St Michael’s Mount

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Date of travel

May, 2018

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Adult family

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Twenty years ago my aunt, uncle and I visited Mont-St-Michel in Normandy. On a recent trip to Cornwall we were finally able to visit “St. Michael’s Mount”: This time we had another aunt with us to explore the English Mount. We arrived at Marazion when the tide was out so we parked, along with many others, in the main car park to the west of town and headed to the beach and causeway out to St. Michael’s Mount. It was a beautiful day and the sun was glimmering on the seaweed on the rocks adjacent to the causeway.

As you walk onto the island from the causeway you are welcomed with a map of the island so you can find your way. We headed to the right, around the harbour, to the Barge House Visitor Centre where you can read storyboards about the history of the island, the island community and see a film about the castle and the family that still lives here and works with the National Trust to maintain this historic property. It’s very interesting to see and hear about island life from the people who still call it home, from the boatman to the current Lord St. Levan whose family has lived here since the 1600s.
The ticket office is the last building along the harbour. My one aunt and uncle are National Trust members so admittance for them was free. I purchased a combination ticket for the castle and gardens for £15. My other aunt opted to just see the gardens as her back and legs were playing up so she was unable to make the climb up to the castle. While we headed up the path and past the Sail Loft café and Courtyard Shop to the castle, we left my aunt to wander around the shops and soak in the atmosphere of the island; there was a lot to keep her entertained at sea level.

The pamphlet you are given with your ticket is a good guide to the castle and begins on the pathway. You pass a late Victorian dairy (yes, there used to be cattle on the island), a well which used to supply the island’s water, a small giant’s heart in the cobblestones on the path (the giant’s body – Cormoran – is supposed to be at the bottom of the well), the 1640s watch tower and the west door which is from Tudor times. Make no mistake, the cobbled path to the top is steep in spots but it is well worth the climb. The views once you get up to the 18th century gun batteries are spectacular; back to Marazion and Mount Bay, along the coast, out to sea, and the harbour. We had to tear ourselves away to go inside the castle.

The castle rooms are not huge but they are still impressive and the guide provides their history. For example, the Chevy Chase was used as a refectory when St. Michael’s Mount was a priory. The monks left in the 16th century and this room became the great hall for the castle and then the dining room for the family until the 1950s. The views from the terraces are amazing, especially of the terraced gardens below the castle. One of the current community members had his wedding up here and shared his story in the Visitor Centre. Of course there is a church dedicated to St. Michael and it is still used for services on Sundays from May to September. The church was built by the Abbot of Mont-St-Michel, Bernard le Bec in 1135. There have been many alterations since then and the stained glass is beautiful.

The walk down was much easier that the walk up but you really have to watch where you’re walking on the uneven path. We had to look hard but we found the giant’s heart. I will address the gardens and our lunch at the Island Café in separate reviews, if only to be able to post more photographs!

Denise Bridge

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