Skip to Content

A Guide to Saint Michael’s Mount, Cornwall

Saint Michael’s Mount is one of the most iconic historical sites in England. A small island, connected to the mainland by a causeway; it is crowned with a mediaeval priory-turned-castle and at its base is a small village (now a collection of shops and cafes).

Arguably less grand and famous than its French sister site—Mont Saint-Michel—this Cornish island remains a gorgeous destination to visit and explore. The short hike up to the monastery provides constantly shifting views, and the monastery itself is a beautiful thing to explore.

saint michaels mount

Saint Michael’s Mount VS Mont Saint-Michel

First of all, what is the connection between these two islands? They are both former monasteries, both sit on isolated islands linked to their homelands by a causeway, and both have the exact same name. It can’t be a coincidence.

And it isn’t. Mont Saint-Michel is the older sister to England’s Saint Michael’s Mount. A Benedictine order of monks occupied Mont Saint-Michel, and were given Saint Michael’s Mount by William the Conqueror after they promised him their support in his conquest of England.

saint michaels mount castle

Since then, each has walked its own historic path—with Saint Michael’s Mount being converted from a priory to a castle and then a private residence—and today both are popular tourist destinations.

Getting to Saint Michael’s Mount

Saint Michael’s Mount sits across a causeway from the small town of Marazion, Cornwall. Marazion itself is a charming place with a few lovely cafes and restaurants. In fact, Chapel Rock Cafe offers diners a view of Saint Michael’s Mount as they eat or enjoy a coffee.

saint michaels mount cornwall

The closest city to Marazion is Penzance, and from there the U4 bus takes just twenty minutes to arrive in the heart of the town. From there, it’s a short walk to Saint Michael’s Mount.

Alternatively, if you have access to a car, you can drive. Setting out from Penzance, along the A394, it takes only fifteen minutes to arrive in Marazion. There, both long-stay and short-stay car parks sit on the beachside, and the walk to Saint Michael’s Mount from there is a short and pleasant one.

saint michaels mount shops

Tip: Check the weather and the Saint Michael’s Mount website before setting off. The causeway cannot be crossed at high tide, and there are set times of day when the island is open and accessible to tourists. This time changes depending on the season, so be vigilant.

What’s on the Island?

As soon as you complete your ten-minute walk across the causeway to reach the island, you’ll first find a collection of beautiful stone cottages. While this was once a village, it is now a selection of converted and accessible buildings for tourists to explore.

a castle in cornwall

One, for example, is the Island Cafe, which offers both indoor and outdoor seating, lovely coffee, scones, and enormous Cornish pasties and sausage rolls (you’d expect nothing less). Next door is the island’s gift shop, which sells a broad range of items—including local gin, chinaware, and blankets.

Across the main path and still within the village is the Barge House, a museum dedicated to the history of Saint Michael’s Mount: both the island itself and the monastery which sits atop it.

Climbing the Hill

While Saint Michael’s Mount was once a priory of the Mont Saint-Michel monks, it later became a fully fortified castle, and then eventually the private home of a wealthy family who continue to live there to this day.

the giants well

The castle itself is still accessible and explorable to the public, despite being a private residence. Staff members work on the island and offer facts and information to visitors who decide to explore the castle’s interior.

The island is free to access, but the castle requires tickets for entry. An adult ticket is £15, and members of the National Trust are granted free access. You’ll buy your tickets (or show your National Trust membership card) at the base of the hill, and then begin your climb.

the giants heart

The climb itself is deceptively short. Old stone steps guide you the entire way, and it takes a maximum of fifteen minutes to reach the castle, stopping along the way to take plenty of photos of the view as it shifts with your climb.

There is also plenty of plant life to photograph, along with elements of old legend like the Giant’s Heart and the Giant’s Well. Before you even begin the climb, you may spy the beautiful Old Dairy building.

The Castle

Once you arrive at the castle proper, you’ll be able to wander its perimeter at your leisure. Views of the ocean, the coastline, the causeway, and the town of Marazion are all easy to enjoy and photograph. It’s also worth turning to glance up at the exterior walls and towers of the castle as you explore. It’s a grand old building, after all.

castle at saint michaels mount

Upon entering the castle through its main doors, you’ll be greeted and given a brief history lesson before being granted free access to explore the space. That said, it’s a curated experience and you are very much on-rails as you move from room to room. And each of these rooms has a member of staff who will be happy to answer your questions.

The rooms of the castle are stunning. Their stone walls are decorated with paintings, tapestries, and various decorative weapons. One fireplace is tiled with illustrated Delft ceramics, and chandeliers hang from the ceilings.

saint michaels mount library

Your walk through the castle will eventually take you to the oldest part: the Church of St Michael & All Angels, originally built in 1135. And it’s clear from the moment you set foot inside that this is the oldest part of the island. Its stained glass windows are breathtaking, and the atmosphere inside is both warming and thrilling.

Touring the castle and the church gives visitors a clear idea of the island’s history. In fact, walking through it feels like walking back in time. You begin at the foot of the hill, drinking coffee and buying gifts. Then you move back in time to a mediaeval castle, and finally arrive at a twelfth-century church at the top of everything. It’s a magnificent experience.

church of saint michael
    As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. This post may contain affiliate links that earn us a commission.

    Join our Patreon Community for exclusive content and bonuses.