12 Facts About St Michael’s Mount

March 04th, 2024

St Michael’s Mount is one of Cornwall’s most recognisable landmarks, offering a magical setting that captures the imaginations of travellers from near and far.

The tidal island, topped with a castle, mediaeval church and subtropical gardens, emerges from the waters of Mount’s Bay, just off the coast of the picturesque town of Marazion. It is accessible by boat or, at low tide, by the iconic cobbled causeway. Rich with history, local legends and unforgettable sights, St Michael’s Mount is certainly worth the trip! Here are just some of the things that make it so special.

1. It Was an Ancient Trading Post

Before the churches, monasteries and castles, it’s thought that St Michael’s Mount was a key port for trading Cornish tin with the Greeks and other civilisations. Ancient records refer to a tin trading centre known as Ictis – it has since been suggested this island was St Michael’s Mount.

2. It’s Linked With the Archangel Michael

The Mount is named for the Archangel (or Saint) Michael, who is said to have appeared to fishermen to warn them of danger. Because of this legendary apparition, the site became an important pilgrimage spot.

3. It Has a French Counterpart

If you head across the channel, just off the coast of Normandy, you’ll find another island abbey dedicated to St Michael. Around the time of the Norman conquest, the Cornish Mount was given to the Abbey of Saint-Michel because it supported William the Conqueror. Both were mediaeval pilgrimage sites with strong similarities and links, although Mont-Saint–Michel strikes a much taller figure. The links between the islands started to break down during the many subsequent conflicts between England and France until Henry V took control of St Michael’s Mount in the 15th century.

Like St Michael’s Mount, you can still visit Mont-Saint-Michel today to marvel at the impressive Benedictine abbey.

4. It’s Where the Legend of the Jack the Giant Killer Originates

According to Cornish legend, the Mount was built by the giant Cormoran, who would terrorise local towns and steal livestock. The story goes that Jack, a boy from Marazion, was the only one brave enough to face the giant. One night, he dug a trap for Cormoran, luring him out by blowing on a horn. The giant raced down the Mount and straight into the trap.

Later tales of Jack the Giant Killer see him joining legendary King Arthur’s court and taking on many more giants!

Mont Saint-Michel

5. It’s 1 of 43 Tidal Islands Around the UK

St Michael’s Mount is just one of the UK’s 43 tidal islands that you can walk to from mainland Britain. The Mount is probably one of the most famous ones as it’s topped with the castle, but other examples include St Mary’s Island, Lindisfarne and Burgh Island.

Many other tidal islands are also connected to religious worship and spirituality, thanks to their unique, magical locations.

6. The Same Family Have Owned it Since the 17th Century

During its long history, ownership of the Mount has passed through many hands – until the St Aubyn family. After the English Civil War, John St Aubyn was appointed as Captain of the Mount. In 1659, he then purchased it from the previous owner. St Michael’s Mount has been in the same family ever since, with generations continuing to live on the island.

7. There are Permanent Residents on the Island

Along with the St Aubyn family, there are around 30 people who’ve also made their home on the ancient site. The close-knit community is now quite small, but the village here used to be a busier hive of residential island activity. In Victorian times, there were upwards of 300 islanders, with the bustling harbour welcoming sailors and fishermen.

The harbour at St Michael’s Mount

8. Queen Victoria Visited

In 1846, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited St Michael’s Mount as part of their Cornish tour. In commemoration of the event, a brass footprint where she stepped was cast, which you can still see today. When heading up to view the castle, you can also see the sofa where she sat to enjoy a cup of tea, along with various other treasures remaining from the 19th century.

9. The Gardens are Sub-Tropical

Along with the impressive architecture and historical significance, the Mount is also famed for its gardens. Fed by the warm air of the Gulf Stream, the gardens here enjoy their own micro-climate, allowing for the growth of exotic plants and flowers.

10. The Gardeners Here are Also Abseilers

Because the vertical terrace gardens are quite difficult to traverse and maintain, the gardeners at St Michael’s Mount also have to be proficient in abseiling! This allows them to weed and maintain the beauty of the gardens in those trickier spots. Because the gardens are so delicate, visitors here are quite limited – as such, they are designed to be seen from above, so there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy them.

11. It Appears in Various TV Shows & Films

St Michael’s Mount has also played host to various TV and film productions, lending its iconic exteriors to a range of projects. More recently, it took on the mantle of Driftmark from the Game of Thrones sequel, House of the Dragon. It has also appeared in a James Bond film and an adaptation of Dracula.

St Michael’s Mount from the shore

12. It’s Now Run By the National Trust

Most of the island was given to the National Trust by the St Aubyn family in 1954. The National Trust is instrumental in helping with the upkeep and running of what has become a beloved attraction. As with many of its sites, the National Trust helps ensure the Mount is maintained as a place of exploration, learning and appreciation.

St Michael’s Mount is just one of Cornwall’s many delights. Our luxury holiday park in Cornwall is in a great central location and is sure to make an excellent base for your adventures, giving you easy access to all of the county’s best-loved hotspots.

Book your perfect Cornish holiday with The Valley today!