Built in 1750 Jamaica Inn is set in the middle of Bodmin Moor on the main highway running through the middle of the Moor. Originally just a coaching Inn with few guest amenities it expanded in 1797 to include a coach house, stables, and a tack room, its’ isolation made it an ideal stopping point overnight in those times of slower travel. The isolated nature of the Inn made it perfect for storing smuggled goods of the era. A quarter of all the tea and half the brandy being smuggled into the UK came via the Devon and Cornish coasts. The Inn may have earned its name because of the large amount of rum its customers consumed.
In more recent times the Inn became famous because of the book “Jamaica Inn” written by Daphne du Maurie in 1935. A fiction novel based on the Inn and its smuggling past it became a best seller, and later two films based on the book, put Jamaica Inn firmly on the tourist map. The Inn has a replica of Du Mauries writing room as part of the Smugglers Museum attached to it.
As Pagans my wife and I like to visit the West Country of the UK because of the large number of visible and accessible Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age monuments and ‘power spots’ located on ley lines. For the week leading up to Mabon, the autumnal equinox celebrated on the 23rd of September this year, we decided to stay at Jamaica Inn. We chose it because of its’ closeness to magical attractions such as Boscastle Witchcraft Museum and Tintagel, and the ley lines that surround and pass through the Inn.
Our drive from Portsmouth took about four and a half hours. It was easy to find the Inn as it was clearly signposted, and visible when approaching from the East or South. These days the Inn is slightly off the main A30 road due to a change of route for the main road in the 1990s. This has made the Inn much more peaceful than it would otherwise have been if the current traffic flow passed it today.
Check in was quick, friendly, and efficient and we were shown to our room on the first floor (2nd story US) with a view of the old highroad and the moors beyond. The room and ensuite were spotless and fresh. There were a couple of minor niggles: The main one was the shower curtain in the bath that kept sticking to, and wrapping itself around, whoever was having a shower at the time. Hanging the curtain outside the bath only added getting water on the floor to the problem. The other was that there were no instructions on how to work the TV remote. Not being particularly technically skilled the latter took me a while to work out, some instructions in the information pack would have been helpful
Having settled in our room and had a cup of tea from the well-stocked dispenser we went down to eat. We stopped off in the first bit of the bar we came to which was set slightly apart from the rest and was probably what is called ‘the snug’ in British Pub terminology. There were menus and we selected what we wanted to eat and waited for service, which didn’t materialise. When I went to enquire it was explained by a friendly member of staff that you had to order your food at the bar and take a number and the waiting staff would bring it to your table. There were clear notices about this in all the other bar areas except the snug.
The food was excellent. I had steak with chips and salad and Linda had tomato and basil soup. The steak was juicy and moist, the chips flavourful and the salad crisp and fresh. Linda’s soup was full-flavoured and served hot, not boiling ( the latter being a definite no-no for soup). To drink I had a pint of the “Rattler” cider and Linda had a glass of the house red wine. Both were pleasant and complimented our choice of food.
I also cast an eye over the menu and was pleased to see several vegetarian choices. Many Pagans I know are vegetarian for a number of different reasons, so it was good to see they had a choice of meals instead of the usual single token dish. What did surprise me was the special Christmas menu that had Prawn Cocktail starter as one of the choices marked as vegetarian. The Vegetarian Society website defines a vegetarian as: "Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or by-products of slaughter." The term shellfish is further defined on their website to cover both crustaceans (ie prawns) and molluscs.
After our meal we went back to our room and went to bed. The bed itself was very comfortable and we slept well aided by the ‘blackout curtains’ that let almost no light in from the outside. This was particularly important as our room faced South-East and would catch the early morning light. With the combination of backout curtains and comfortable bed we had a restful nights sleep each of the four nights we stayed.
Breakfast was a buffet consisting of a choice or combination of hot or cold items, generous portions, and always very tasty. The room we ate in had a magnificent view of the moor and hills rising beyond the lush gardens and buccaneer themed play area. The garden also contained several mill wheels that could be mistaken for tombstones if you didn’t look closely at them
Overall we had a very enjoyable stay, enhanced by the friendly and helpful staff. I would recommend it as a good place to stay in itself or as a base to explore the surrounding countryside and attractions.
Next article: Magickal exhibits in the Jamaica Inn Smugglers museum, Ley Lines, and ghosts.