From smugglers to Bronze age settlement, this deeply atmospheric moor is well worth exploring if you're in Cornwall.
Bleak yet beautiful, Bodmin Moor is Cornwall’s least populated area and is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Think rocky outcrops, wandering ponies grazing on grass and wide swathes of hazy, purple heather in autumn. Even in thick mizzle (the Cornish term for drizzly, misty weather), it has an atmospheric charm of its own.
It’s no wonder Daphne du Maurier felt inspired by Bodmin Moor. This isn’t a cute, chocolate-box place. This is a harsh, dramatic landscape of thick, course grassland interlaced with rocky outcrops and boggy dells spread over 150 square miles. It isn’t hard to imagine the smugglers of Jamaica Inn skulking through the night with their booty, lit only by lanterns waving in the howling winds.
These days, the moor is bisected by the A30 and if you have ever driven towards west Cornwall you would no doubt have spied Bodmin through the car window, maybe spotting a wild pony or two. But don’t let this be your only experience of this wild and woolly place – the moors are perfect for exploring on foot.
From Cornwall’s highest peaks (Rough Tor and Brown Willy) to Bronze Age settlements and the start of the Camel Trail, there’s plenty to see on Bodmin Moor. As well as exploring the hundreds of footpaths and bridleways on foot, there are lots of other things to see too. Carnglaze Slate Caverns are to the south near the lovely village of St Neot and well worth a visit, with an underground tour that includes a slate mine and a subterranean lake. Pinsla Garden and Nursery is a pretty, peaceful haven owned by two artists and open from the end of February to the end of October. Of course, there’s Jamaica Inn – over 300 years old, it’s a landmark for the area. Wildly commercialised these days, it’s still worth popping in to take a look if you’re passing by.
The BBC used Bodmin Moor for huge parts of Poldark. Nampara, Ross Poldark’s cottage, was set here for its external scenes and for the many, many shots of him cantering over the moorland – the scenery reflecting Ross’s own wild character.