwall, hotels here are relatively cheap, and they are great for moorland access.
Castle Canyke Farm is a farm based B&B, just on the edge of Bodmin town. The rooms are cosy, the atmopshere peaceful, and a full Cornish breafast is cooked every morning. Click here for more information.
The Westberry Hotel is a centrally-located Bodmin hotel. All 21 rooms are clean and have an en-suite, with all the necessary mod-cons that you’ll need. There is also a restaurant on site. Click here for more information.
I recommended visiting Jamaica Inn for a few hours, but you can also stay in the hotel. It’s somewhere really unique with a lot of history, in a fantastic moorland location – perfect for hikers! Click here to read more about the hotel and book your stay.
Places to visit near Bodmin
Bodmin is in a great position in central Cornwall, meaning its easy to reach any destination in a relatively short time. Whether you want to visit Looe in South East Cornwall or St Ives in the North West, you’ll be able to reach them with a car in around an hour.
A few places that I recommend are:
- The chilled surf beaches of Newquay
- The popular tourist town St Ives
- Bude, which is the gateway to North Devon
- Cornwall’s capital, Truro
- Falmouth and Pendennis Castle
- Southern beach towns like Fowey and Looe
Places to visit in Bodmin…
Bodmin doesn’t have the same glitz and glamour of Newquay or St Ives, but as you can see, it’s one of the most interesting places to visit in Cornwall.
You’ll see another side of Cornwall at Bodmin – a side that has a fascinating, but sometimes dark, history, rugged, wild moors, and a country town atmosphere. It’s definitely worth adding Bodmin to your Cornwall itinerary if you’re into culture, hiking or dark tourism.
I hope that this things to do in Bodmin travel guide has been useful to you! Please see the rest of my Cornwall posts for more inspiration!