St. Michael’s Mount

St Michael's Mount, is the jewel in Cornwall's crown. This, the most famous of Cornwall's landmarks, has a fascinating history, is steeped in both legend and folklore, has stunning panoramic views across Mounts Bay to Lands End and The Lizard, boasts a picturesque harbour and has a spectacular castle, complete with magestic gardens. The Mount is a complete family day out, with quite literally something for everyone.

Originally the site of a Benedictine Chapel, the spectacular castle on the rock dates from the 14th Century.

Now in the care of the National Trust, the Mount's castle and gardens are open to the public during weekdays from April to October, and most weekends.

Access is on foot across the causeway at low tide, or by short ferry crossing at high tide. St Michael's Mount, is "the jewel in Cornwall's crown".

This, the most famous of Cornwall's landmarks, has a fascinating history, is steeped in both legend and folklore, has stunning panoramic views across Mounts Bay to Lands End and The Lizard, boasts a picturesque harbour and has a spectacular castle, complete with magestic gardens. The Mount is a complete family day out, with quite literally something for everyone.

Perched on top of a great granite crag, St Michael's Mount rises majestically out of the sea in Mount's Bay. St Michael's Mount is an island at high tide and a romantic sight. The island has a small harbour on its northern shore, with picturesque houses, shops and restaurants. The island is approached via a causeway at low tide, or by boats, which land in the harbour. The terraced gardens offer superb views across the bay to Penzance, Newlyn, Land's End and the Lizard Peninsula.

The St Aubyn family - created a stunning garden with pathways that wind their way up to the main entrance of the mount through carefully planted slopes that feature many sub-tropical species. The southerly aspect of the island is not open to the public, but glimpses of the sub-tropical gardens can be seen from the walls of the house or by taking one of the boat trips around the island that leave from the quayside at regular intervals.

Legends - The Archangel St. Michael and Cormoran, the Cornish Giant.

The island is steeped in local folklore and history. Children listen intently to tales of "Jack the Giant killer" as they walk past the well were the Giant was eventually trapped. Cornish Legend holds that the Mount was built by the giant, 'Cormoran'. Cormoran, would wade ashore from the island, to snatch cows and sheep as they grazed in the local fields around Marazion. A local boy rowed out to the island whilst Cormoran slept. He worked through the night; digging a deep pit half way up the northern slope of the Mount. By morning, the pit was complete; Jack stood to one side of it and blew on his horn to wake the mighty Cormoran. The giant ran down the hillside, with the glare of the early morning sun dazzling his eyes. He failed to see either Jack or the pit and fell headlong into it. The grateful locals gave Jack the title 'Jack the Giant Killer' and a local rhyme was created about his exploits.

As you walk up the main pathway from the harbour to the Castle, you pass the heavily shuttered well, where the giant fell.

In the great Celtic tragedy of Tristan and Isolde, which may be partly historical, the hermit Ogrin was sent by King Mark, to St. Michaels Mount to buy clothes of fine wool and linen, for Queen Isolde. During the 12th century, the legend was firmly based around the Cornish Coastline, Castle Dore near Fowey, the Forest of Moresk near Truro and St. Michaels Mount, but, in the political upheaval of mediaeval Britain, story was linked to the Legend of King Arthur and the Castle at Tintagel.

The mount itself, is dedicated to St. Michael, whom in Cornish Legend; appeared to a group of Cornish fishermen in 495 AD - standing high on a rocky ledge on the western side of the Mount. This is The Great Vision of the Guarded Mount from Milton's Lycidas (A lament for a friend drowned during a passage from Chester on the Irish Seas, 1637).

History of St Michael's Mount

St Michaels Mount is believed to have been a trading post from the earliest times, becoming an important port by the Iron Age. It is generally believed the St Michaels Mount was the island of 'Ictis' where the Greeks traded for Cornish tin; in fact Diodorus (a Sicilian Greek historian writing in the very early years of the first century A.D.) gives an account of the inhabitants of Belerion (Lands End), tin streaming and the way that the early tin streamers used wagons to carry the hard won minerals across to the island of Ictis; during the ebb of the tide, when the intervening space is left dry, to trade with the waiting merchants.

Edward the Confessor founded a chapel on the Mount in 1044 in a grant to the Benedictine Abbey of Mont Saint Michael in Brittany - though he may have made the grant before he was actually King of the English, and some doubts exist over what actually happened at this time. Edward did spend much of his youth in Normandy and was greatly influenced by the Norman monks and intrigued by the symbolic similarity between St. Michaels Mount and Mont Saint Michael. The charter, held by the Monks at Mont Saint Michael may even have been a forgery, to strengthen the Monks claim on their possessions in Cornwall.

Following the Norman Conquest of 1066 much of the west of England was given by William the Conqueror to Robert, Count of Mortain, upon who he also bestowed the title 'Earl of Cornwall'. Robert, granted St Michaels Mount to the Norman Abbey of Mont Saint Michael. The first priory on the Mount was established in 1135 by Bernard of Le Bec.

The location of the St Michael's Mount makes it an ideal fortress. During the 12th century whilst King Richard I was on a Crusade in the Holy Land, the Mount was seized and held as a fortress by a group of his brother John's supporters. The buildings later returned to their monastic use, but they were to be used as fortresses in the Wars of the Roses and the Cornish Rebellion againstEdward VI. The last occasion that the mount was used in a military role was in 1646 during theEnglish Civil War. The Mount was held for a time by Royalist supporters, but was forced to capitulate to the Parliamentarians in 1646. The Mount was bought by Sir John St Aubyn during 1660, and since that time it has had a peaceful existence.

The House was, for many years, used by the St Aubyn family as an occasional residence - mainly occupied during the summer months only.

During the 18th century the family established a permanent residence at St Michael's Mount , building a great new wing with impressive Victorian apartments which are decorated with fine plaster relief and furnished with some fine examples of Chippendale.

St Michael's Mount also contains collections of paintings and armour. The St Aubyn family retained of the ownership St Michael's Mount until 1964 when the property was given to the National Trust by the 3rd Lord St Levan.