North Cornwall's ancient market town


Camelford Town Council


Straddling the A39, the Atlantic Highway, this ancient market town (not a village) is situated far enough away from the madding crowd to ensure peace and quiet when you want it, but only minutes away from some of the best beaches and coastal scenery in Cornwall on one side, and haunting, rugged Bodmin Moor on the other. Here stand the twin peaks of Brown Willy and Roughtor; locally pronounced 'Router'. The town is approximately ten miles north of Bodmin on the high ground near the base of Roughtor that the Bronze Age hut circles can be seen; an area that can easily be reached from Camelford. Either of these 'mountains' of Cornwall can be surmounted by those with some energy and determination. The rewards come in the form of panoramic views across the County to the sea, and on a really clear day both coasts can be seen. The only equipment needed for this gentler form of 'mountaineering' is a good pair of walking shoes or boots. The population of the town was 2,865 at the 2011 census.

Camelford's first visitors were pre-Celtic invaders, who drove the local Bronze Age people inland from the North Coast. to settle and build their circular stone huts on high ground, close to where the town now stands. The bases of their dwellings can still be seen, in the form of stone circles. Later visitors were the Celts, Saxons, Romans, Normans and the Christian Missionaries, all of whom helped to shape the history and character of the people of this part of Cornwall.

Some believe that King Arthur and his Knights formed part of North Cornwall's history, and that Camelford was once the famed Camelot'. The truth behind all that is lost in the mists of time, as is the name of the real warrior king who died in a bloody battle just outside Camelford at Slaughters Bridge. Was it Arthur? There is some historic certainty that such a battle, between the Cornish and Saxons did take place in the dim and distant past.

Camelford, was formerly named 'Cam Pol' which is Cornish for "curved river", it is over 700 feet above sea level making it one of the highest towns in England and only four miles from the coast on the banks of the River Camel. Once prosperous because of its woollen trade, the central small square is lined with 18th and 19th century houses. The early 19th century town hall very fittingly has a camel for a weathervane. During its time of prosperity Camelford was also an important river crossing on the route from Launceston, Cornwall's former capital, to the market town of Wadebridge and then, on ultimately to Falmouth. Camelford's businesses thrived and the patronage of its MPs brought a lot of money into the town, which is reflected in some very grand buildings. The town became a free borough and a centre of commerce when Richard, Earl of Cornwall granted a royal charter in 1260. Edward VI bestowed the right to send a member to Parliament, a practice which continued until 1832, when the Reform Bill abolished the "rotten borough", of Camelford completely.

The Camelford Union workhouse was built in 1858 to the west of Camelford. It was a small establishment, accommodating up to 80 inmates

The parish church of Camelford is at Lanteglos by Camelford though there is also a church of St. Thomas of Canterbury (opened in 1938) and dedicated to St. Julitta in the town. In Market Place is a Methodist Church. Soul's Harbour Pentecostal Church is situated on the Clease adjacent to the car park. It is affiliated with The Assemblies of God of Great Britain and was founded in 1987. The building the Church occupies was built as the Church School in 1846.

Down by the ford beyond the car park below Roughtor you will find the stark and lonely memorial to Charlotte Dymond, murdered there by her lover in 1844. This tragic event can now be re-lived at The Courtroom Experience in Bodmin.

For those with sporting needs, many activities can be found within an easy drive from the centre of this working town. There are several golf courses that can be visited, giving both cliff-top and inland challenges. The newest one, situated on the outskirts of Camelford, was recently voted as one of the best in the west.

Camelford is the centre of the fisherman's paradise, with fly, cliff, beach and boat fishing to keep them occupied for days on end in the rivers, reservoirs; special lakes and of course the mighty Atlantic. At the end of their relaxing holiday many a tale of the one that got away and of the many species that were put back will be told. Crowdy Reservoir constructed in 1973 and some 115 acres in size is located two miles east of Camelford, and has fishing and leisure/sport activities managed by the South West Lakes Trust.

The motor car can be replaced by the one horse power of many a local riding stable; giving expert advice and training for the novice and offering many an organised trip over the moors and cliff-tops for the more experienced. Some visitors to this ancient town leave their cars in the Free Car Parks and walk the public footpaths in and around the heart of 'Camelot Country'. One footpath leads to the north-west at Slaughterbridge where there is is The Arthurian Centre, the reputed last battlefield and burial place of the legendary King Arthur. For the more enthusiastic walker, Camelford is excellently placed for a quick drive to many starting points for short and long walks across the rugged moors and over the tors, to the coast along smugglers routes or follow the Coastal Footpath.

Since we are not all lucky enough to have every day of our holiday hot and sunny, Camelford itself has two museums to visit. One the prize winning North Cornwall Museum & Gallery, where throughout the season shows of local, national and international artists are on view. The other is the British Cycling Museum showing the history of cycling including some rare examples of cycles especially a Chinese cycle made from bamboo. A gentle stroll around this museum evokes memories of the visitor youth. Again within a radius of 20 miles there are more things and places to visit and do, for example there are two steam railways, a host of museums, including the DCLI Military Museum, art galleries and many, many more tourist attractions. Its position near the highest land in Cornwall makes the climate rather wet. On the 8th June 1957, eight inches of rain fell at Camelford.

Since Camelford is the centre of the area it is ideally placed for the more discerning visitor, who would like to take part in lots of different activities throughout the year, to the visitor who wants to just laze around and soak up the peace and quiet of the rural area, recharging their batteries ready for the return to the hectic humdrum of urban living. The accommodation offered in and around this ancient town varies from bed and breakfast, through family run small hotels to self catering cottages and chalets. The food offered in the hotels, restaurants, public houses and shops reflect the local fare, with real Cornish Handmade Pasties and locally made cream.

The two main industrial enterprises in the area are the slate quarry at Delabole and the cheese factory at Davidstow and there is a small industrial estate at Highfield. Sir James Smith's School provides secondary education to the town and surrounding area and there is also a primary school.

In July 1988, the water supply to the town and the surrounding area was contaminated when 20 tons of aluminium sulphate was poured into the wrong tank at the nearby Lowermoor Water Treatment Works on Bodmin Moor. An independent inquiry into the incident (the worst of its kind in British history) was started in 2002, and a draft report issued in January 2005, but questions still remain as to the long-term effects on the health of local residents.

The local leisure centre is in Station Road, PL32 9UE.

The town's Tourist Information Centre is at The Clease, PL32 9PL.

Notable Residents

Samuel Wallis (1728-1795) A naval officer was born near Camelford (among his achievements was the circumnavigation of the world).

Francis Hurdon (1834-1914), the Canadian politician was also born at Camelford.

Jason Dawe (1967-), former presenter of Top Gear, is from the town.

Two members of the Pitt family held the title of Baron Camelford: Thomas Pitt, 1st Baron Camelford (1737–1793) and Thomas Pitt, 2nd Baron Camelford (1775–1804).

Samuel Pollard (1864-1915), missionary to China was also born in Camelford.

Samuel Cook (1806–1859) was an English watercolour artist.

Thomas Edwin Jago (1925–2018) was a Cornish liquor executive and marketeer known as the creator of Baileys Irish Cream, Malibu (flavoured rum).

Dudley Henry John Kernick (1921–2019) was an English professional footballer who played as a forward. He played in the English football league for Torquay United, Northampton Town and Birmingham City.


Three Churches Walk

The Watermill Walk

The Moorland Walk

The Camelford Way is an eight mile footpath link from the end of the Camel Trail through St. Breward to Camelford.

Art Galleries

Art Galleries in Camelford


The Camelford Agricultural Show - August.


Cafes in Camelford


Pubs in Camelford


The Camelford Way       Delabole       The Arthurian Centre       The Copper Trail       Camelford Gallery       Crowdy Reservoir

Bodmin       Bodmin Moor       Boscastle       St. Breward       St. Mabyn       Tintagel       The River Camel       British Cycling Museum

St. Teath       Cornwall at War Museum       Davidstow Moor RAF Memorial Museum       North Cornwall Museum & Gallery       St Kitts Herbery