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Photo of Saint Michaels Mount in Cornwall (Cornwall region)
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Visit Saint Michaels Mount

Saint Michaels Mount is an island just across Mounts Bay from Marazion, near Penzance in south-east Cornwall. It is only an island at high tide, when the tide is low it can be reached by a broad causeway - ferries operate at other times.

History of Saint Michael's Mount

Originally, around the 10th century, the island was home to a monastery, and owned by the same benedictine order of monks as Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy after they were given the monastery by Edward the Confessor. This history came to an abrupt end in the early 15th century, under Henry V, when it became outlawed for foreign religious orgnaisations to control an establishment in England. During the course of the 15th century the island was witness to several important conflicts, but then in the following 300 years became a quiet place with few inhabitants.

This changed after the harbour was constructed in 1727 and Saint Michael's Mount gained a new lease of life as an active port. This role became less successful after Penzance also developed a port in the early 19th century, and the island once again became quiet. More recently of course another reversal of fortunes has followed the growth of tourism in Cornwall, and Saint Michael's Mount is now among the most visited destinations in England. It is also a listed heritage site.

Saint Michael's Mount, Cornwall today

A visit to the island today focusses on the harbour area, and the medieval castle (incorporating the building that was prviously the abbey) that stands on top of the hill. The castle is still inhabited, but is open to the public - you pass through a series of rooms filled with fascinating objects from the past few centuries - among the highlights are the Chapel (the interior space is quite unexpected given the small entrance); and the abbey refectory (now the Chevy Chase room) with its impressive 17th century frieze featuring scenes of hunting. From the roof level terraces there are lovely views back to Marazion and the Cornish coast. Equally interesting are the gardens cascading down the hill below the castle, featuring a very wide range of subtropical plants that thrive in the protected environment.

The village at Saint Michael's Mount, focussed around the harbour, is small with some pretty stone cottages and fishermen houses to see.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Cornwall guide and the Cornwall guide.

See also: 

Map of Saint Michaels Mount and places to visit


Saint Michaels Mount places to visit



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