‘Jamaica Inn stands today, hospitable and kindly, a temperance house on the twenty mile road between Bodmin and Launceston. In the following story of adventure I have pictured it as it might have been over a hundred and twenty years ago; and although existing place-names figure in the pages, the characters and events described are entirely imaginary’.
Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, 1936.
Jamaica Inn is no longer a temperance house, nor does it stand on the road from Bodmin to Launceston; due to modern road development the road has moved. But Jamaica Inn does still stand solid and strong on Bodmin Moor and on a bleak November day can appear as dark and foreboding as it was described in Daphne’s novel. But its thousands of annual visitors will tell you different because, these days, Jamaica Inn is a vibrant and welcoming place to stay awhile when travelling in Cornwall. It is a hotel with a restaurant and bar. You will also find the Daphne du Maurier and Smugglers museums, both of which were refurbished early in 2023, a farm shop and a gift shop, all of which are cared for under the new ownership of The Coaching Inn Group, who bought the Inn in autumn 2022.
The fame of Jamaica Inn undoubtedly springs from the novel Daphne du Maurier wrote and the story of how she came to write it is almost as good as the novel itself.
In November 1930 Daphne and her friend Foy Quiller Couch went to stay at Jamaica Inn overnight, while on a riding expedition on Bodmin Moor. It was Daphne’s first experience of the Inn. In the afternoon they set off across the desolate and sinister moor and lost their way. Darkness fell, it was raining and the two young women had little hope of finding their way back. They found a derelict barn and Daphne was keen to stay there but Foy thought they would catch their death if they did so, putting their trust in the horses, they allowed themselves to be led across the moor until they eventually saw the lights of Jamaica Inn in the distance and knew that the instinct of the horses had saved them.
A year later, on a second visit to Jamaica Inn, Daphne and Foy visited the village of Altarnun and its church, St Nonna, also known as the Cathedral of the Moor. The vicar of Altarnun visited them that evening and there can be no doubt that those two visits to Jamaica Inn, and whatever the vicar said to Daphne on that evening, were to brew in her mind until the story of Jamaica Inn became the novel we know today.
Jamaica Inn, Bolventor, Launceston, Cornwall PL15 7TS Tel: +44 (0) 1566 86250 www.jamaicainn.co.uk