Car-free adventures aroundBodminCornwall

Cornwall’s former county town and “historic heart” is the point where two old trading routes cross and the only Cornish town in the Domesday Book. St Petroc set up a monastery here and the impressive 15th century parish church is the county’s largest. Look out for the holy well in the churchyard, with water spilling out of gargoyle faces, and the fabulous Norman font just inside the door. The countryside around Bodmin is stuffed with beautiful destinations from the stately home at Lanhydrock to the Camel Valley vineyard.

  1. 3. Bodmin and Wenford Railway

    Also from Bodmin Parkway station, you can hop on the Bodmin & Wenford steam railway. Thirteen miles of heritage track carry you through woods and fields to the old Bodmin General station at the top of St Nicholas Street. The Bodmin and Wenford runs 220 days a year and through tickets are available from mainline stations. The day rover tickets are particularly good value as you can hop off at one of the smaller stations – handy for further adventures in the nearby countryside.

    • Boscarne Junction, an idyllic station two miles west of Bodmin town centre, is not far from the award-winning Camel Valley vineyard. The Bodmin’s Tourist Information Centre also has a leaflet about how to walk all the way to the vineyard from Bodmin.
    • Heading in the other direction, a half mile on paths leading north from Colesloggett Halt brings you to Cardinham Woods: bike hire, public barbecues, miles of cycle tracks and walks.
    • Best of all, Woods Café is a flower-decked stone cottage in the forest selling homemade, organic food at great prices. Don’t miss the savoury cream tea (cheese scones, cream cheese, home-grown tomatoes, carrot and ginger chutney), which will keep you going all afternoon. If you have any room left, the sticky lumberjack cake and chocolate brownies will soon see to that.
    • Getting off at Bodmin General, you’ll find the re-vamped Regimental Museum right opposite the station. Covering two centuries of military history, there are lots of interesting things in these lively, eclectic displays: Russian muskets from Crimea, Buddha statues from Burma, a walking stick carved by a Boer prisoner of war or an ostrich egg that was breakfast for eight soldiers.
    • Don’t miss the large, graffiti-ed chunk of the Berlin Wall upstairs – brought back when the regiment happened to be in Berlin as the wall came down.
  1. 4. Wander around town

    The streets and square near Bodmin’s 15th century church of St Petroc are home to ancient holy wells and an engaging (free) town museum.

    • The Shire Hall, once the county courtroom, has Tourist Info, a trial re-enactment, an art gallery, and two little leaflets with car-free itineraries.
    • You can also climb up Bodmin Beacon – a hilly nature reserve, very close to the town centre with a 50-metre obelisk and wide views towards Helman Tor.
  1. 5. Cycle the Camel Trail

    For a longer walk or cycle ride, this hugely popular route runs along a former railway line all the way to Padstow, where you can eat pancakes or fish and chips by the picturesque harbour. You can hire bikes from Lanhydrock from £16.

    • From the very first mile out of Bodmin, the path is beautiful, running alongside a ferny stream past Scarlett’s Well and the welcoming Borough Arms.
    • With its level surface and spectacular views across the Camel Estuary, the trail to Padstow is justly famous and on sunny days, it can feel like the M25 of bike paths. For cyclists wanting to get off the beaten track, take the hillier, right hand fork, north towards Wenfordbridge and the Snail’s Pace café on the edge of Bodmin Moor.
  1. 6. Go directly to Jail

    Near the start of the Camel Trail, heading out of town, you reach Bodmin Jail (£10), an ivy-covered 18th century edifice built with 20,000 tonnes of local granite. The jail has a huge extension project going on around the previously derelict wings, but the main museum is still open for visitors. It’s closed from November 2019 for six months for this major revamp.

    • From Poldark-esque assizes with guys in wigs and frock coats to contemporary prison cells, the jail surveys the history of incarceration with an engaging eye for bloodthirsty narratives. Afterwards, there are sarnies or cream teas in the café and the bar is open until 9.30pm.
    • The jail is one of the UK’s “Most Haunted” venues and visitors can book night-time tours for £80, complete with a three-course meal in the vaulted governors’ hall. Resident spectres of some of the 50-odd prisoners executed here supposedly include a ghostly hanged man and a mournful woman in white. You have been warned!
  1. 7. To Padstow and beyond…

    If cycling there sounds a bit tiring, bus 11A runs from Bodmin Parkway station or from the centre of town all the way to Padstow via Wadebridge, a charming market town on the River Camel with some great food shops and cafés (and lots of places doing cycle hire).

    • From Padstow, you can book a mackerel-fishing trip or a sealife safari around the rugged shore.
    • Or walk along the coast path past Trevone Bay, with its surf-facing café and rock-cut swimming pool, and catch the bus back from Harlyn. This ten-mile walk will stretch keen walkers without too many of the exhausting steep-sided valleys that zig-zag the coast near the Devon border.
    • On the way, you pass an old pilchard tower, keeping watch over the ocean from the sheep-haunted cliffs.
    • The last A5 bus back from Harlyn runs soon after 6pm every day and connects with the bus back to Bodmin.

Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount

Visit car-free in 2019!