In a nutshell
A former jail on the edge of the town, built in 1779 by prisoners of war. Inside the gloomy and imposing granite building there are six floors of chilly cells, life-size models of inmates, and grim tales of crimes and punishment. Thanks to its grisly past, it claims to be one of the most haunted attractions in the UK, with a resident medium and a cast of ghosts. In short, it’s the perfect attraction if you want to scare your children with some real-life horror stories. The jail is in the midst of a £30m development that will add a 63-bedroom
hotel within the two original prison wings, and a new £8.5m attraction and education centre.
As a jail famous for its long-drop execution pit and replete with nasty detail, it’s low on fun facts. But one of the more innocent information boards describes the 43rd rule, which stated that “all prisoners, except debtors, should have a tepid bath once in every three months”.
Best thing about it
Depends how much you love gory details and sad stories. It gives a real insight into the squalid conditions and cruelty that prisoners, including children, faced – sometimes for minor misdemeanours like stealing honey.
What about lunch?
The usual suspects of jacket potato (£4.95), soup (£4.25) and sandwiches (from £4) are served in the Tea Room in the gift shop, which also serves “breakfast in jail” – with porridge (of course!) for £1.90, bacon or sausage baps (from £2.50) or a full-fry-up (£6.95). The Governor’s Hall is a full-service restaurant with a menu of classic British fare: slow-cooked mutton with an ox-cheek pie and celeriac puree (£10.50); jail-ale beerbattered fish and chips (£9.95); or vegetarian dishessuch as butternut squash risotto (£8.95).
Exit through the gift shop?
Yes, with a chance to pick up some pilchards or other Cornish delicacies: clotted cream fudge, sea salt, plus T-shirts in convict stripes, and “I braved Bodmin Jail” hoodies and tea towels.
Parking is available in the town centre. The jail is a 20-minute walk from Bodmin General station, which is on the Bodmin and Wenford heritage steam railway (you can combine the two attractions in one day). You will need a taxi if you travel from the mainline station, Bodmin Parkway (four miles away), where trains arrive from Penzance, Plymouth and Paddington.
Children under 10 should enjoy some aspects of the attraction, if not all of it.
9.30am-6pm. Restaurant noon-9pm.
Value for money
We rushed through the jail because my son (eight) and niece (seven) were a bit too young for it but it’s good value if you can take your time. Adult (16+) £10, over 65 £8.50, 5-15 years £7.50, family (two adults/two children) £32. After Dark tours (8.45pm-5am) cost £80 and include a three-course meal. Other events include scary film screenings and historical tours. It’s not wheelchair or pushchair-friendly.
7/10. It’s open to children of all ages and younger children will enjoy the ghost stories and discovering what prisoners ate (bread, gruel and sometimes scouse, a mutton stew), but in my opinion it’s better suited to older kids. We whisked the children past the more gruesome tales to avoid having to explain more serious crimes.