A windswept island lies half a mile off the southern coast of Cornwall. The sound of gulls fills the air overhead and an azure blue sea stretches out into the distance. Saint Michael’s Mount is Cornwall’s answer to Mont Saint Michel. Little-known and that bit smaller than its more famous counterpart in Normandy, St Michael’s Mount has been inhabited by man for thousands of years. Here are some tips for visiting Saint Michael’s Mount:
Tips for Visiting Saint Michael’s Mount:
Bring a jacket
Gulf stream air means that there is rarely frost up at the Mount. However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get a little cold, particularly in the shoulder seasons. As such, be sure to bring a warm jacket with you, particularly for windier days!
Wear Sturdy Shoes
Both the walk along the causeway (if you’re approaching the island at low tide) and the climb up to the castle are full of uneven stones. If you’re planning to walk along the beach next to Marazion, and explore the gardens on Saint Michael’s Mount itself, then flat, comfortable shoes are an absolute necessity. of all the tips for visiting Saint Michael’s Mount, this may well be the most important…
Visit the Beach
St Michael’s Mount is located a little off the coast of Southern Cornwall. Its closest neighbour is Marazion; the village from which you traverse the sea to reach the island. Attached to Marazion is a long, sandy beach. Golden dunes stretch out into the distance and it’s definitely worth a stroll down.
At low tide, you can frequently capture incredible shots of the island reflected in the receding waterline. (If you’re unsure on how to create the ‘perfect’ puddlegram shot, I have written a guide here!)
Bring some spare change!
The tidal island is only approachable via foot for a couple of hours twice a day. As such, it’s highly likely that you’ll have to take the ferry to the island, at least in one direction. Ferries depart fairly frequently and cost £2 per adult, each way.
You can only pay in cash and card is not accepted. The nearby town of Marazion has cash points, but you could end up wasting a lot of time trying to find an ATM if you don’t come with cash with you, to begin with. If you’re planning to walk along the causeway to either reach or return from the island, the St Michael’s Mount website is updated daily with tide times.
Pack your camera
If there’s one thing I can’t stress enough, it’s how beautiful the island and surrounding Mount’s Bay are! Even if you’re not typically into ‘taking photos’, then I can guarantee you might want to capture some memories here. After all, on a blue and sunny day, it’s hard to believe you’re in Southern Cornwall, and not somewhere in Spain!
Check out the tropical gardens
Of all the tips for visiting Saint Michael’s Mount, this is often the one that is most overlooked. It isn’t a matter of safety or practicality, but more of preference. The sub-tropical gardens that line the rocky outcrop to the base of Saint Michael’s Mount are unlike anything you’d expect to find in the UK.
Steep pathways and rocky outcrops are interspersed with terraced garden spaces. Aloe, palm trees, and giant agapanthus are abundant, making this a beautiful location to wander around. From the garden, you also get a clear impression of the feat of architecture that building at the top of the mount must have been.
The gardens are also home to the remains of WWII batteries. They are a stark reminder of some of the turbulent times that the island has faced. One of the batteries can be entered, giving you an idea of the kind of cramped conditions that soldiers during the war faced as part of their daily lives and routines.
Give yourself plenty of time to see everything!
There’s plenty to see and do on both the island and around the bay. From a walk along the beach to a quiet moment in the medieval chapel, make sure you leave yourself enough time to actually see everything properly. I recommend at least half a day is allocated to visiting Saint Michael’s Mount, if not more.
Bring money for car parking
If you’re planning to visit Saint Michael’s Mount by car, then you’ll need to bring money for car parking. A stay in the car park nearest the island costs £3.50. You’ll also still have to pay for the car park and ferry crossing, even if you’re a National Trust Member as these are both privately owned.
DON’T visit on a Saturday!
The castle and gardens are both closed on a Saturday. As the ancient hilltop fort is still managed by the National Trust in conjunction with the family, it is closed to the public for one day of the week to allow the family some privacy. The gardens are by and large open the rest of the week, though they are sometimes closed to protect the fragile stone and landscaping.