”Look, Daddy,” said my three-year-old son during our visit to Bodmin Jail, ”that man is ironing that lady’s hair.”
He was starring at life-size models recreating the moment a certain James Holman killed his wife by striking her a blow with a smoothing iron.
Holman was hanged for the crime at the jail in 1854.
”He’s straightening her hair,” I replied with one of my many ‘alternative’ explanations to the more gruesome exhibits at the Cornish attraction.
Built in 1779, Bodmin Jail was operational for 150 years and was the scene of over 50 public executions, the last being in 1909.
Today it’s an interesting rainy day attraction where visitors can wander through six levels of the building, learning all about penal life in Victorian Cornwall.
A highlight is the original execution pit, discovered during renovation works in 2005 and now restored ”to full working order” (so unruly visitors beware!)
We were holidaying close by at Hengar Manor, a family friendly resort of about 150 cottages, lodges, bungalows and caravans on the edge of Bodmin Moor.
Built around a manor house once owned by a prominent family whose land stretched across the moor, it has been welcoming guests for 40 years.
Being a relatively small holiday village, it was nice to find the amenities, including convenience store, coffee shop and restaurant, were all just a short walk away.
A real bonus (for mums and dads at least) is that a great many of the properties come with hot tubs where you can wind down once the kids are tucked up.
Another place for grown-ups to relax is the treatment room which offers a wide range of facials, manicures, pedicures and massages.
Guests are also free to cast their rods in to the many fishing lakes (as long as you have a licence) with equipment available to hire.
As for children, activities on offer include body zorbing, disc golf, archery, snorkelling, sea scooters, fencing, den building and more (charged extra).
The highlight of our seven-year-old daughter’s holiday was the water zorbing, where the instructor was exceptionally encouraging and enthusiastic.
She also joined her younger brother for some sand art and a pirate treasure hunt around the adventure playground, tennis court, football pitch and duck ponds.
In the evenings, they enjoyed dancing and games with Sporty the fox and, unlike at other, larger holiday parks, we were able to grab seats close to the action.
Their nights always concluded with kids’ bingo and, for once, the odds of us crying ‘house’ weren’t as steep as us winning the National Lottery.
Two more strings to Hengar Manor’s bow are the nine-hole pitch and putt course and the swimming complex, with children’s pool, sauna and steam room.
The nearest beaches are a 20-minute drive away on the north coast, and they happen to include a couple of Cornwall’s finest.
The Blue Flag beach at the laid back village of Polzeath is huge at low tide and, if you get there early enough, you can park on the sands.
Gently shelving, and with seasonal lifeguard cover, it’s perfect for learning how to ride waves and was teeming with little surfer dudes when we visited.
In complete contrast, but only a few minutes away, is the beautiful beach at Rock, on the eastern shore of the Camel Estuary, opposite Padstow.
Stretching a mile into the bay, the waters here are unusually calm, and the beach is fringed with high dunes – the perfect spot for a picnic with a view.
All in all, it’s such a fantastic part of the country it would be a crime to holiday anywhere else!
Attractions close to Hengar Manor
- Bodmin Moor: An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this remote, heather-covered upland is grazed by moorland ponies, features countless Bronze Age remains and includes Cornwall’s highest point, Brown Willy.
- Camel Trail: A scenic, 18 mile, largely traffic free and virtually level bike trail along a disused railway line between the coastal town of Padstow and Wenfordbridge (close to Hengar Manor) via Bodmin and Wadebridge.
- Bodmin and Wenford Railway: Cornwall’s only standard gauge railway operates steam trains from Bodmin General (where free parking is available) to Bodmin Parkway (for main line services) and Boscarne Junction (on the Camel Trail).
- Lanhydrock, near Bodmin: A magnificent late Victorian country house in a 1,000 acre wooded estate. The kitchens, nurseries and servants’ quarters offer a glimpse into life ‘below stairs’, while the dining room and bedrooms are deeply elegant.
- Jamaica Inn, Bodmin Moor: A 250-year-old coaching inn with the UK’s largest collection of smuggling artefacts and many personal possessions of Daphne du Maurier, author of Jamaica Inn.
- Pencarrow, near Bodmin: A superb Georgian House in 50 acres of formal and woodland gardens, complete with an iron age hill fort and a children’s playground.
Attractions a little further afield
- Lost Gardens of Heligan, near St Austell: Hidden for more than 70 years, Europe’s largest garden restoration project now features 200 acres of subtropical gardens, ancient woodland and a ‘jungle’ with a jaw-dropping rope bridge.
- Hidden Valley, near Launceston: A maze, a miniature railway, trails for budding detectives, and an eccentric house with secret passageways and an upside room where you have to beat the clock in mind-boggling missions.
- Lappa Valley, near Newquay: Journey on a miniature steam train into a leisure park where you’ll find adventure play areas, a canoeing lake, crazy golf and more railways, all included in a single ticket.
- Wheal Martyn, St Austell: Dig deep into Cornwall’s china clay story by exploring a Victorian clay works and getting a spectacular view of a working pit. Plus woodland trails and play area.
- Tintagel Castle, Tintagel: Inextricably linked with the legend of King Arthur, the dramatic coastal setting of these ruins has fired the imaginations of writers and artists for centuries.
- Museum of Witchcraft & Magic, Boscastle: The world’s oldest and largest collection of objects relating to witchcraft, magic, folklore and the occult, situated in a picturesque inlet.
Reader Offer – save up to 20%
- Adrian was a guest of Hengar Manor and stayed in Merrymeet Cottage, which costs £586 based on a seven-night stay starting September 8. A seven-night stay in a new, luxury, two-bedroom caravan for the same week costs from £418.
- Readers can save an extra 15% during the school summer holidays (from July 21 to Sept 1) and 20% off on all other dates by using the offer code HENG1520. For more information visit www.hengarmanor.co.uk or call 01208 850 382.
- To find all the best attractions, restaurants, shops, pubs, trails, events and vouchers download the free App for Cornwall from www.appforcornwall.com
Newspaper article here