Tuesday, 10 April 2012

St Michael's Mount

Star rating 4/5

I suppose more people have heard of Mont St-Michel on the French coast, than have perhaps heard of St Michael's Mount, but as you'll guess by the name, they are remarkably similar. After the invasion (the Norman Conquest), St Michael's Mount was gifted to the Benedictine Abbey in France.

Let's start with a photo of Mont St-Michel, Normandy (left) and then one of St Michael's Mount, Cornwall (right)

Can you see the similarities!!

Happily, I've now been to both. Mont St Michel is beautiful and has a bustling tourist scene with shops and cafes towards the base.  Very French.  It's reached by a permanent causeway, and has a Benedictine Abbey/church at the top.

St Michael's Mount is a National Trust property,  but is managed and still lived on by the St Aubyn family. It's reached by a causeway.  At low tide you walk out across the causeway to the island but at other times you can only gain access by boat.  There is a very plentiful supply of these small boats bobbing backwards and forwards. The charge for the lift is £2 per person.

At the top of the island is a medieval church and a castle. For centuries pilgrims visited the site, but it was also a fortress, port, and still is a  family home.

Although out of sequence, I'm going to start with a view from the top to the tropical gardens below. 

We weren't able to get access to the gardens as they were shut when we went (March)  I think they open in April/May (check before going if they're a "must see" for you)

As you can see, we had the most remarkably sunny weather for our visit, and the sea was calm and the skies clear.

Scenes on arrival

Making your way to the boats, which collect you off of the rocks on the left.

 Approaching the harbour by boat.
 The view back to the village of Marazion.
 The harbour wall.

When you arrive you're confronted with a stone walkway in front of the harbour, and a row of delightful stone cottages. (below)  They are regularly battered by the sea during abnormally high tides and rough weather.

 The view from the other side of the cottages looking back towards the harbour.

Entrance to Mount is £7.50, and the garden is extra.
The climb is arduous not only because it's steep and long, but because the pathway is made from rough hewn stones. It's like climbing stairs and is not for the infirm.  You can take as long as you like of course and the views on the way are worth the effort.

At the top is a castle and a church which are well worth looking at.  There are toilets too, but no form of refreshment is available so either take your own or go to the excellent cafe at the base before you climb.  I'd allow at least 1 hour for the climb and visit. (We tend to rush around places - you could easily spent the morning climbing and watching the sea).

Photos of the outside of the castle and church.

The door to the church (photos of inside the church below).

It can be very busy, so you'll have to deal with lots of people in a small space and I imagine there are queues in the busy periods.

We followed a large school party of French teenagers.

Inside the castle and church

 Seen tucked into a blotter on a desk.

 Left: making the isolated, windy, cold castle a home with a good fire, and (right) a cosy library tucked behind a seat.
 The hall. Beautiful ceiling.  The architecture dates back to the 12th century.
 Right. Inside the church
 A pretty church, which is noisy because of the tram which runs underneath it, carry shopping from Tesco without being seen!

 Inside the castle again; beautiful curtains, colours and ornate plasterwork.
 What a view! Fancy having a sitting room that looked out to sea from such a high and unobstructed perch.
 Portraits of family members are dotted around the walls.
 Just the gallery leading to the outside again, but I loved the atmosphere and it reminded me of being on board a ship.
Amongst the weapons,  the more unusual sight of a Samauri warrior's armour

An enjoyable place to visit if you're in Cornwall.


  1. Makes me want to go there.
    When I went to Mont St Michel in France as a child there was a causeway but the tide covered it twice a day. There was a big thing about the tide coming in at 20mph and not to get caught on foot.
    My love of crepes with Grand Marnier and fluffy omlettes goes back to summers visiting there.

  2. We only went round the gardens when we were there and that took a lot of time as we were taking so many photos. Thank you for the shots of the interior, we will have to make the effort and climb the stairs next time. I didn't know there was a tramway!