St. Michael's Mount, Cornwall, UK

St. Michael's Mount, Cornwall, UK

Off the coast of the Cornish village of Marazion there is a small island, at the top of which sits a castle. This is St. Michael’s Mount, a place steeped in history and legend going back over 1500 years.

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It is claimed that the Archangel Michael appeared before local fishermen on the Mount in the 5th century AD. Additionally, St. Michael’s Mount is the legendary location for the story of Jack the Giant Killer (Jack and the Beanstalk). The story goes that during the 6th century the island was home to an 18-foot giant named Cormoran, who lived in a cave with his ill-gotten treasures from terrorizing local towns and villages. That is, until a young farmer’s son named Jack took on this gigantic menace, who had an appetite for cattle and children, and killed him. Jack the Giant Killer became a hero among the people, and was the basis for the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.

By the time of the Norman conquest in 1066, St Michael’s Mount had come into the possession of the monks of its sister isle, Mont St Michel in Normandy, France. The church and priory that still lie at the heart of the castle today were built by those monks in the 12th century. This is a photo I took of a stained glass window in the Priory Church with the light shining through it:

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From 1193 when the Mount was seized by men dressed as pilgrims, through the Wars of the Roses in 1473, to the Civil War, when Royalists valiantly held back the forces of Oliver Cromwell – the Mount has held a signifcant role in many times of battle. Perhaps most significant is that this was the location where the first of a series of beacons was lit to warned London of the approach of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

A Colonel John St Aubyn purchased the Mount in 1659, and his descendants still live there today.

To get to the island, you can access it one of two ways: at low tide, you may simply walk across the man-made causeway. (We had really hoped to do this, but did not get the timing right.) If the tide has covered the causeway, there are boat shuttles that will take you across for a small fee.

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Once there, you are free to roam around the island – the gardens and castle are both open for visitors to enjoy. It is very well laid out, done in such a way that you go from one area to the next without missing anything and without ever having to think about where you are headed.

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Bonus: the views from the Mount are pretty spectacular.

view of sea

Also, when you pay for your admission, there is scavenger hunt sort of activity for children to complete. It keeps them busy looking for particular items so they don’t become bored with all of the history. My daughter loved it!

And now for the practicalities: wear decent shoes. The stairs and walkways are not meant to be climbed in strappy little sandals. Also, you won’t want to wear anything that doesn’t have good tread if you will be walking across the (wet) causeway.

St. Michael’s Mount is open 10:30 am to 5:00 pm (with slightly extended hours in summer months). Telephone  01736 710265. You may reach the causeway or the nearby ferry landing point by going to the beachfront in Marazion at the Godolphin Arms.

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