The beautiful market town of Launceston is situated between Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor in the Tamar Valley. The narrow streets have many fine examples of Georgian architecture but the centre of the town dates from Norman times and the town comes complete with an elevated Norman castle which is run by English Heritage. It is worth climbing to the top of the round tower for the amazing views.
No matter what your interests there are loads of things to do in Launceston – visit the Tourist Information Centre and pick up some leaflets – be sure to include the excellent ‘Town Trail’ guide.
The trail will lead you all around Launceston highlighting places of historical interest, fine architecture, the Lawrence House Museum and the exquisitely carved church of St. Mary Magdalene. It’s like having your own personal guide but with advantage of taking as long as you like at the various attractions.The Launceston Steam Railway runs trips to the small village of Newmills. Victorian steam engines pull the carriages along the narrow gauge tracks through stunning scenery. There is an interesting railway museum at the station.
Make time to visit the busy Butter Market held on Saturdays in the town square. It is full of local produce (perfect for a picnic or self catering) and lots of local crafts including handmade jewellery are displayed. There is also an indoor market (held on Fridays) which sells similar goods.
Launceston is within easy reach of several beaches – Bude on the north coast being very popular with the surfing community. It’s worth the trip to watch the daredevils ride the waves – very exciting!
If you’re not the seaside type why not take a drive (or walk!) over the nearby Bodmin Moor and visit the town of Bodmin. It’s a lovely place for a leisurely lunch and you might like to visit the town museum which is housed in the former county prison.
On the return journey along the A30 about halfway to Launceston you will see a turn-off to Bolventor. This is the site of the famous Jamaica Inn (of Daphne du Maurier fame). Perched high on the moor the Inn has been here for over 400 years and is said to come complete with ghosts. There are two bars (the ‘Smugglers’ and the ‘Peddlars’) and home cooked food, fine wines and local ales are served in both.
There is also a smugglers museum which incorporates a Daphne du Maurier room and shop where you can purchase her books and many other souvenirs. It is said that smugglers both from the north coast at Tintagel and the south coast at Polperro used the inn to stash their ill-gotten gains. It is said that the name may have derived its name from the large quantities of contraband rum stored here.
The road to Launceston across the moor is teeming with birds and wildlife so keep your eyes open – especially for the legendary ‘beast of Bodmin’.