St Michaels Mount // Marazion

Island castle set in the middle of Mount's Bay, just off the coast of Marazion. The Mount is now managed by the National Trust but remains the home of St Aubyn family.

St Michael’s Mount is a picturesque island just off the shore at Marazion. Accessible by causeway when the tide is low, or by boat at high-tide, the Mount is home to a working community of local people, as well as a large medieval castle! The castle creates an imposing, dramatic spectacle when viewing the island from the land or sea. Perched up high on the craggy rocks, the castle has the façade of Gothic architecture. On closer inspection, however, it is far more welcoming and is made even more appealing by the backdrop of the ocean, particularly on a sunny day.

The island and the castle both have a long and complicated history. It is believed that even between 400 B.C and 400 A.D the island and the bay were being used as a port for exporting tin and copper to Europe. Since then, the island has seen its fair share of violence, with a number of battles for ownership being played out on its ground. It saw newcomers during several bloodthirsty periods in history, including the Norman Conquest, the Wars of the Roses, the Spanish Armada and the Civil War. In 1193, during the Crusades, Henry de la Pomeray seized the priory on the island and commenced building the castle that was to be the foundation of the one there today. In 1659 a certain Colonel St. Aubyn purchased the Mount, including the castle. His descendants were to live in the castle for a further twelve generations and are still there today.

It is not just the castle that makes St Michael’s Mount the magnificent sight that it is. There are stunning, exotic gardens in the castle grounds that can be visited separately from the castle. The plants grow on an almost-vertical granite rock-face, warmed by the sun, providing perfect growing conditions for a variety of delicate plant-species. The gardens were first planted in the 1780s. Throughout the warmer months, there are garden evenings open to the public. These events include tours of the garden followed by a delicious buffet meal at the Mount’s Sail Loft restaurant.

The Sail Loft Restaurant generally offers hearty lunches, with meat, fish and vegetarian options. Locally-sourced produce is used in many of the dishes, including fresh seafood landed at Newlyn just across the bay. Another dining option is The Island Café with its waterside garden. The café offers a range of lighter meals and snacks, including Cornish pasties. There are also two ice cream kiosks on the island with a great range of flavours available.

Despite the fact that the Mount is a big draw for visitors and holidaymakers with its castle and its uniqueness, the harbour-side village itself has been a real community for centuries. The harbour was a busy port in the middle of the nineteenth century, which caused the population to rise to approximately three hundred. Nowadays, the village is home to a community of at least thirty-strong who work and live on the island. These inhabitants work on the boats, in the gardens, the castle and generally take care of the island. This gives St Michael’s Mount an unique atmosphere of being “alive” with a strong sense of community spirit.

The current members of the St Aubyn family occupying the castle at St Michael’s Mount are James and Mary, and their four children. James St Aubyn plays an integral part in all maintenance work to preserve the history and natural beauty of the island for future generations of visitors to enjoy. He works closely with the National Trust. The Mount was given to the National Trust in 1954, though the St Aubyn family maintain the lease to live in the castle and to operate the visitor business.