Exploring Haunted Bodmin Jail's New World-Class Attraction

June 02, 2021 1:00 AM ‐ Paranormal

This article is more than three years old.

Bodmin Jail Attraction, Cornwall

Bodmin's historic haunted jail has been given a £40 million upgrade making the Cornish location a world-class tourist attraction.

The biggest chunk of the work has been turning the jail's cell blocks into a new boutique hotel, which gives guess the chance to spend the night behind bars. Each of the luxury bedrooms are housed in the space that once made up three of the historic prison's former cells.

Part of the upgrade was a complete overhaul of the existing exhibits, creating a brand new, £8.5 million attraction. The experience is mostly housed in a purpose-made building which sits on the site of the prison's former medical wing and links to parts of the original prison that haven't been consumed by the hotel.

The attraction opened at the end of 2020, but with various coronavirus lockdowns in place, it wasn't really until this summer that the new Bodmin Jail could get into full swing and welcome visitors en masse. I finally visited the re-vamped attraction at the beginning of the season.
Bodmin Jail Attraction, Cornwall

There's no denying that Bodmin Jail is an impressive attraction. From the new purpose-built ticket office, we descended a modern staircase to a lower level. Confusingly you find yourself inside a mock-up of a cave. At first it's not really clear why you are in a cave on a tour of a prison, but as the immersive audio-visual experience starts it becomes apparent that this is actually a replica of one of the many mines found beneath Cornwall.

After a brief history of the grim conditions in the Cornish mines, the impressive theatrical effects continue as you progress through three more rooms, each of which portray a different part of Cornwall's murky past, including highway robbers, smugglers, and even tales of the legendary Beast of Bodmin Moor.

The final of these four rooms places you in a court of law where various Cornish criminals from years gone by are found guilty of their crimes, which of course leads us on to the next step in the harsh criminal justice system of this era, Bodmin Jail.

From here the fibreglass walls become the real stone of the original prison walls as you walk from the newly-built exhibit into the lower floor of the old naval wing where the original cells still remain, but have been restored to a high standard. Sadly this is the only floor of the two wings that you can visit through the attraction as the rest now house the 70 hotel rooms.

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Bodmin Jail Attraction, Cornwall

After a wander around the accessible old cells, which also have some very clever technology and theatrical effects that bring them to life, you can pass through into another old part of the building. It's not clear what this area originally was used for, its history has been lost amongst modern exhibits, mostly relating to the occult.

It takes about an hour to an hour and a half to get through the attraction, which ends with a trip to the execution pit, the site where several of the prison's inmates paid the ultimate price for their crimes at the end of a rope. The last hanging at Bodmin Jail was in 1909, this was also the last public hanging in Cornwall.

The pit was once buried and forgotten, but was uncovered in 2005 during some renovation works. Although it's been restored and accessible to the public for many years, it is now a more prominent part of the tour and provides a fitting end with another new experience... but be warned, it might not be suitable for younger children.

If you survive the hanging pit, you can exit into the courtyard where you'll find a rather small and underwhelming gift shop, and also The Jolly Hangman Tavern. The tavern provides reasonably priced meals, snacks and light bites. A hearty pub-style meal weighs in at about £12, lighter bites start at around £6.
Bodmin Jail Attraction, Cornwall

If you want to spend a little more time in the jail and you're feeling brave, then you might want to book on to one of the attraction's After Dark events, which allow visitors to follow in the footsteps of the countless ghost hunters who have previously investigated the jail.

If you've never been to Bodmin Jail before, then it is a must-visit attraction for anyone visiting Cornwall. The new exhibit and the tavern are unlikely to fail to impress.

However, if you've visited the jail before, you might miss feeling the connection to the building's history. Of course the new attraction is better than the old one, but the old attraction wasn't bad. It was more focussed on the history of the prison itself rather than the story of the whole county. More importantly, it was set within the original stone rooms of the old prison rather than a modern attraction, giving you a real feel for what life was like in the old county jail.

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