St. Michaels Mount - Cornwall
Everything on the Mount is influenced by the tides and the weather. In contrast to Mont St. Michel the island is surrounded by the sea and accessible by feet for a time frame of roughly 3-4 hours. It’s one of the most popular and iconic landmarks in Cornwall with roughly 300.000 paying visitors at the Mount plus many more, so crowds can spoil this exceptional experience. If you spend a couple of days in the Penzance area, come here twice. Notice it’s closed on Saturdays and even boat transfer is not offered. Usually, the island and the castle remain closed from late December until mid-February! Continue reading to get all insights for an unforgettable visit at St. Michaels Mount.
Each season is special and worth a visit. If possible try to experience St. Michaels Mont during high and low tide. It’s outstanding waiting on the cobblestone walkway for the incoming tide and the first waves. The exposed causeway to the island is approx. 2 hours before until 2 hours after low tide accessible. Usually, once a day and once in the night. Therefore, check the tide times first. Tide Times The Mount
Time of Day for Photography
Come here in the evening for a perfect shot of the Mount with the sunset in the back.
Crowds and Weather by Season
Most tourists come here from April to September the “driest” months of the year. However, it’s often misty at the Mount. If possible, come on a sunny day. During the day the Mount gets overrun at low tide. If you are not a National Trust member, you have to queue for tickets for the castle. Avoid late morning and midday when the guided bus tours arrive, and people queue in the entire town of Marazion for a boat ferry at high tide. The same can happen when you want to leave the Mount. During high tide, the boat transfer for 2 £ and kids 1 £ one way is offered. Take your time at the Mount; visit the garden and the castle and walk back on the ancient cobblestone pathway at low tide.
This time of the year gives you the opportunity to experience the unique atmosphere of the Mount. March and April are quieter while more tourists visit Cornwall from May onwards. However, May is still bearable, and the weather may be good as well. March is still pretty cold on average 10°C at daytime and in May around 14°C but can be warmer as well.
June is busier while July and August are the worst time of the year. You almost can’t avoid crowds except late in the evening and early morning. It’s quite difficult to enjoy this unique place with so many people taking pictures. On the opposite, the weather can be gorgeous and warm.
September is similar to May and a pleasant month as well with daily temps on average around 17°C. The crowds thin out in October and November is pretty quiet, but therefore it rains often. You can enjoy the special atmosphere that exists at the Mount.
December is also a good month to avoid the crowds except after Christmas. But check first if the castle is open. The opening times change each year. The castle and the island can be closed from late December to mid-February. There is a huge amount of precipitation, and daily temps are chilly below 10°C.
3 Top Tips to Avoid the Crowds
- Come early morning before the tour buses arrive.
- Another option is the afternoon; stay until the evening, but check tides and boat transfer first.
- If you don’t want to visit the castle just the Mount; come on a Saturday. This is the quietest day of the week.
Accommodations in Marazion and Cornwall
We spent 10 days in Cornwall. To get the most out of our stay with less driving, we’d booked two cottages on different locations — the reason that we visited the Mount twice; once in the morning for a couple of hours and again in the evening when most of the people had left the Mount and the castle was already closed. This was a magic moment with a memorable sunset. Check out the hotels and cottages in Marazion, Penzance or in St. Yves. For St. Yves check out if parking nearby is available. Bookmark the link and get the best prices for your stay in Cornwall.
Boat and Amphicraft Rides
You get to the Mount always during high tide from three different landing points in Marazion. Depending on the time of the day you may queue pretty long either going to the Mount or back to Marazion although there are a fleet of boats for your transport, often six and even more.
The sea is often rough during winter. An amphicraft was built in 2002 and is used instead from the slipway in Marazion carpark for 3 £. This is quite an experience with space for 46 guests.
Opening Times Castle
The opening times change pretty often. In between the castle remains closed for a week. From late December to mid-February the castle and island are closed in 2019! Saturdays are also closed. It usually opens at 10.30 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. except for summer; closure at 5.30 p.m. Last admission is 45 minutes before closing. Check the opening hours first if you like to have a look into the castle. Closures can happen due to a bad weather forecast as well. Opening Times Castle
Opening Times Garden
The castle’s garden is not often open to the public. It’s open from mid-April until late September. During the flower season until the end of June from Monday to Friday. All other months on Thursdays and Fridays only. Last admission 45 minutes before closure. If the garden is open one of the gardeners gives detailed information about the garden and plants at 1 p.m.
Guided village and harbour tours are offered daily at 11.30 a.m., 1.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m. except for Saturday.
Situated 500 meters from the mainland and accessible by feet at low tide only, schedule minimum three hours for the Mount, better four. It’s such a unique place to visit. So where does the name come from? The story is similar to Mount Saint Michel. The legend is that St. Michael appeared to local fishermen warning them for the dangerous rocks below the surface of the sea in 495 AD. This may be the reason for building a chapel on the Mount. It looks like the story was borrowed from Mount Saint Michel by the monks, to attract more pilgrims. The Barge House is nowadays the information center and an exhibition about the island’s history. It’s the first building you enter completed in 2016 when reaching the Mount. There is a video shown which runs in a loop with lots of information about the island.
The entrance fee is 10 £ p.p., but for National Trust members for free! Combined with the garden 15 £. The owners are the Aubyn Family since the 17th century. When you enter the castle entrance you first pass by the Mount’s diary, soon after the Giant Well; a freshwater spring. The reason that early settlement was possible. It’s a steep and uneven path and takes 5 minutes up to the Castle. The views from the top of the castle to the mainland and Marazion are spectacular. The castle is full of history, and it takes some time to enjoy the six rooms which are open to the public. However, the view from the top is the highlight.
The entrance fee is 8 £, combined with the castle 15 £. You get an utterly different view of the castle from the rock garden. The garden has restricted days of opening to prevent the fragile terraces and narrow paths for destroying by too many visitors, therefore only 2 ½ months open from Mon – Fri and the rest of the time on Thursday and Friday only! The subtropical terraced garden around the castle is exceptional. The climate is influenced by the Gulf Stream and frost is rare. The reason for subtropical plants. Discover the garden and the steep stone terraces along the pathways. Always at 1 p.m. one of the gardeners gives detailed information about the sub-tropical and exotic plants and their work. If you are keen on gardening and you like to have some of these plants and succulents have a look at the plant sales shop.
Marazion provides several car parks outside and at the beginning of the town. Marazion itself has narrow roads, and only a few parking spaces are available. Parking fee £ 4 and free during the winter.
Wheelchair Accessibility to and on the Mount
It is best to reach the island on the cobbled causeway. It’ll be a bumpy ride, but with an additional helping hand it might work. There is the possibility of a boat transfer but first, a folded wheelchair is needed and second steps at the harbour make it pretty difficult. The access to the visitor center, the village, the harbour, and the facilities by a ramp is quite easy to handle. Due to the steep ascent and the steps to the summit as well as in the garden the access is limited. If you like to visit the Mount call for assistance in advance 01736 710507.
Dog are allowed on the island in the lower areas; around the village and the harbour but neither in the garden nor in the castle but on the boats.
What to Bring
- Wear proper shoes
- A bottle of water
- A snack or picnic. If it’s busy, you have to queue at the Sail Loft Café or the Island Cafe. On the other hands, prices are higher than on the mainland. They serve home-baked cake, scones, fresh crab sandwich, and of course cream tea.
- A towel and swimsuit during summer for the patrolled beach in Marazion.
St. Michael's Mount History and Facts
- The island was already mentioned before Christ. The first settlement dates back more than 3000 years ago. The name of the tidal island was Ictis in the past.
- The Mount was conquered by the Norman in 1066
- A church and the priory were built by the monks of the sister island Mont St. Michel in the 12th century. These buildings are still situated at the center of the castle. The Mount was already a major center for pilgrimage.
- The Mount was in private hand since Elizabeth I was the owner.
- She sold it to Robert Cecil in 1599. He to the Basset family 41 years later.
- Since 1659 the owners are the Aubyn Family.
- November first in 1755 was a terrible day. The island got hit by a three-meter-high Tsunami wave which was caused by the earthquake in Lisbon where most of the city got destroyed.
- In 1828 the 5th Sir John St. Aubyn tried to purchase Mont Saint Michel in the Normandy.
- 1901 the underground tram was installed to transport heavy goods from the harbour up to the castle and it is still in use.
- Until 1909 there was a herd of cows to provide the Aubyn Family and residents with milk and dairy products.
- In 1954 the Mount was given to the National Trust with an exceptional agreement. The Aubyn Family is allowed to live on the Mount for another 999 years. And on top, they are licensed to run the visitor business.
- John and Mary St Aubyn moved to the Mount in 2003.
- In winter 2014 a part of the cobblestone pathway was badly damaged. The decision was made to restore the entire causeway in just one year always working at low ride.
- Leaving on the Mount or in the village is challenging. The villager kids have to take a boat to get to school. Early 18th century 300 villagers with 53 houses inhabited the island. Nowadays around 35 people live and work here.