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A Night Behind Bars: An Unforgettable Stay at Bodmin Jail Hotel

For my birthday this year, I decided to treat myself and my daughter to a unique overnight stay at the Bodmin Jail Hotel, a strikingly renovated accommodation steeped in history and mystery. Built in 1779, this former jail in Cornwall has been transformed into a luxurious hotel, blending its sombre past with modern comforts. As lovers of spooky stories and historical curiosities, we were both drawn to the allure of staying in a place famed for its eerie legends and haunted corners. Our anticipation for a night filled with ghostly tales and a taste of bygone days made this birthday adventure promise to be unforgettable.

The Booking Experience

Booking our stay at the Bodmin Jail Hotel was an exceptionally pleasant and personal process. I opted to book directly over the phone, which was a wonderful decision. The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, offering us a complimentary upgrade to a spacious family room. They also included free entrance to the historic jail attraction—a special perk available only to those who book directly through the hotel. To top off the generous package, a delicious breakfast was included at no extra charge, providing great value for our visit. The welcoming reception staff even treated us to a private tour of the hotel’s lower levels during our stay, sharing their eerie ghost stories that set the perfect tone for our spooky stay. The direct booking experience not only ensured that we received the best deals but also personalised our visit, making it even more memorable.

First Impressions and Check-in

Arriving at the Bodmin Jail Hotel, the architectural grandeur of the old prison building immediately strikes you. Its imposing tower and the sturdy structure exude a sense of history that is palpable. The modern glass roof that spans the central area is a design marvel, flooding the interior with natural light and highlighting the original stone walls and preserved prison cell doors. The transformation is breathtaking—ancient architecture seamlessly integrates with modern elements like self-opening doors, glass elevators, and discreet lighting, ensuring that none of the prison’s historical character is lost.

As we entered, the full length of the old jail unfolded before us, with its balconies and converted prison cells now serving as unique hotel rooms. The meticulous attention to preserving the building’s integrity while providing contemporary comfort was evident in every detail.

Check-in was as impressive as the surroundings. The staff were exceptionally welcoming, providing a smooth and efficient service that belied the complexity of integrating modern hotel operations into such a historical setting. Our room was ready ahead of schedule, a pleasant surprise that spoke volumes of the five-star service level at this four-star hotel. The entire experience, from arrival to reception, was handled with professionalism and warmth that made us feel both awe-inspired and right at home.

 The Cell Experience

The cell rooms at the Bodmin Jail Hotel are a masterclass in design, where luxury meets history. Each spacious room is ingeniously crafted from three former prison cells. It includes a beautifully appointed bathroom featuring a large bath and a separate modern shower. Plush bathrobes and high-quality Noble Isle toiletries add a touch of luxury to the experience. 

The centrepiece, a supremely comfortable double bed, promised a good night’s sleep, and in the family rooms, a double sofa bed was prepared upon request. Adding to the comfort were the thoughtful extras like a generous selection of tea, coffee, and biscuits and a well-stocked mini-bar included in the price. 

For those fascinated by the history of their accommodations, each room featured a plaque detailing the stories of the inmates who once occupied the space. Our room was once the cell of William Meagre Bartlett, a man hanged for murder in 1882. The connection to the past was made even more visceral by encountering his death mask during our visit to the jail’s visitor experience— a chilling reminder of the building’s grim history.

 Despite the minimal natural light from the small, original jail windows, the room maintained its charm with original exposed stone walls that emphasised its historical authenticity. Yet, the overall ambience was incredibly peaceful, affording us one of the most restful nights’ sleep in recent memory, truly making it a standout feature of this prison hotel.

Hotel Dining Experience 

The culinary offerings at the Bodmin Jail Hotel are as extraordinary as its accommodations. The hotel boasts two dining areas: The Jolly Hangman Tavern for casual afternoon snacks and drinks and the main restaurant, The Chapel, for breakfast and dinner. Located in the old prison chapel, The Chapel Restaurant seamlessly integrates historical features with modern comforts, featuring a dramatic lighting setup, comfortable booth seating, and a stunning bar area. An intriguing mechanical wooden ornament depicting a man’s last moments on the gallows adds a touch of historical drama to the setting.

Dinner at The Chapel is a gourmet experience, with a seven-course tasting menu crafted by Executive Head Chef Dane Watkins. Using locally sourced Cornish ingredients, the menu offers a splendid fusion of traditional flavours and contemporary techniques. I opted for the Market Menu, enjoying dishes like succulent crab and tender guinea fowl, which were outstanding and made even more special by a complimentary glass of prosecco to celebrate my birthday.

Breakfast was equally impressive, featuring a continental buffet alongside various cooked options such as a full English breakfast, eggs Benedict, and eggs Royal. The ambience during breakfast was relaxed and welcoming, and the staff could not be more attentive to our needs. 

Every meal at the Bodmin Jail Restaurants was a delight, characterised by impeccable service and a sophisticated atmosphere that made each dining experience memorable.

Is Bodmin Jail Haunted?

The eerie ambience of the Bodmin Jail Hotel is palpable, steeped in tales of the paranormal that both thrill and chill. During our tour, a staff member shared spine-tingling encounters that truly highlighted the prison’s haunted nature. She vividly described seeing a pair of hanging legs in a doorway—an image so clear it left no doubt in her mind about the supernatural presence.

The ghost of a young girl, seen by previous guests wandering the landing outside our room, reminded us of the many children once imprisoned here. In the Navy Wing, my daughter felt a pervasive sensation of being followed, echoing the experiences of many staff members. Stories from past guests about moving objects and unexplained spills add to the lore, making Bodmin Jail one of the UK’s most haunted sites. The unsettling presence is compounded by the knowledge that many who died here were buried on the prison grounds, their remains still lying beneath us, which contributes significantly to the eerie, haunted reputation of the site. However, we witnessed no apparitions ourselves, but the heavy, timeless atmosphere upon departing felt akin to stepping out of the Overlook Hotel from Stephan King’s The Shining, leaving us with an unforgettable impression of having brushed with the beyond. 

The History of Bodmin Jail

During our stay at the Bodmin Jail Hotel, we were immersed not only in luxury but also in the deep historical tapestry that defines this landmark. Built-in 1779 by military engineer Sir John Call, the Bodmin Jail was a cutting-edge facility for its time, heralding a new era in prison design. It was one of the first in the UK to implement John Howard’s enlightened ideas, featuring individual cells, segregated areas for men and women, and essential amenities like hot water—innovations that aimed to reform the penal system with dignity and efficiency.

The jail’s role in society shifted over the decades; after serving as a debtor’s prison, it transitioned to a naval prison in 1887, reflecting the changing needs of the British Royal Navy up until 1922. Notably, during World War One, the jail safeguarded the Crown Jewels and other national treasures. Yet, its walls also bore witness to darker times, with 55 public executions taking place here, the last of which occurred in 1909.

After closing in 1927, this formidable structure lay dormant until a remarkable transformation began. A £50 million refurbishment turned the once-derelict jail into the stunning Bodmin Jail Hotel in 2021, where history and modernity intertwine gracefully. Each visit now not only offers a chance to relax in refined settings but also to connect with a pivotal piece of Cornish heritage, making every moment at the hotel a deeper dive into the past.

 Exploring the Local Area

Staying at the Bodmin Jail Hotel not only transports you back in time but also positions you perfectly to explore the rich offerings of Cornwall. Right on-site, the Visitors Centre offers an immersive, interactive experience that vividly brings to life the history of the prisoners. Notably, the centre features the only working Execution Pit in the UK, restored with expertise from Gary Ewart, a leading authority on hangings. This unique attraction provides a chilling glimpse into the past, enhancing the historical depth of your stay.

Beyond the hotel, the local area brims with activities and sights. The Eden Project, with its giant biomes housing an incredible array of plants from around the world, is a must-visit. Lanhydrock House offers a peek into Victorian country life with its beautifully preserved interiors and expansive gardens. For a touch of adventure, the rugged landscapes of Bodmin Moor provide ample opportunities for hiking and photography. Additionally, the Bodmin and Wenford Railway offers scenic steam train rides that transport you through the picturesque Cornish countryside. Each of these attractions underscores why the Bodmin Jail Hotel is an ideal hub for exploring Cornwall’s diverse historical and natural treasures.

Why We Love Bodmin Jail Hotel at Thrive Voyager

At Thrive Voyager, we are passionate about discovering and sharing destinations that are not only unique and immersive but also respectful of their historical and cultural significance. The Bodmin Jail Hotel perfectly aligns with our values, providing an experience that is both educational and deeply engaging. This hotel does a remarkable job of preserving its rich history while offering modern comforts and luxury, allowing guests to step back in time without sacrificing the amenities of the present.

The hotel’s commitment to sustainability, evident in its careful renovation that protects the architectural integrity, resonates with our dedication to responsible tourism. Additionally, its inclusivity in providing pet-friendly accommodations and accessible facilities ensures that all travellers can enjoy the wonders of Bodmin Jail. This commitment to accessibility and sustainability, coupled with a profound respect for history, makes the Bodmin Jail Hotel a true embodiment of what we cherish at Thrive Voyager.

 To Conclude

Our stay at the Bodmin Jail Hotel was nothing short of extraordinary, blending the allure of historical intrigue with modern luxury. Everything, from the ghostly tales and historic tours to the sumptuous dining and elegant accommodations, was crafted to enhance our experience. For those planning a visit, I highly recommend booking directly through the hotel. Not only will you receive the best rates but also exclusive benefits like complimentary upgrades and special packages. The hotel is pet-friendly and offers wheelchair-accessible rooms, ensuring everyone can enjoy the unique charm of Bodmin Jail. Don’t miss the chance to step back in time while enjoying the comforts of today at this remarkable hotel.

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