A monastery, a fortress, a port and a family home – St Michael’s Mount has been, or is, all of these. The Archangel St Michael (allegedly) appeared to fisherman there in 495, but the church on top of the hill “only” dates from Norman times when St Michael’s Mount was granted to the abbey of Mont St Michel in France. Today, the castle is still home to the St Aubyn family but it belongs to the National Trust. (Hooray! Our National Trust for Scotland membership got us in free.) At high-tide, you need to cross by boat but at low-tide you can use the causeway, which is what we did.
Once on the island, it’s a steep climb up the cobbled path to the castle. You arrive at the West Door, a Tudor replacement for an older entrance, which is flanked by a “recent” water tank from 1784. We were tickled that it was carefully dated 29th September – we were visiting on that exact date 230 years later!
Once inside, the most spectacular room is Chevy Chase, which was originally the refectory for the priory. The name has nothing to do with the comedian and actor, but refers to the 17th-century plaster frieze of hunting scenes that runs around the entire room. (There is an old ballad called Chevy Chase about hunting in the Cheviot Hills.) As well as the friezes, there are coats of arms and decorative glass to admire.
The building, shown below, on the South Terrace looks like a church, but is actually an 18th century suite known as the Blue Drawing Rooms. The gardens weren’t open when we visited, but if you hung far enough out over the wall of the Terrace, you could get a good view of them.
On the other side of the Blue Drawing Rooms is the North Terrace and church, a simple medieval chapel which is still used for Sunday services in the summer. The views from this terrace were down to the harbour, causeway and gun batteries.
The island has a couple of cafés – one as you start to walk up to the castle, and one in the village (the cottages round the harbour are home to about 30 islanders), so we finished up with a nice cup of tea, having discovered earlier in the day that the Godolphin Hotel in Marazion (at the mainland end of the causeway) does a very good lunch. Another great day out in Cornwall, with spectacularly good weather for the time of year. Would our luck hold for the whole week? More to follow…..