Are you looking for things to do in Bodmin? Luckily, there is no shortage of activities and attractions in Bodmin to keep you busy! From historic jails to beautiful woodland walks, here are fifteen of my favourite ideas for what to do near Bodmin.

Bodmin is a mid-size town in Cornwall, about half an hour north of Truro. It’s a historic town, and many of the best things to do in Bodmin are related to the city’s interesting and, at times dramatic, past.

While you might need to part with a few pounds at some of these Bodmin attractions, I’ve also included a few free things to do if you’re visiting Cornwall on a budget!

The history of Bodmin

While today Bodmin is a quiet and peaceful town, it was once an important stop on the trade route from north to south Cornwall. In fact, the famous ‘Domesday Book’ lists Bodmin as Cornwall’s only market town.

Around the 6th Century, Saint Peroc – the patron saint of Cornwall – built a monastery nearby in Padstow. In the 10th century, it was moved to Bodmin, where it later became an Augustinian priory.

This was the lifeblood of the town, and it grew to be one of the biggest and most important towns in Cornwall.

Village where Bodmin Jail is

As a result, it was also the epicentre of a number of protests. This was music to my ears – I do love a good protest!

The first was the ‘Cornish tax rebellion of 1497’. This saw the Cornish tin miners – many of whom were living in poverty – revolt against the stiff taxes placed on them by Henry VIII. Enraged and inflamed by a lawyer from Bodmin, they began marching from Cornwall to London. By the time they reached the county limit of Cornwall, they were more than 8,000 strong.

They made it all the way to Guilford (just 30 miles from the heart of London) before they were eventually defeated. Sadly, that occurred twice more – once just a few years later when a Cornishman attempted to overthrow Henyr VIII, and again in 1549 when largely Catholic Cornwall revolted against the Protestants.

While all of these protests eventually ended in defeat, the willingness of the Cornish to buck back at the system is certainly a point of pride in the county.

Bodmin Jail

In 1776, the face of Bodmin changed with the construction of the Bodmin Jail, Cornwall’s only jail and the site of numerous executions. In 1820, a lunatic asylum was opened.

Eventually, both closed and tourism became the main industry in Bodmin. While the town has a population of 12,000, it swells during peak season as many people come to check out Bodmin’s attractions.

Things to do in Bodmin

Wondering what to do in Bodmin? Here are some ideas.

Bodmin Jail in Cornwall

Bodmin Jail

As mentioned, Bodmin Jail opened in 1772 and was in use until 1922. At the turn of the 20th century, hangings were still occurring at the jail.

If you’ve watch the television show Poldark, you might recognise the Bodmin Jail as where the poachers are sent off to! Poaching was certainly one of the crimes that could land you in the clanger, as well as everything from theft to murder.

Today, it’s one of the best things to do in Bodmin. Inside, you can hear about some of the prisoners that lived there, and what they did to get sent to such a hellhole. There’s also a bar, where you can raise a glass in thanks that you’re not imprisoned in an 18th century prison!

Cornwall’s Regimental Museum

If you are interested in army history, then the impressive Cornwall Regimental Museum is sure to be right up your alley.

The collection spans over 300 years of military history, and is the largest military museum in the south west of England. Although much of it is “look don’t touch”, there are a few interactive exhibits. An “iSpy” game is particularly aimed at kids.

There are many uniforms, weapons and records – in particular, the staff are happy to help if you’re looking for your family history in Cornwall.

An adult ticket £6 and children under 12 are £2. Dogs are totally welcome at the museum (and get free entry!)

The Jamaica Inn Smugglers Bar in Cornwall

Jamaica Inn

I’ve talked at length about how much I love hearing about smugglers in Cornwall. If you’re like me, you really can’t miss checking out the Jamaica Inn.

Legend has it that this was a favourite haunt of smugglers and pirates. Allegedly, it’s location in the Bodmin Moors meant smugglers could be alerted to incoming police well in advance.

It’s also where author and Cornwall favourite Daphne de Maurier wrote her book the Jamaica Inn.

There’s a bar, restaurant, gift shop and small museum. Everything except the museum is free to enter, so if you’re looking for something cheap to do in Bodmin, this is a great choice.

The Courtroom Experience

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to preside over a criminal trial? To have a man’s life in your hands?

If so, firstly, we should be friends, and secondly, you’ll love the Courtroom Experience in Bodmin.

This unique attraction gives you a tour of the historic courts, before allowing you to take a turn on the jury. You’ll get the chance to hear all the evidence from a real life trial, and then make up your mind as to their guilt.

You can then find out if the real court agreed with you back in the day!

Lanhydrock Estate Exterior

Lanhydrock Estate

I love the National Trust and I have to say that Lanhydrock Estate is one of the best properties I’ve been to. In fact, I wrote a whole post about the history of Lanhydrock Estate!

Of course, that also makes it one of the best things to do in Bodmin!

This impressive home was built in the 17th century by the loan sharks the Robartes family. Although it largely burnt down in 1881, it was reconstructed and donated to the National Trust in the 1950s.

Today, more than 50 rooms of the house have been left as amazing examples of Victorian decor. In addition, there’s 400 acres of amazing grounds to explore. There’s also a nice cafe and a secondhand bookstore.

In summer, an adult ticket is £13.95, or it’s free if you’re a National Trust member.

Pencarrow House and Gardens

Another beautiful place to visit in Bodmin is Pencarrow House and Gardens. A Grade II listed Georgian property, it is incredibly beautiful.

Unlike Lanhydrock, Pencarrow is privately owned. In fact, it’s been in the same family for some 500 years. This means that the house really has a warm, lived-in atmosphere.

Around the house, there’s more than 50 acres of gardens to explore. It’s particularly beautiful in spring when the flowers look absolutely beautiful.

Dogs are most welcome in the grounds, but not in the house.

Admission is £11.50 (children under 16 are free), and it is open from 31 March to November, Sundays to Thursdays.

Bodmin & Wenford Steam Railway

There’s something awfully romantic and nostalgic about an old school train line, and Bodmin has a great one.

Construction on the railway began in 1884, and the Bodmin & Wenford Steam Railway experience has been designed to closely resemble a historical journey. Today, it takes you on a 13 mile journey throughout the gorgeous countryside.

Okay, so the ride isn’t exactly thrilling, but it’s quaint and romantic. Plus, there’s a cream tea steam train which is the most British thing I’ve heard in a long time.

There’s other frequent events, too, such as workshops where train enthusiasts can even drive the locomotion! Now that’s a great gift idea for that family member that’s really into trains (we all have one, right?)

PS, it’s dog friendly!

Free things to do in Bodmin

On a budget? No worries! There are some great free attractions in Bodmin.

The Bodmin Moors in Cornwall - looking spooky!

Bodmin Moor

The Bodmin Moor is one of Cornwall’s most famous landscapes. It’s an eerie yet beautiful place, which is fitting considering all the ghostly tales and ghastly murders that it’s associated with.

Don’t let the tales scare you – there are some great hikes and drives through the moors.

Whether you just want to take a short stroll or you’re looking to challenge yourself, check out some of the hikes and get ready to spend a great day adventuring!

Just watch out for the ghosts.

Crowdy Reservoir

Within the Bodmin Moor, one particular point of interest is the Crowdy Reservoir.

It’s a nice place to start a hike and there’s also plenty of open space for kids to play. However, the real appeal of Crowdy Reservoir are the hundreds of birds that flock to it daily.

One of the main reasons they do so is because of all the fish in the reservoir. If you’d like to try some fishing in Cornwall, you’re welcome to drop a line yourself!

St Petroc’s Church

Remember Saint Petroc, the Patron Saint of Cornwall?

One of the many buildings built in his honour is the impressive Anglican church in Bodmin, which dates back to the 1400s.

It is believed that other sites of worship stood at the site long before that, and that it may have had spiritual significance since at least 500 AD.

It is one of the largest parish churches in all of Cornwall, and also one of the most impressive. There are all the intricate features you’d expect, like stained glass windows and beautiful wood carving.

It is still in use as a parish church, but you’re welcome to go inside to admire it.

Disclaimer: this is a stock image. Photos of me on bikes do not exist because I look ridiculous on them.

The Camel Trail

Cyclist? If so, Bodmin features an amazing track that will take you through 18 miles of beautiful countryside.

Winding along a disused railway line, the Camel Trail is open to walkers and joggers, but it’s perhaps best loved by cyclists.

From Bodmin, you have two choices – head for Padstow or Wadebridge via the gorgeous wooded Camel Valley, or go the other way over the Bodmin Moors and end in the pretty village of Blisland.

If you don’t have your own bike, you can hire them from Bodmin.

Things to do near Bodmin

Willing to head a little out of Bodmin in search of things to do? If so, there are even more great options.

Cardinham Woods

I just love England’s beautiful woodlands. It’s all my Enid Blyton novels come to life, and I just can’t get enough.

One of the best things to do near Bodmin is visit Cardinham Woods, an amazing forested area popular with walkers, bikers and horseriders. And twitchers (bird watchers!)

There’s also a really nice cafe if you need a caffeine pick-me-up, and a child friendly activity course designed around the Gruffalo characters.

Camel Valley Wines

Cornwall? Wine?

Yes, I hear your scepticism and I, an Australian, do understand. However, Camel Valley Wines is the largest vineyard in Cornwall, and it’s really very good.

At Camel Valley Wines, you can taste their variety of drops, and even order it by the glass to enjoy on their large decked area. Probably not ideal when Cornwall is blowing a gale (as per usual), but fabulous in summer.

They also do guided tours of the winery where you can learn more about the production process and the wines.

Restormel Castle

About fifteen minutes from Bodmin you’ll find Restormel Castle. It’s one of four chief Norman Castles of Cornwall, another one being Tintagel (of King Arthur fame).

This castle is extremely unique as it is perfectly round. Apparently, this was an architectural trend in the 12th century, but it didn’t remain popular for long.

Like Tintagel, Restormel Castle is in pretty bad shape; however, quite a lot of it still remains. You can certainly get an idea how it would have looked some 800 years ago.

Beautiful pink flower

Pinsla Garden & Nursery

I must confess that I was never hugely “into” gardens until I came to England. Well, I’ve certainly be converted.

I particularly love that Pinsla Garden and Nursery was started by everyday people. Back in the 1980s, a regular couple began to create their dream garden, and over three decades, turned it into an absolute spectacle.

The owners are artists, who wanted to create a space that would inspire them and others. They’ve certainly done that, and I think this is one of the most beautiful places to visit near Bodmin.

Entrance is £3.50 and it is open from late February to late October.

Where to eat and drink in Bodmin

Hungry or thirsty after a day exploring Bodmin?

The best restaurants in Bodmin

The best pubs in Bodmin

Because we all know how much I love ending a day with a trip to the pub!

  • The Red Lion Inn, a gorgeous 18th-century inn that also does excellent food. It’s a tad outside the centre of Bodmin but worth the trip.
  • The cozy and historic Borough Arms, which has a gorgeous old fireplace (a must in a proper pub, in my humble opinion!)

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