St Michael’s Mount is situated in a fairy-tale position, half a mile off-shore from Marazion, at the eastern end of Mount’s Bay, near Penzance. The huge granite crag that rises from the bay is topped with an imposing castle, originally built as a Benedictine priory in the 12th century. The Mount has been the setting for many military sieges and was a regular place of pilgrimage until 1660, when it passed into the ownership of the St. Aubyn family, who still reside in the castle. It is the sister house of the equally famous "Mont St Michel" in Normandy, France. Its battery is still armed with a cannon taken from the wreckage of a French frigate that foundered on nearby rocks during the Napoleonic Wars.
To start your trip, you need to go to the village of Marazion, where a number of local small crafts will ferry you across for a couple of pounds. Alternatively, at low tide, you can walk across via the causeway that stretches towards the Mount, although it is imperative to take heed of the tide times, as the causeway can become submerged very quickly, leaving the walker stranded.
Until Penzance Harbour was built, the Mount’s harbour was the only safe landing for many miles, and as such, it would have been busy with small ships ferrying in coal and timber and departing with tin from one of the many mines that once surrounded the area. Indeed, it is reported that as many as 300 people were once employed here.
Today, the Mount is, of course, a major tourist venue and is operated by the National Trust on behalf of the St Aubyn family. There are several tasteful attractions on the Mount, as well as a restaurant, café, and NT gift shop. Most visitors will, of course, want to make the steep climb up the castle, which affords stunning, panoramic views of Mount’s Bay and beyond. The house has various rooms displaying suits of armour, paintings, porcelain, weaponry, and furniture from differing times in history. There is also a church with lovely stained-glass windows and no less than five wells within the grounds.
The Mount is open all year round, admission charges being £4.60 for adults and £2.30 for children. The stunning, terraced gardens can also be seen for an additional fee of £2.50 and feature rare, botanical species not found anywhere else in the UK.
The village of Marazion is one of the oldest in the UK, dating back to 308 AD. Queen Elizabeth I awarded its charter in 1595. Now, it is little more than a place where motorists attempt to park their cars for the trip to the Mount, but it is worth a quick explore to see the quaint hotels, pubs, and tea rooms that line its narrow streets. From Marazion, it is a five-minute car ride into the centre of Penzance, which features in a separate entry.