Saint Michael’s Mount: Mont-Saint-Michel’s twin brother
December, 18 2018
Meintje and Camiel recently wrote about their visit to a world-famous site in Northern France: Le Mont-Saint-Michel. But did you realise that there is a replica of this structure in Southwest England? Meet Mont-Saint-Michel’s little brother: Saint Michael’s Mount.
Follow the medieval paths towards the castle. Walk through subtropical gardens. Listen to the island residents tell their unusual stories. Why was it built? Who lived here? Listen and discover how people lived here centuries ago and be aware of the changing tides. A visit to Saint Michael’s Mount is amazing. Allow at least half a day for it, there is so much to see.
Watch out for wet feet!
While Mont-Saint-Michel attracts millions of visitors each year, only about 65,000 people visit this unique structure in Southwest England every year. Why? It’s a mystery to me, because it’s a magical place! The small island is 366 metres from the coast of Mount’s Bay in Cornwall. It is connected to Cornwall’s oldest town of Marazion by a cobbled granite causeway.
The island is only accessible by foot for a number of hours each day. At other times you need to take a boat or defy the water and swim across. It may therefore happen that you can walk across but will have to take the boat or swim back. The water rises before you know it. It’s an unusual experience to witness such a natural phenomenon.
Once you reach the island you can find out all about Saint Michael’s Mount’s long history. You’ll learn that in the early 18th century about 300 people lived here. At the moment about 30 people live in the harbour village. But as you walk along the harbour you can still see many buildings that shaped the village’s past, including a blacksmith’s forge, a laundry and an inn, all of which can still be visited!
From priory to castle
The history of the island and its construction goes back to the 11th century. It has served both as a priory and a castle and since the second half of the nineteenth century the island has belonged to the St. Aubyn family. To this very day the historical location is still lived in by descendants of this family.
The castle houses many treasures from the past, all of which are on show. Walk along the castle’s corridors and unravel the St. Aubyn family history. Stroll through the family’s own library, the chapel, the Blue Drawing Room and the Smoking Room. You won’t believe your eyes when you see the ornate furniture and authentic walls and fireplaces.
Another interesting fact is that there is a sort of underground tramway under the island. The line was built around 1900 to transport goods from the harbour to the castle. The tramway is still in use.
You will be amazed by the many exotic flowers and plants in the castle gardens. The mild sea climate means that frosts seldom occur on this island. Moreover the rocks act as a sort of gigantic radiator which absorbs heat during the day and emits it at night, resulting in unlikely plants coming into bloom. It is not unusual to come across aloe, lavender and agapanthus while walking through the castle gardens.
Great for children: A treasure quest has been made especially for the children. They are given challenges to solve, and the clues are hidden around the castle! They will also learn all about the legends and myths of the island.
Opening times: You can visit the island throughout the year. Only the opening times of the cafes, shops, castle and garden vary during the year. Check out the opening times. before you go. Please note: the castle is always closed on Saturdays.
Entry Prices: A visit to the castle and the gardens costs £15 (about €17) for adults. If you need to take the boat back to the mainland at high tide, this costs an extra £3 (about €3.30).
Tides: You can cross to Saint Michael’s Mount on foot or by boat depending on whether it is high or low tide. Check the tides to see when you can walk and when you need to take the boat.
Limited mobility: The climb up to the castle is steep. This can be a real challenge for anyone with limited mobility. If you are a wheelchair user only part of the island is accessible for visits. Please bear this in mind.