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Cornwall Pt 1 – Bodmin Moor, Smugglers, and Spending the Night in Jail

Bodmin Jail

Cornwall has been famous for smuggling for centuries. It has everything a smuggler could wish for: miles of coastline, lovely coves and beaches, and a population that tended to enthusiastically participate in avoiding the Tax Man.

We had a tremendous time on Secrets of Smuggling cruise with Will from Falmouth Uncovered as the guide and FalRiver Cornwall providing the boat.

Will playing the melodeon

The trip up the Fal river was lovely, even if it rained a bit. The trip was about 2 hours from Falmouth to Malpas and back.

Sunset on Fal river

Cornwall’s Most Famous Smuggling Inn

Daphne du Maurier published her novel about Cornish smugglers, Jamaica Inn, in 1936. She stayed at the real Jamaica Inn in the 1930s and did some of the writing while there. Today the inn is a fine tourist destination on Bodmin Moor. There’s even a Smuggling Museum which boasts of the “finest collection of smuggling artifacts in he country.” Mark and I prepared for our visit by watching the Alfred Hitchcock version of the movie, Jamaica Inn.

Yes, We Spent the Night in Jail

While smugglers were often let off the hook, plenty of other souls ended up in Bodmin Jail. It was considered very progressive for the late 18th century, with individual cells, separating male and female prisoners, and even hot water. Today, you can stay in a luxurious room that was once a jail cell (actually three cells put together for one room) at the Bodmin Jail Hotel. And of course, it’s supposed to be haunted. Definitely one of the nicest rooms we’ve had in the UK with a king-sized bed, heated floor in the bathroom, large shower, and even a massive bathtub. And those thick jail walls really keep the noise down.

The Bodmin Jail Experience

About half of the jail is the hotel with two restaurants and a lovely champagne bar, the other half is a museum and multimedia experience. They have a huge collection of artifacts, original cells, documents, keys, etc. You can see the condemned cell, where 55 people spent their final hours, as well as the execution area where many of those were hanged. We didn’t see any ghosts, but it’s quite chilling.

The Moor

Bodmin Moor is smack in the middle of northeastern Cornwall between both coasts. It’s very different than the rest of Cornwall, but still beautiful. Plus, there are several neolithic and Bronze Age stone circles and monuments. We went exploring with Baxter, who we were pet-sitting.

Stowe’s Hill, near Minion
The Hurlers

The Hurlers is unique in that there are actually three stone circles very close to each other. Off to the west is a pair of stones called the Pipers. Local folklore says The Hurlers were men turned to stone for playing the ancient game of hurling on a Sunday. The Pipers are the figures of two men who played tunes on a Sunday and suffered the same fate. We heard a similar tale for the Nineteen Maidens stone circle and other formations.

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