Romance Wanderlust: Jamaica Inn, Cornwall

Romance Wanderlust - a yellowed and burnt edge map with a compass in the corner, with Romance Wanderlust written across itI’ve a confession to make, which is that even though I’ve read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier and her horror anthology Echoes From the Macabre about 500 times each, I’ve never read Du Maurier’s classic novel, Jamaica Inn. That did not stop me from shrieking to the heavens with excitement when I realized that you can in fact visit the actual Jamaica Inn in Cornwall.

There are GHOSTS.



Here I give my standard disclaimer: Romance Wanderlust is a column in which I daydream with the help of Google. I’m neither endorsing nor reviewing Jamaica Inn, because I haven’t been there. YET.

The real Jamaica Inn was built in Cornwall in 1750. Smugglers used the inn as a stopping point on the way to Devon and as a hiding place for contraband, including brandy and tea. Daphne Du Maurier stayed at the Inn in 1930 and was thrilled by its history. Her book, Jamaica Inn, tells a harrowing tale of domestic violence, smuggling, and murder, all thwarted by a young woman who comes to visit.

Here’s the first appearance of the Jamaica Inn in the novel:

She lifted the sash and looked out. She was met with a blast of wind and rain that blinded her for the moment, and then, shaking clear her hair and pushing it from her eyes, she saw that the coach was topping the breast of a hill at a furious gallop, while on either side of the road was rough moorland, looming ink-black in the mist and rain.

 Ahead of her, on the crest, and to the left, was some sort of a building, standing back from the road. She could see tall chimneys, murky dim in the darkness. There was no other house, no other cottage. If this was Jamaica, it stood alone in glory, foursquare to the winds. Mary gathered her cloak around her and fastened the clasp.

The Inn from the outside - a low stone building with a courtyard with picnic tables

Today the inn is in business for tourists in search of the romantic atmosphere of combining distant crime, literary genius, and potential ghost sightings. I cannot begin to tell you how sad I am that “Mr. Potter’s Museum of Curiosities” is no longer at the Inn. Nothing says “romance” like what Wikipedia describes as “a large collection of stuffed animals in complex dioramas, such as an animal courthouse or school classroom populated by baby squirrels.”

Dear Readers, I beg you not to click on, say, this link for pictures. I did, and now I’ll never sleep again. Mr. Potter must have been hitting the laudanum pretty hard, and presumably Jamaica Inn is haunted, among other things, by 100 ghosts of dead animals. (There is such a thing as too much taxidermy, I have discovered.)

However, while we are robbed (or rescued, depending on your point of view) of the chance to see the curiosities, one may still visit the Smuggler’s Museum and the Daphne Du Maurier Room. The Smuggler’s Museum contains smuggling items of interest from the 1700’s through today, while the Du Maurier Room features her writing desk, copies of her books, and her favorite candy.

Daphne's desk

I’ve never been to the Jamaica Inn and I have little to go on save their website, but frankly the actual bedrooms don’t look romantic at all. They do have four-poster beds, but when it comes to linens someone got a little overexcited about the floral, and many of the views are of the parking lot. The food isn’t much of a draw either. It appears to be standard English pub food – think items with chips and savory pies. Basically, the place appears to be touristy as hell.

But who cares about these petty inconveniences when one has a Smuggler’s Museum and also ghosts?

The inn hosts regular Ghost Nights and rumors abound of ghosts in the older parts of the Inn.

Basically, this inn would be devastatingly romantic for a very specific type of person – a fan of the Gothic, a fan of foggy weather and ghost stories, a fan of Du Maurier, and probably fans of Poldark due to the smuggling connection.

Bring a white nighty, a candle, some sensible shoes, and a snarky sense of humor, and see what happens!

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