Jamaica Inn, Bolventor, Cornwall: Review
Those who have read the Daphne du Maurier book of the same name or who have an interest in ghostly tales will no doubt have heard of Jamaica Inn: Cornwall’s most famous smuggling inn, set high on Bodmin Moor. Almost 300 years old, the Inn comprises 20 en-suite bedrooms, a bar and restaurant, a gift shop and a smuggling museum – and as of spring 2016, it’s set to include a farm shop in its offering too. Just a two hour drive from Bristol, it’s the perfect travelling distance for an overnight break.
We enjoyed an overnight stay at Jamaica Inn in January 2016, arriving mid-afternoon and choosing to enjoy a drink at the bar before checking in. The bar itself is certainly atmospheric, with ancient-looking beams, old fireplaces and a range of areas in which to sit and eat or drink. You’ll find plenty to look at on the walls, as well as a plaque on the floor noting that “on this spot Joss Merlyn was murdered” – a nod to du Maurier’s famous novel.
Those wanting something more modern, though, will find that one section of the bar includes a huge flat screen TV, which was showing the football scores on the day of our visit.
Head to the bar and you’ll be able to choose from a range of options, including the local Jail Ale and the pub’s own Jamaica Inn brew, along with Korev, San Miguel and Carlsberg among those on tap, plus ciders such as Thatchers Gold and Rattler. Wines are sourced from merchants Wines of Cornwall, and it’s a pretty good list, and there are plenty of spirits (not the ghostly kind…) from which to choose too.
After a friendly and efficient check-in, we were shown to room 10 in the newer wing, rather than the older, supposedly haunted original building. If it’s ghosts you’re after, rooms 4 and 6 are reputedly the most haunted of the bunch…
Room 10 is a decent-sized ground floor double at the front of the Inn – the bed comfortable (although the pillows were a little flat for our liking), with bedside tables, a desk, an armchair and wardrobe space with plenty of hangers. The road outside the Inn is quiet, meaning that we weren’t disturbed by traffic noise at night, but the green light of the emergency exit sign loomed through the darkness after all of the lights were turned off, making it a little hard to sleep. The rooms aren’t that well soundproofed either, with a fair bit of noise from the corridor late at night.
It was an interesting room – don’t expect a mini bar here (why would you, when there’s a fully stocked bar on site?), and much of the room – from the built-in hairdryer in one of the drawers to the bathroom (as I’ll explain in a bit) was fairly basic. We did have free Wi-Fi, though, and the surprise of having access to a range of Sky TV channels on the room’s television – including movies and sports.
Our hospitality tray was well-stocked, with bottled water, tea, coffee (including decaf), hot chocolate, sugar, plenty of milk and two packets of biscuits….
Our bathroom was fairly basic, with a shower over a bathtub and the standard two individually wrapped mini bars of soap, along with a refillable bottle of shower gel/shampoo attached to the wall. The fan was incredible loud and stayed on for a long time after turning out the light (not ideal at night time), and sadly there was only a few minutes’ worth of hot water in the morning.
Before dinner, we decided to check out the on-site smuggling museum, with overnight guests benefiting from a reduced entry fee. After paying at the bar, we were shown through to the museum: our experience began with an interesting 10 minute video about smuggling in the local area, before moving through to a range of items purchased at auction from Daphne du Maurier’s late estate, as well as books signed for the Jamaica Inn by the author.
The exhibits further through the museum were pretty interesting: a range of vessels that had been used by wannabe smugglers: high heeled shoes with the heels hollowed out to conceal drugs, parts of ships that had been altered to conceal smuggled goods, even implements used by smugglers to scuff out signs of their horses’ hooves and make it look as though they’d travelled in the opposite direction. It was well worth the visit.
Smuggling education complete, we headed down to the dining area adjacent to the bar to eat. The dining area is vast – completely separate from the main bar. The picture below shows just one room – on the left you’ll see an open space that leads through to a second dining area (where we sat for breakfast), which also features a pool table, juke box and dartboard. With coach parking spaces in the large car park at the front, this vast dining space is obviously needed…
The menu is standard pub grub, with almost all of the food on the menu sourced from local Cornish suppliers. Take a look at the menu, and you’ll see classic pub dishes (pies, curry, chilli, pasties and more), a vegetarian section and a grill menu, as well as a short list of options for children.
When it comes to pub food, I’m often swayed by a lasagne, and this evening was no different. Jamaica Inn’s version (£9.95) was topped with a generous layer of cheese – the pasta cooked well, the meaty filling rich and tasty. The garlic bread with which it was served was just pungent enough, and the side salad was generous.
Chris opted for the Hunter’s Chicken (£10.95) – another pub grub favourite. The chicken was beautifully cooked, and topped with a generous helping of grilled bacon, barbecue sauce and cheese. The chips (there were loads!) could have done with being a little crispier, and he enjoyed more of the same salad.
Our sleep may have been marred slightly by the noise of the people in the corridor and the glow of the emergency exit light, but we were relieved to discover that breakfast is served until 11am, meaning that we had a leisurely morning. We headed downstairs to a misty Cornish morning, and were seated next to a window that looked out over the large pub garden, complete with impressive-looking children’s play area.
Breakfast was fantastic: a table near us piled high with yoghurts, fruit and dried fruit, along with a choice of cereals and a toaster next to huge loaves of sliced bread. Tea and coffee were on a self-service basis, as was the cooked breakfast, served canteen-style in big metal containers. Fried bread, cherry tomatoes, larger halved tomatoes, bacon, fried eggs, beans, cooked tomatoes, mushrooms, sausages, hash browns, black pudding…there was plenty to choose from. I always use the sausages as a gauge of how good a hotel breakfast is, and these were pretty damn good.
After breakfast, we decided to investigate the only part of the inn that we hadn’t yet explored: the gift shop. Purportedly boasting over 5,000 different products, there were piles and piles of Daphne du Maurier books on one table (hardly surprising), along with a range of Jamaica Inn-branded goodies – everything from fudge to tea towels to keyrings. It was pretty impressive.
Jamaica Inn is certainly an interesting place, and easy to get to too – it’s just off the A30 between Launceston (which is beautiful – we visited on the way home) and Bodmin. And it’s going to get even more interesting too, with the aforementioned farm shop opening this year, along with more guest rooms and plans for a 250-guest function suite overlooking the moor. Daphne du Maurier fans and those with an interest in the paranormal will love the place – it’s certainly full of character and has a fantastic history.