Saint Michael’s Mount – Penzance

St Michael's Mount PenzanceOnce we’d decided on Cornwall as our first destination in England, Wyn was checking out what we might visit, and at the top of her list was St Michael’s Mount, near Penzance. St Michael’s Mount is a castle on the top of a small island just offshore. In fact it’s not always offshore. At low tide there is an isthmus that can be walked across. So I guess it’s an occasional island. Occasionally it’s an island and occasionally it’s not. 

If this seems to ring memory bells with something similar in France, it’s no coincidence. Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy is a similar occasional island with a monastery which was established first. Edward the Confessor gave the Cornwall Mount to the Norman abbey of Mont Saint-Michel in 1135. Benedictine monks from this abbey were invited to establish a priory in Cornwall, and St Michael’s Mount church is the result. It seems the Cornwall island is smaller, and closer to the mainland.

The weather the day before had been wet and we knew it was forecast to improve, so we planned our visit to St Michael’s Mount for our second day in Penzance. It is just a few kilometres to the west. We headed off early to beat the expected Half-Term holiday crowds. This meant we were ahead of the causeway opening time of 10.55am which wasn’t a problem as there are cool little shuttle boats at £2 each with a bit of history on the way.

St Michael's Mount

Our first view of St Michael’s Mount was a misty one

Shuttle boats to St Michael's Mount

Shuttle boats to St Michael’s Mount

St Michael's Mount

St Michael’s Mount village and castle from the harbour wall – still misty

While most were rushing up to the castle, we waited around in the village below for an excellent (free) tour of the village. This explained the history of the island and castle and was well worth the time.

St Michael's Mount map

St Michael’s Mount map

St Michael's Mount

The castle on St Michael’s Mount from the village below

Soon enough we joined the people heading up the path to the castle on top of the hill. But we were still well ahead of the hordes waiting for the causeway to open.

Castle at St Michael's Mount

The terrace and castle and church

Castle at St Michael's Mount

I loved how the castle has just grown around the rock it sits on. Here you can still see the highest part of the rock.

Marazion town across causeway from St Michael's Mount

Marazion town across the causeway from the top of St Michael’s Mount

Castle interior St Michael's Mount

Castle interior – first it was the priory refectory, then the Great Hall, then the main Dining Room

Church on St Michael's Mount

The beautiful church on St Michael’s Mount

Church window St Michael's Mount

The lovely rose window in the church

By the time we’d looked around the castle and the church, the causeway was open and lots more people were arriving. In fact as we headed out we had to get past the queue of people waiting to get in. Our plan had been a good one. We headed down for a walk around the interesting gardens, much of it terraced out of the hillsides.

Castle gardens St Michael's Mount

The castle gardens at St Michael’s Mount

Castle gardens at St Michael's Mount

Wyn in the castle gardens

Aliums - my new favourite flowers

Aliums abounded – and became my new favourite flowers

St Michael's Mount castle

The castle at St Michael’s Mount from below looks magical – or Disney-like?

Trees at St Michael's Mount

A bit of home in Cornwall – cabbage trees

The day was warming up and we were running down by afternoon. We figured it was time to be somewhere else and headed back for the mainland, this time via the causeway. The sea was a long way away so there wasn’t a Moses-parting-the-sea sort of experience. 

The castle at St Michael's Mount

The castle on St Michael’s Mount as we head back across the causeway

Sandflats west from St Michael's Mount causeway

Seaweed and sandflats west of St Michael’s Mount causeway

St Michael's Mount from Marazion

St Michael’s Mount castle and causeway from Marazion – the mainland

We found an excellent Cornish Pasty shop in Marazion and then a seat to sit and enjoy our late lunch. We’d looked forward to our visit to St Michael’s Mount when we were planning our trip and it probably exceeded our high expectations. I liked the parallels with the French Mont-Saint-Michel, which has always fascinated me. The weather had come right and it was a lovely day out, across the water.

[Here’s a couple more blogs I found with all sorts of interesting information about St Michael’s Mount castle and church:
The Legendary St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall
Castle and Church on the Mount … Part 2 ]

This entry was posted in Daily log, Europe 2018 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Saint Michael’s Mount – Penzance

  1. Julia says:

    Nice – I didn’t know there was an English equivalent

    • Ross says:

      It kind of confused me for a start, thinking I was mistaken that the one I’d heard of was in France. It’s nice that they’ve each got one. Have you been to the Normandy one? It looks like the French government have poured a lot of Euros into making it occasionally an island again.

  2. Wendy Gray says:

    may have just added that one to our list, funnily enough I was watching a TV program and they were talking about both of these island castles so I knew there was/were two.

    • Ross says:

      Yep, well worth a visit, specially if you’re members of Heritage NZ as I’m guessing you are. It’d be an interesting programme to see, to see what the same sames are, and what the differences are. I suppose there’ll be a lot of differences given that their management diverged about 500 years ago!

  3. Gerard says:

    Ok, that was very cool! Great photos and history as usual Ross! Still, gotta wonder – how were the pies? 😉

    • Ross says:

      Thanks Gerard. And the pies? This was still the land of the Cornish Pastie. Then again so is Devon, the Cotswolds, Wales and Sussex so far! In the South West, the price of the pasties in cafes/tea shops was eye-watering, often over £4 (NZ$ 8). Now we’re finding them for under £2 in delis in small towns. There was a family pie from a Co-op in Devon that was delicious and we’re keeping an eye out for another one. Mostly we’re waiting until we get further north for the pies.

  4. Nicola Baines says:

    Enjoyed your post Ross, informative and wittily delivered, nice pics too 🙂

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