St. Michael’s Mount & A Whirlwind Tour of Cornwall
I’ve been kind of obsessed with the idea of Mont St. Michel in France since seeing it on Pinterest years ago. When I was planning my trip to England and found out that there is an incredibly similar place called St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, I WAS SOLD.
So I found a way to squeeze a super quick—less than 24-hour—breeze through Cornwall into the beginning of our trip. It’s a bummer we had stony gray skies during our visit, but the charm of Cornwall shone through regardless.
We arrived at Heathrow and got the rental car, then hit the road right away since it’s quite a drive down to Cornwall. For renting a car, I always search in a few different places and compare both the prices and specific offerings/benefits. My go-to’s are DiscoverCars, RentalCars.com, and AutoEurope as well.
We stopped for coffee, then an impromptu respite at Stourhead Gardens for our own little Pride & Prejudice moment. Other than that, we drove straight through and got into St. Ives around sunset.
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Where to stay in Cornwall
We stayed at the Chy-An-Albany Hotel in St. Ives, which was lovely. Unfortunately it seems that it’s closed (I think permanently). But overall, St. Ives is a great place to base yourself. Penzance, Marazion, and Charlestown are other good options.
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Starving (and our stomachs confused by jet lag), we headed into St. Ives’ village to find some dinner. We ended up at a restaurant on the harbor called The Life Boat Inn, where we scarfed delicious fish and chips and I had an awesome local stout beer.
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After dinner and before sleep claimed us, we bellied up to the bar at The Union Inn for some local beer and cider.
We ended up chatting with an older fellow from Mumbles, Wales, about the area, and though we never even exchanged names it was a lovely welcome. (And we ended up in Mumbles a few days later on our own, strangely enough…)
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Visiting St. Michael’s Mount
We were up bright and early the next morning, as we had a jam-packed day and quite a bit more driving. Our first stop was what we were most excited for—St. Michael’s Mount!
As we drove from St. Ives over to Marazion, we caught a really cool glimpse of the tiny tidal island from afar. Imagine if it had been a sunny day!
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I had timed our visit for when the tide was out so that we could walk across the causeway ourselves. You can find the tide times and when the causeway will be walkable here.
Because we were there quite early, there weren’t tons of crowds and we could get some cool photos without gobs of people in the way. The causeway is an easy enough walk, though do be careful because the stones can be slippery.
For those with mobility issues, there are other options. I was in a walking cast and it was quite a haul for me (not helped by the fact that my one regular shoe was giving me blisters). And if you visit when the tide is in, you can take a boat across (in spring, summer, and autumn).
About St. Michael’s Mount
St. Michael’s Mount is the Cornish counterpart of the famous Mont St. Michel in France, gifted to the Benedictines of Mont St. Michel by Edward the Confessor. Some of the buildings on the island date back to the 1100s, and it’s believed that it may have been a monastery even for a few centuries before that.
It’s a tidal island, connected to the mainland by a man-made causeway that’s walkable at low tide. It’s been the home of the St. Aubyn family since the 1600s and is currently managed by the National Trust, with about 35 people living on the island. You can visit for most of the year, though the island is typically closed for January and half of February.
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If you’re wondering what all that seaweed-looking stuff on either side of the path is, here’s a close-up (including some adorable yellow sea snails).
As you’re walking across the causeway, make sure to take a peek backward toward the town of Marazion—so cute!
There’s quite a lot to do on St. Michael’s Mount, despite its tiny size. You can explore the castle and its famous gardens, have a bite to eat at the Island Cafe or Sail Loft, do a spot of shopping, or find some of the other historical buildings.
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Once we reached the walls of the tiny little town, we wandered around a bit and took some photos, then headed to the Island Cafe for a coffee and eccles cake.
The view back to Marazion is pretty great as well, and even though it was a bit gloomy and chilly, we enjoyed sitting outside for a little while.
All-in-all, I’m really happy we made the time to visit St. Michael’s Mount. It was a lovely glimpse of Cornwall and whet my appetite to visit Mont St. Michel someday!
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After leaving St. Michael’s Mount, we started to head toward(ish) back east, as our final destination that day was Torquay. We drove through Lostwithiel and ended up a bit off the beaten path, finally making a stop at Restormel Castle.
It’s a well-preserved 13th-century keep that’s worth a look around—one of the four main Norman castles in Cornwall, though slightly less well-known than Tintagel. It’s also perfectly circular, which is really quite impressive.
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We paid our entry fee (a little under 5 pounds) and walked across the plain to the keep’s entrance. The castle actually sits on top of an earlier Norman mound and has a dry ditch (like a moat, but without the water). It doesn’t sound like it got tons of action, though did see some fighting during the Civil War in 1644.
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The panoramic views from the castle’s walls are worth the price of entry alone. Because this is not as well-known, you also won’t be fighting the crowds to get up and down the staircases or get a cool photo. You don’t need to spend tons of time here either, just 20-30 minutes probably.
It may also be worth figuring out how much a membership to the English Heritage is. Several of the places we visited were part of the trust, so we might have actually saved a bit of money.
Note, Restormel is closed during the winter (roughly November through March), so make sure to check the opening times on the official website.
Try a Cornwall cream tea (and compare to Devon)
I’m a sucker for scones! The lady at the Restormel visitor center told us we could get a nice Cornwall cream tea at the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery nearby, so that was clearly going to be our next stop. We shared a summer pudding and each got the cream tea.
Apparently there is an ages-old debate about whether Devon’s or Cornwall’s cream tea is correct. Apparently it comes down to whether you put on cream and then jam, or vice versa??
Honest, either way, I’m in…
Stuffed, we hit the road again, ending up in Looe next. It was a cute harbor town, though a bit crowded and touristy for me. But we grabbed some pasties for the road…you know me, always thinking of my next pastry.
After Looe, we hit the Devon region and made a stop or two before settling into Torquay for a week. Our day in Cornwall was brief, but I think we did a great job and I absolutely loved St. Michael’s Mount!!
Adventures in other English-speaking countries:
- A Day on Scotland’s Magical Isle of Harris & Lewis
- A 7-Day Roadtrip Itinerary for Ireland: Hidden Gems
- Sunrises, Stars, & Stunning Blue Waters: New Zealand’s Lake Tekapo
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