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St Michael’s Mount

st michael's mount

Discover Tales of Knights and Smugglers at St Michael’s Mount

Rising dramatically from the seas off Marazion lies the iconic fortress island of St Michael’s Mount, accessible by foot along a cobbled causeway at low tide. This historic castle perched on an ancient granite mount was once home to medieval monks and Tudor kings and it holds relics spanning eight centuries.

Families can voyage across its mythic bay before touring opulent rooms inside hearing tales of architectural plights, giant quests or underwater treasure discoveries delivered engagingly by costumed guides. Outdoor adventures also await beachcombing, crabbing in rockpools or sitting atop Cornwall’s legendary mount once shrouded by King Arthur folklore appreciating this tidal island’s scenic curiosities and rich heritage.

Here’s everything to know for an unforgettable family day out exploring St Michael’s Mount’s myriad historic attractions near Penzance.

st michael's mount

Getting There

By car

Well signed lanes from the A30 lead towards Marazion’s town centre one mile across Mount’s Bay from St Michael’s Mount itself with parking available.

By public transport

Regular rail connections reach Penzance then change onto bus 2, 2A, 17 or 17A reaching central Marazion within view of the island.

By boat

Between March and October, it is possible to reach St Michael’s Mount by ferry. Coming into the small harbour with the wonderful castle rising up behind you is an amazing sight. The boat costs £2.80 for adults, and £1.80 for children.

Opening Arrangements

The island castle opens daily except Saturdays from March-October between 10.30-5pm with last causeway crossings at 4.30pm:

  • Tidal causeway crossing times allowing dry foot access: 2 hours either side of low tide.
  • Boat transfers sail every half hour when the causeway lies underwater operated by island staff.

Outside summer, castle access is curtailed – check online for winter arrangements.

st michael's mount

Entry Prices and Tickets

Standard admission prices to access the island and castle are:

  • Adult £15
  • Child £7
  • Family £40
  • National Trust Members Free
  • A Locals Pass is available for residents of West Cornwall, allowing free entrty to the island
st michael's mount

St Michael’s Mount History

The story of St Michael’s Mount dates back to the 8th century when a Benedictine monastery was established on the island, dedicated to the Archangel Michael. Legend has it that the mount was once connected to the mainland, but over time, natural processes transformed it into the tidal island we see today. Pilgrims visited the site seeking spiritual solace, and the medieval chapel atop the mount became a beacon of faith.

During the reign of Henry V in the 15th century, St Michael’s Mount took on a strategic role in coastal defense. Fortifications were added, and the island served as a key military outpost guarding against potential invasions. Over the centuries, ownership of the mount changed hands between the monastery and the Crown, and later, it became the property of the St. Aubyn family, who still reside there.

The castle, a blend of medieval and Tudor architecture, was constructed by the St. Aubyns in the 12th century and expanded over subsequent centuries. The island’s history is marked by tales of siege and conflict, particularly during the English Civil War when it briefly fell into Parliamentary hands.

castle at st michael's mount

The Island’s Story

St Michael’s Mount holds over a thousand years of absorbing history as castle highlights tours by costumed guides reveal:

  • Road trips discovering the island’s mythical beginnings as a giant-toppling stronghold in ancient legends.
  • Hear how monks built an important medieval place of coastal pilgrimage attacked frequently by marauding French pirates in the 1350s.
  • Learn why Henry VIII built defensive walls circling the island during tempestuous Tudor times when abbey gold was seized during the reformation.
  • Be astounded by tales of how the naturally fortified island harboured Royalist soldiers escaping from battle of the civil war in the 1640s.

Inside the Castle at St Michael’s Mount

The interior of the castle, meticulously preserved and open to curious visitors, reveals a captivating blend of medieval architecture and the elegant tastes of later periods.

The castle’s rooms are adorned with antique furniture, family portraits, and an impressive array of artifacts, each telling a story of the island’s rich past. The Blue Drawing Room, with its ornate furnishings and panoramic views of the surrounding seascape, offers a glimpse into the luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by the St. Aubyn family, the castle’s current residents.

The Chevy Chase Room, named after a 16th-century ballad, showcases an exquisite collection of weaponry and armor, underscoring the castle’s historical role in coastal defense.

Visitors can explore the Garrison Room, where military strategy and historical documents are displayed, providing insights into the island’s strategic importance during times of conflict.

The castle’s chapel, dedicated to St. Michael, exudes an air of tranquility and spiritual significance. Its medieval architecture and religious artifacts reflect the island’s origins as a place of pilgrimage.

inside st michaels mount

Shelia Hichens Collection

The Sheila Hichens Collection, part of the Newlyn School art, can be explored by visitors at St Michael’s Mount in the beautifully restored Steward’s House located in the harbor village. Sheila Hichens, deeply rooted in West Cornwall, established the Sheila Hichens Trust through her Will to capture the essence of life in this region before the mid-twentieth century.

Displayed in the Steward’s House, the collection features over 40 paintings, highlighting the renowned Newlyn School artists like Walter Langley, Stanhope Forbes, Laura Knight, and Harold Harvey. Originating in the 1880s and enduring into the early twentieth century, the Newlyn School attracted artists to West Cornwall with its scenic beauty, unique light quality, simple lifestyle, and dramatic coastal settings. Open-air painting in a natural setting was a common practice among these artists.

The Steward’s House and the Sheila Hichens Collection are accessible free of charge during regular opening hours, welcoming island visitors and local schools. Additionally, the Steward’s House is open for pre-booked visits by local schools and community groups as part of an educational program funded by the St Aubyn Foundation. Sheila Hichens, born in 1924, left a lasting legacy, and her trustees, William Rogers and Lord St Levan, oversee this significant Cornish art collection, preserving the cultural heritage of West Cornwall.

The Garden Terraces

The garden terraces enchant visitors with a breathtaking display of horticultural artistry against the backdrop of the castle and the azure sea. These meticulously cultivated terraces, known as the ‘Subtropical Gardens,’ cascade down the slopes of the island, creating a stunning tapestry of vibrant colors and textures.

Perched on granite ledges, the gardens benefit from the unique microclimate of the Gulf Stream, fostering the growth of exotic plants from around the world. Palm trees, succulents, and other subtropical flora thrive, creating an unexpected oasis in the heart of Cornwall. The sheltered location and careful cultivation allow for a remarkable variety of plants to flourish, showcasing the botanical expertise that has been nurtured on the island for centuries.

Visitors to the garden terraces can meander through lush pathways, reveling in the sensory delights of fragrant blooms and panoramic views of Mount’s Bay. The gardens at St Michael’s Mount offer not only a visual feast but also a tranquil escape, inviting contemplation amidst the beauty of nature in this historic and captivating setting.

st michael's mount garden terraces

The Village and Harbour

The village and harbour at St Michael’s Mount provide a charming and picturesque setting, enhancing the island’s allure. Nestled at the base of the castle, the quaint village exudes a timeless charm with its cobblestone streets and historic stone cottages. Residents and visitors alike traverse these narrow pathways, creating a sense of community against the backdrop of the rugged Cornish coastline.

The harbour, with its bobbing boats and views across Mount’s Bay, adds a maritime allure to the scene. A hub of activity, the harbour accommodates fishing vessels and leisure boats, mirroring the island’s historical reliance on the sea for sustenance and trade.

Together, the village and harbour at St Michael’s Mount embody a harmonious blend of history, community, and coastal beauty, inviting exploration and providing a window into the island’s enduring maritime heritage.

Jack the Giant Killer

The legendary tale of Jack the Giant Killer echoes through the ages at St Michael’s Mount – a cherished Cornish story known to locals. In this fable, the menacing Cormoran, a giant who made the Mount his lair, instilled fear by stealing cattle and casting a dark shadow over the land. The courageous protagonist, Jack, hailing from Marazion, faced the colossal task of liberating his town from this monstrous curse.

Under the moonlit night, Jack traversed the cobbled causeway to set a cunning trap for the giant. With a resounding blast on his horn, he coaxed the beast out, and the ensuing events are shrouded in mystery, waiting to be unraveled within the castle walls. Dare you follow in Jack’s footsteps, ascend the Mount, and seek out the giant’s stone heart? St Michael’s Mount invites the bold and curious to immerse themselves in the folklore, bridging the gap between legend and reality.

jack the giant killer

Outdoor Adventures

Around the castle and throughout St Michael’s Mount, families can enjoy activities like:

  • Finding glittering treasures beachcombing on the seaweed-strewn shore after the tide recedes.
  • Crabbing in salty rock pools trying to catch feisty creatures hiding beneath boulders.
  • Completing quiz trails mapping your route uncovering island secrets.

About St Michaels Mount Book

about st michaels mount book

About St Michael’s Mount” by Michael Sagar Fenton delves into the captivating history of this iconic Cornish landmark. Through vivid storytelling and historical insights, Fenton unfolds the island’s rich tapestry, chronicling its evolution from a medieval monastery to a coastal fortress, offering readers a deep appreciation for St Michael’s Mount’s enduring allure.

Buy Now

Frequently Asked Questions

How accessible is St Michael’s Mount for wheelchairs and pushchairs? – It is a rocky island, accessed by a historic causeway. The uphill, uneven cobbled paths lack handrails, making navigation challenging. Wheelchairs and pushchairs cannot reach the summit; sturdy footwear is recommended.

What can I do with my pushchair? – They have a pushchair park where you can safely leave your pushchair as you explore the island.

How long does it take to walk accorss the causeway? – About 15 minutes

Can I just turn up or do I need to book a ticket? – You need to book your ticket online and cannot just arrive without a ticket and expect to get onto the island.

causeway st michaels mount

Nearby Attractions to visit

Of you are in South West Cornwall, think abiout visiting some of these places after you have been to St Michael’s Mount:

  • Marazion Beach – Sweeping stretch of sand beside Marazion town offering great swimming and watersports with stunning island views at high tide. The beach has won awards for its cleanliness.
  • Porthcurno Telegraph Museum – Museum housed a Victorian telegraph station highlighting Cornwall’s submarine cable communications history. Nearby beach and Minack clifftop theatre also worth a visit.
  • Penzance – Just 2 miles away, this charming seaside town has winding streets full of shops, galleries and cafés, an attractive promenade walkway, and great access via train or ferry to the Isles of Scilly.
  • Mousehole – Picturesque Cornish fishing village with great pubs and restaurants, quaint harbor setting, and scenic coastal walks like the one to St Clement’s Isle via the rocky outcrops at Carrick Gladden.
  • Lamorna Cove and Valley – Series of secluded rocky coves bordered by densely wooded valleys filled with streams. Offers sheltered swimming spots and excellent wooded walking trails bursting with wild garlic flowers in spring.
  • Cape Cornwall – Walk to the abandoned 19th century mine chimney at the cape’s tip for incredible views of both sides of the famous Cornish peninsula from one spot.
  • Levant Mine – Tour the claustrophobic underground tunnels and mighty beam engines of this 19th century copper and tin mine dramatically situated on cliffs beside the Atlantic Ocean.

For an intriguing voyage back in time appreciating Cornwall’s unique isle whose religious importance and naturally protective slopes attracted multiple eras of inhabitants leaving rich legacies including monks and smugglers, St Michael’s Mount delivers magic and adventure afloat!

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