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Britain > Cornwall > St Michaels Mount

An island containing a world famous medieval castle with a permanent place in history

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Island Views
Medieval Castle
St Michael's Mount is a small tidal island located in Mount's Bay some 366 metres off the coast of Cornwall. The view of it from any angle on the mainland is stunning. It is accessed from the land by a man made causeway, passable only at mid to low tide. Visitors however can also reach the island at high tide by boat. The base for any visit to what the locals colloquially call 'The Mount' is the town of Marazion. This coastal village is only a 10 minute drive from Penzance or 15 minutes from Hayle. Ample parking in Marazion and easy access to the causeway provide a trouble-free route to the island.
The geology of the Mount is fascinating and encompasses much of Cornwall's geological make up in one location. Made from a granite intrusion into the Devonian mudstones, the Mount rises above the waves with a grace and beauty only matched by its subsequent development. The medieval castle perched on top of the mount is the crowning glory of this natural phenomenon.
The history of the Mount is a long and varied one. In the local Cornish language the island is known as "Carrack Looz en Cooz" which literally means "the grey rock in the wood". This may be an insight into ancient times, before Mount's Bay was flooded and when this geological abnormality was surrounded by marsh trees, not water. The island was used as an important trading port for the export of tin and copper from around 400BC to 400 AD and is likely to be the island of Ictis, referred to in classical literature. Following the Norman Conquest of 1066, St Michael's Mount was granted to the its French equivalent situated on the opposite side of the English Channel, Mont St Michael. This is a large abbey settlement of the same name also built on an island and connected to the mainland by a causeway. Thus began the islands long and varied Christian history.

The view up from the gardens
Photo Matt From London
The Abbot of Mont St Michael built the first Church on the island in 1135. Four miracles are then recorded as taking place at the islands church in the mid 13th century. This helped cement St Michael's Mount as a site of pilgrimage. In 1193, the first castle was built on the island under the reign of Henry de la Pomeray. Several additions and fortifications have been made since, giving rise to the castle seen today. Finally over the following 450 years, the island survived numerous changes in ownership, many a battle and even a bloodthirsty local Cornish siege, before it was purchased in 1659 by Colonel St Aubyn. His descendents still own the island 12 generations on. In 1902 King Edward VII visited the island and the then owner Lord St. Levan was subsequently forced to close the St Aubyn Arms pub after a tipsy fisherman spat at the King's feet! In 1954 St Michael's Mount was given to the National Trust although the St. Aubyn family retain a 999 year lease. This allows them to continue to live in the castle and operate the visitor business. James St Aubyn is the current head of residence. To add to its historical legacy, the island has also been used as a set for the 2003 film, Johnny English and as inspiration for music by local artist Aphex Twin.
A visit to St Michael's Mount is a truly memorable experience, full of legend, myth, and over a thousand years of history. Visitors today tread in the footsteps of countless pilgrims, many a brave knight and even the odd king and queen! Climb the ancient winding path up to the impressive castle and enjoy stunning views over the bay, Cornish coastline and beauty of the island itself. Amenities include a cafe, the Sail Loft restaurant, shops and a barbecue stand. Beware though, sensible walking shoes are required and the facilities can be forced to close at any moment if the inclement weather and sea conditions turn on the island.
St Michael's Mount is a place of contrast; an island that can be walked to, a medieval castle with modern residents, a place of history that still has a thriving working community. The historical legacy, aesthetic beauty and unique feel of the island means a visit to St Michael's Mount is a must for any visitor to Cornwall.
Visitor Information
St Michael’s Mount is open Sunday to Friday April to October (limited Winter opening) from 10:30am to 5pm (5:30pm in High Summer). Entry costs around £7 for adults, £3.50 children. Marazion, Cornwall TR17 0HT. Tel: 01736 710507

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