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Visiting St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall

Anyone else feel like the trip’s not over until you’ve finished writing about it? (That feeling probably only applies to bloggers.) Our holiday in Cornwall was months ago, but I’ve enjoyed reliving it for the past two weeks via blog posts. All good things must come to an end, though, and today’s post will close the suitcase on what turned out to be one amazing, romantic getaway for Cory and me. I hope to get back again one day, but until then, let’s explore one final spot in western Cornwall.

If there’s one thing the UK doesn’t lack in, it’s castles. And they do them well. On our final day in Cornwall, we visited the one we’d been catching glimpses of across the bay every morning of our vacation – St Michael’s Mount. Trading port, monastery, castle fortress, family home – St Michael’s Mount has seen a lot of reincarnations over the years. This small island, accessible via boat or on foot, depending on the tides, is full of history and charm, and you most certainly don’t want to miss it if you’re visiting in the area.

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

Getting to St Michael’s Mount

Driving from Penzance, we made it to Marazion, where parking for St Michael’s Mount is located, in just a few short minutes. It was early morning (well, early for us – 10am) and since we hadn’t checked the tide schedule, we realized on arriving, seeing that the causeway was almost entirely covered, that there was no way we were going to be able to walk over. No worries, though – the boats to take people over to the island were coming every five minutes and we just hopped on one of those for a £2 charge.

In less than five minutes we were across the bay and unloading onto what was not just an island with a castle on it, but an actual village with shops, cafes, and even personal homes. St Michael’s Mount today is a far cry from the thriving, 300-person town it once was back in its tin and copper port days, and I was very surprised to discover that people actually still live on this island, even inside of the castle. Come to think of it, that sounds sort of cool, actually, to live on what must feel like your own personal island in the sea, far enough away to feel like you’re on your own, but close enough that if you run out of milk you can just row yourself across the bay to the closest market.

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

The Castle at St Michael’s Mount

We had arrived just before the castle’s opening, so we used that time to wander around the small village and choose a cafe for later. Then it was time to make the trek up to the castle. It’s a steep walk up cobblestone steps and paths, but it doesn’t take very long, and once you reach the top, you can catch your breath while gazing out at that lovely view! (Hey, look! Blue skies for the first time on our trip! Yay!) On your way up, don’t miss stopping at the old dairy and the garden where the family pets are buried, and keep your eyes on the ground so you can spot the Giant’s Heart. Legend has it, if you stand on the heart-shaped stone, you’ll feel the heartbeat of the Giant who once lived on the island. (Mythbuster – it didn’t work. But maybe my feet were just too numb from the hike up to feel it.)

Once we reached the castle, we walked around the terrace, stopping to look at the watchtower and the cannons once used for defense during the War of the Roses and the English Civil War. There are many turrets and terraces to explore, but the rest can only be reached by entering the castle, so as beautiful as it was outside, we tore ourselves away from pretending to be royalty gazing over the water at our empire, and entered the castle, parts of which date all the way back to the 12th century!

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

Rooms Inside the Castle

The castle has been owned and resided in by generations of the St Aubyn family since the 1600’s. More of the castle was open to visitors than I expected, given that the St Aubyns do still use this as their own personal residence. We had a peek into the study, the library, the Chevy Chase (the dining hall, not the actor), and the beautiful blue drawing rooms where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were once entertained at tea. Unlike some of the other castles we’ve seen, there is a lot of personality in this one. Colorful, nicely decorated rooms, framed portraits of the St Aubyn’s lineage, and all kinds of art depicting the Mount (even a small-scale model of the entire island made with wine corks!), make this space feel more like a homey mansion than a centuries-old castle. And my favorite part, we were allowed to take as many photos inside as we wanted. No sneaky, behind the sleeve snaps necessary here!

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

The Chapel at St Michael’s Mount

Also inside the castle, at the summit of the Mount, is the chapel. St Michael’s Mount has been a holy place since 1070 when it was given to the Benedictine monks for use as a monastery and a destination for pilgrimages. Today, even though the Mount’s monastery days are over, it still serves as a place for people to gather for services where all are welcome. Beautiful in its simplicity, this was my favorite interior space of the castle. But my favorite place of all on the island was the castle gardens. Only open certain days every year, this is why we waited until our last day in Cornwall to visit the Mount. I did not want to miss those famous gardens!

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

Gardens at St Michael’s Mount

The gardens are worth the £2.50 additional fee, I assure you. We wandered through every garden, every terrace, and every lawn and we likely would have stayed longer if we didn’t need to return back to the mainland to catch our train back to London. Some of the most unusual flowers are growing here, like the orange, Dr. Seuss-looking torch lilies above. (They reminded me of truffala trees!) I’m so glad we had such a beautiful day for exploring the island. It would have been an entirely different experience in the rain.

Before we left, we stopped at the Island Cafe for cream tea, which started as a beside-the-sea affair, but quickly turned into us trying fruitlessly to keep our napkins on the table and our tea from sloshing over as the wind picked up. We retreated indoors to finish our tea and then caught another boat back to Marazion. This time, our journey wasn’t smooth and easy like our morning ride. Our boat was rocking and dipping and I was looking at the one life preserver like it had my name on it, but we made it safely back to shore with only minor soakings from the waves.

Without realizing it, we had been on the island for over three and a half hours. Time really gets away from you there, but if you really want to see it all, I’d plan for no less than that. Opening days and times are dependent upon the season, so make sure you check the website before you go. And if you want at least one of your journeys to or from the island to be on foot, check the daily tidal info here. Great weather, an interesting morning/afternoon exploring a castle – we couldn’t possibly have ended our Cornwall vacation on a better note. I was smiling the entire 5-hour train ride back to London. A seaside getaway is always good for the soul!

St Michael’s Mount: Website
Address: Marazion, Cornwall TR17 0EF

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St Michael's Mount In Cornwall

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31 Comments

  • Reply
    Rental24h
    January 15, 2018 at 3:43 AM

    I can already imagine myself there. Such a cool place. It is worth visiting!!

  • Reply
    Jessi @2feet1world
    December 28, 2014 at 8:37 PM

    Stunning photographs (as always!) I’d love to visit here… I’m hoping to get to Cornwall this summer and am more inspired than ever after your series of posts!

  • Reply
    Jo
    December 16, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    how absolutely charming!

  • Reply
    Miwa
    December 13, 2014 at 6:43 AM

    Sarah, these photos are absolutely stunning!! It seems like every time I read a post of yours, your photography gets even better and better (if that’s even possible!) You’ve helped me add so many sites to my list of must-see places :)

  • Reply
    Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi
    December 12, 2014 at 9:06 PM

    This has been on our visit list for so long, I’m going to make it a priority next year – no excuses!!
    Ps. Love the photo of you in the window, just beautiful!

  • Reply
    Heather@my little red suitcase
    December 12, 2014 at 7:58 PM

    Great post, I definitely want to go there one day.

  • Reply
    rorybore
    December 12, 2014 at 5:18 AM

    you really should consider applying for National Geographic – your shots are so amazing. I gotta know: were you laying down on the ground for the one with the rock path in the water and the castle in the background!? Or, at least set up a page at NG’s Your Shot page – maybe you’ll get discovered!
    That’s the problem with living in the “new world” — there’s just no castles! (actually we do have one that I know of, Boldt Castle in the 1,000 Islands.)

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      December 12, 2014 at 3:33 PM

      You have no idea what that means to me. Working with National Geographic or another travel magazine would be my DREAM job. Absolute dream. But I am in no way qualified for a job like that. I have so many skills I need to learn, but maybe one day. :)

      Ha – about that shot. Normally I would lay down on my belly for an angle like that. I do that pretty often for shots, actually. But since the causeway was wet, I had to crouch like I’ve never crouched before to get that one lined up right. It was painful, but worth it! :)

  • Reply
    Katrin
    December 11, 2014 at 4:20 PM

    Oh, how lovely! I would like to move in. A castle and lots of space for animals! Sounds perfect to me. I would prefer to walk over there though. I do not trust boats. :) Too scared of deep water.

  • Reply
    Tammy Chrzan
    December 11, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    I’m going to show this to my kids tonight, as this is one of the places I want to take them. I’ve decided to make them “read” about England and it’s history to make the visit even more amazing for them when they get to England and visit the places of history that they read about. Of course I’m going to find the cool stuff for them to read about.
    Your photos are just simply amazing Sarah, I love this post. What a view! Getting out of London has always been a wake up call for me, the true beauty of England lies outside of the city… I hope you’re all ready for Christmas! I’d love to see photos of your tree and Christmas in London! Much love to you, Tammy xx

  • Reply
    Amanda @ Rhyme & Ribbons
    December 11, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    I love it! It’s like the mansion in “The Woman in Black” the tides rose and blocked out the path to the mansion during certain times. :) x

  • Reply
    Ashleigh
    December 10, 2014 at 7:27 PM

    I love St Michael’s Mount! I didn’t realise I missed the gardens though. I visited in March so maybe they weren’t open yet.

  • Reply
    Emmymom
    December 10, 2014 at 8:25 PM

    That would be so fun to see! It would be like heaven for my mom. And okay, I love all the pictures but that first one!! Stunning!! Love love the focal point on it, just so intriguing and draws you in

  • Reply
    Diana Bockus
    December 10, 2014 at 5:31 PM

    Mont St Michel has been on my bucket list for years. If anything in France, this may be my number one place to go. Now apparently there’s a second place where I need to only to be found in Cornwall! How can you not be completely fascinated by everything about this place?! It’s stunning! So glad you were able to go!

  • Reply
    Emma
    December 10, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    That last picture is amazing. I’ve seen a couple of blogs do St Michaels Mount now and I’ve made up my mind that I want to visit there some day. :)

  • Reply
    Melanie Fontaine
    December 10, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    I’m sad that your Cornwall posts have come to an end! I’ve really enjoyed following along! :) When we visited St. Michael’s Mount, the gardens were closed, but they looked so beautiful from above that I’d love to go back to see them up close one day! :) Hope you can go back to Cornwall soon!

  • Reply
    John Evans
    December 10, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    There’s a similar island with a castle on it – plus a ruined abbey – off the coast of Northumberland, in NE England. It’s called Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, and is a truly magival place. Like St Michael’s Mount, you can walk to it across a causeway when the tide is out. Well worth a visit if you tour the North East (along with Durham Cathedral, the Farne Islands, Bamburgh Castle, and Cragside House in Rothbury. And Hadrian’s Wall of course)

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      December 12, 2014 at 3:20 PM

      Hi John! I love this recommendation – I just googled it, and it is absolutely the sort of place we like to go see. While I was at St Michael’s Mount, I was reading about the many other tidal islands in the UK, but I didn’t remember reading about Lindisfarne. I’ve put it on our list!

  • Reply
    Alyson Tart
    December 10, 2014 at 11:58 AM

    There’s also a Michael’s Mount (Mont Saint Michel) in France that you walk to when the tides low, but this seems much less touristy and therefore much nicer! I’ll have to add it to my list of places to visit :)

  • Reply
    Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    December 10, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    I loved St. Michael’s mount. I wanted to walk over the causeway for one of the trips so we made sure we got there super early to walk over. It doesn’t stay low for very long! And we got a boat back. We didn’t get to go in the gardens though, I wish we had!

  • Reply
    Jamie | The Healthy Passport
    December 10, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    Oh this is right up alley! And with great prices as well! I love that is resembles the FRench St. Michel….now I want to see both!

  • Reply
    The Travel Hack
    December 10, 2014 at 10:09 AM

    These photos are absolutely gorgeous! I love Cornwall but I moved up north a year ago and now it’s just so far away. After seeing all your beautiful posts I definitely want to visit next summer!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      December 12, 2014 at 3:13 PM

      Thanks so much, Monica! Cornwall’s even a long way from London, so I can imagine it would be even longer from up north, but definitely worth the train ride. This one was the longest we’ve taken since moving to the UK. It seems so funny to me that I can get to Paris in less than half the time it takes to get to the other side of England! :)

      • Reply
        The Travel Hack
        December 12, 2014 at 3:45 PM

        I know, it’s crazy isn’t it. It would probably be a lot cheaper too! I have been looking at flights today and it’s pretty cheap to fly from Liverpool to Newquay so I might give that a go this summer!

        • Reply
          Sarah Shumate
          December 12, 2014 at 4:04 PM

          I didn’t even think about flying instead – silly me! That would definitely be quicker, and maybe even cheaper. I was really surprised when I was playing around last night with train vs airline prices to Scotland from London. Flying is actually cheaper in that case!

          • The Travel Hack
            December 12, 2014 at 4:07 PM

            I know, I hadn’t considered flying either. I think it works well when you live close to the airport but sometimes the airport faff and getting there and away isn’t worth it.

  • Reply
    Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    December 10, 2014 at 9:23 AM

    That’s it! I’ve got to make Cornwall happen and soon!! ;)

  • Reply
    Ola daleka_droga
    December 10, 2014 at 8:41 AM

    Beatiful views, amazing location but the interiors are even more magical!

  • Reply
    Margo @ The Overseas Escape
    December 10, 2014 at 8:29 AM

    these are truly lovely shots – you are such a talented photographer! thanks for sharing, I honestly thought this was Mont St Micheal, France from the first picture – no idea that this existed in Cornwall too! one day, right? :)

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      December 12, 2014 at 3:10 PM

      Thank you for the sweet compliment! :) They are very similar – and connected because this island was given to the Mont St Michel Benedictine monks long before it became what it is now. I’d love to see the one in France, too!

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