The rebirth of Bodmin Jail

Student in the stocks at Bodmin Jail
Derelict picture of Bodmin Jail

From ‘modern’ Victorian gaol, to derelict ruins…

and now one of Cornwall’s most fascinating tourist attractions.

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A vivid memory I have from growing up in Cornwall was a school trip to Bodmin Jail! It was one of the worst school trips we ever had.

The place was dreary, damp and dark. The building was derelict. There was basically nothing there – what an awful school trip it was 🙁

However, a couple of years ago, I heard that the Jail had been renovated into a spectacular new visitor attraction which included a luxury hotel.

I couldn’t quite believe it and wondered why anyone would think about reconstructing that dreadful place?

However, someone obviously had a wonderful vision for what Bodmin Jail could be because the renovated site is absolutely amazing!

Before Summer 2022, I took my family on a recce to see what this new Bodmin Jail could be like. Could it really be an interesting new destination on our excursion programme?!

The answer was a resounding yes!

My teenage kids can be hard to please, but they loved the tour of Bodmin Jail and learning about its fascinating history – they had also been victim of the previously awful school trip – but now it is something altogether different.

Renovated luxury hotel at Bodmin Jail
Student in the stocks at Bodmin Jail

The reconstruction of the jail has been done so methodically and completely that no stone has been unturned in returning the jail to its former ‘glory’.

Bodmin Jail was actually one of the first prisons in the world to be designed around the principles of the Howard Penal Reforms which strove to move jails beyond being a dungeon of pure misery into a place where prisoners were treated with a semblance of humanity and their time in prison was designed to be productive in some way.

The luxury hotel part of the prison allows you to stay in former cells to relive the prison experience?! While this is definitely not my cup of tea, we had a little peek around the hotel and it is truly amazing. It is like staying in the Ritz within the walls of a prison.

With a price tag of around £300 per night, a stay in the hotel is definitely not part of our excursion programme. However, the new Bodmin Jail tour most certainly is!

The interactive tour provides a fascinating window back in time as you follow the journey of four criminals from Victorian Britain. You learn about their crimes, the judicial process and their punishments at Bodmin Jail – these are all true stories brought vividly to life through the tour.

It is a brilliant experience, with brilliant guides. A perfect mix of education, culture and history. Absolutely perfect for our summer school programme.

Of course, before arriving, the focus on Cornish history is a perfect topic for us in class to bring the excursion to life for the students and help them to fully enjoy the experience of visiting Bodmin Jail.

original keys for the cells at Bodmin Jail
Students at a desk in Bodmin Jail
Organising a school group at Bodmin Jail

Just to top off our visit to Bodmin Jail, we also make full use of the fact that it is located on the Camel Trail.

This is one of the most popular cycle trails in the UK. It is completely safe and off-road. We join the cycle trail at Wadebridge and then make the final journey to the Jail by bike. It is a 45min cycle on level ground through beautiful woods and following the river all the way to Bodmin Jail.

Students cycling on a trail near Bodmin

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