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.