A Look at Cornwall (6): Saint Michael’s Mount Part 1

On the third day of our week in Cornwall in June 2o16 we decided to visit Saint Michael’s Mount, which has been described as ‘the most famous of Cornwall’s landmarks’ (National Trust). I have to admit it’s a great place to visit. It’s a lovely walk up to the castle and there’s plenty to see inside it once you get there, with fabulous views out across Mount’s Bay from the roof terraces. The Church of St Michael and All Angels, built in 1135, also stands on the North Terrace. For visitors more interested in gardens, the terrace gardens that adorn the steep island slopes are a delight and full of colourful and exotic blooms.

From Newlyn (near Penzance) where we were staying we had a relatively short drive, compared to our drive up to Tintagel the previous day. That meant we could get there nice and early.

Wikipedia tells us that the Cornish name for St Michael’s Mount is Karrek Loos yn Koos, which means hoar rock in woodland, or literally the grey rock in a wood – an appropriate description for a granite crag that rises 221 feet above sea level (not including the buildings at the summit).Wikipedia also tells us that St Michael’s Mount is one of 43, unbridged, tidal islands that people can walk to around mainland Britain.

Located in Mount’s Bay, the isle is just 500 metres from the mainland and linked to the town of Marazion by a causeway which is passable between mid-tide and low-water. It is managed by the National Trust and the castle and chapel have been the home of the St Aubyn family since around 1650. The island also had a population of 35 in 2011. Part of the island was designated a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) in 1995 because of its geology.

We left the car at the car park in Marazion and headed along the beach path towards the causeway:

We had planned to walk across to the island, but if the tide had been in we’d have taken the boat. As it was, the tide was on the ebb, so we just had a short wait on the causeway until it went out. As to be expected, some people couldn’t resist paddling as the water became shallower but, not wanting to spend the rest of the morning in soggy jeans, we waited.

People wading across the Causeway before the tide was completely out.

Eventually, the tide ebbed and we approached the island.


The granite cobblestones/setts of the causeway continue along the pathway onto the island and up to the castle:

To greet visitors on the island are a number of buildings, including the Island Café…

… a couple of shops and of course, the loos. There is also a picnic area. This is a plan of the island, which can be enlarged by clicking on it: The black line from Point 9 (Ticket Office) is the pathway leading up to the castle:

There’s a lot of history to find out about on the island – from Neolithic and Bronze age times to the more recent medieval period, the Civil War in the mid 17th century and through Victorian times to the present day. It is possible that the isle may have been the site of a monastery in the 8th century, but we know that by the time of the Norman Conquest of 1066 it was in the possession of the monks of its sister isle in Normandy, Mont Saint Michel: another tidal island with a conical shape, similar, though smaller, to Mount Saint Michael:

Mont Saint Michel in Normandy. Public Domain

The church and priory at St Michael’s Mount were built in the 12th century but the priory was destroyed by an earthquake of 1275 and rebuilt in the late 14th century. The priory’s association with the abbey at Mont St Michel ended in the 15th century during the war in France in the reign of Henry V. The priory was later given to the Abbess and Convent of Syon in Middlesex and the building still forms the heart of the castle today.

There is also some fascinating folklore and legend connected to the island, including that of an 18 foot giant called Cormoran who lived in a cave at the top of the rock with his ill-gotten treasures and terrorised the people.

The Giant Cormoran circa 1820, Source: Victorian chapbook. Author unknown. Public Domain

The first building we came to after leaving the ticket office at the start of our trek uphill was the Victorian Dairy:

The next few photos were taken at various points on our way up to the top:

Inside the house there are several rooms to view, all with lots of history behind them. The Wars of the Roses and the Civil War feature strongly but there are pieces of furniture and a whole host of artefacts from various periods. I can’t possibly do justice to the many interesting pieces or the different rooms here so I’ll just share a few of the photos. The coat of arms is in the Entrance Hall.

I’ll finish this part of the post with a few photos taken on the North Terrace as we came out of the castle…

… and these from inside the Church of St Michael and All Angels:

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I’ll share some photos of the exotic terrace gardens in another post later on.

About milliethom

I am a reader and writer of historical fiction with a keen interest in the Earth's history and all it involves, both physically and socially. I like nothing better than to be outdoors, especially in faraway places, and baking is something I do when my eyes need respite from my computer screen.
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14 Responses to A Look at Cornwall (6): Saint Michael’s Mount Part 1

  1. This looks incredible! I have always wanted to visit Saint Michael’s. It is on my bucket list for sure!

    • milliethom says:

      It’s well worth a visit, if you’re ever in England, Courtney. There are many lovely sites in Cornwall and along with Tintagel and the Eden Project, St Michael’s Mount is one of the most well known. The terrace gardens are lovely.

  2. Magnificent photos. I am drooling over the library. And the stained glass….such a beautiful church.

    • milliethom says:

      The library is a lovely room and the ceiling in the room called Chevy Chase is gorgeous. It’s also worth the trek up to the castle for the views back to the coast. The church is pretty and very old but there were a lot of people in there on the day we visited, which made photography difficult. Most sites in Cornwall get pretty crowded, especially in the summer.
      Lovely to see you here, Pleasant Street! I’ll be over to read some of your posts very soon!

  3. draliman says:

    Sadly when I went there the other year the gardens were closed 😦
    The tide was in when I arrived and out when I left, so I got to take the little boat and walk back.

    • milliethom says:

      I know… I remember reading your post and it made me want to visit Cornwall again, especially as I’d never been to St Michael’s Mount! The gardens are closed for part of the year so your visit must have fallen during that time. The gardens were lovely in June last year (not sure about this year if the awful weather at the moment continues!). We were just lucky with the tide. We hadn’t checked on times and would have used the boat if need be.

      • draliman says:

        I’m sure it’s written on a sign somewhere, but we went out away from shore, then he switched off the engine, then he had a whip-round for the £1 each 🙂

  4. leggypeggy says:

    Your photos are magnificent. We need to plan about six months in England and include some of the places you highlight. I think St Michael’s Mount might shoot to the top of the list.

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks, Peggy. If you manage to get to England, I’d say you really can’t go wrong with Cornwall – if it doesn’t rain every day. It might be a little warmer than further north but, being where it is on the west and totally exposed to the rain carried in across the Atlantic, even summers can be rainy. We were lucky last year and had a lovely week. (Don’t forget to meet up with Ali if you get to Cornwall. He’s a lovely man.) St Michael’s Mount is a great place and it’s well worth the trek up to the top, if only for the views.
      I’m enjoying your tour of Northern Europe at the moment, although I know I’ve some catching up to do.

  5. One of my favourite places!

    • milliethom says:

      It is a very special place, although, as a non-Cornish person, I could class so many of your fabulous sites as ‘special’! St Michael’s Mount has a fascinating history, too. Your county amazes me and I can understand why you love it so much.

  6. Sheila says:

    This is such a beautiful walk through history! I love the cobblestones and all the stonework, especially with the ocean there in the background. I’m glad you managed to stay dry. Those tidal islands can be tricky. I got stuck on one once and ended up with soggy jeans. 🙂

  7. thank you for another great tour!!

  8. Pingback: A Look at Cornwall (6): Saint Michael’s Mount Part 2: The Terrace Gardens | Millie Thom

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