Despite visiting Cornwall on numerous occasions, I still have a long list of places I want to visit in this beautiful county and with just a couple of spare days to squeeze in a day out during a Christmas holiday at Coombe Mill, I had to pick just one.
We have visited the National Trust’s St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall, before when the older kids were small, but it is somewhere I have been keen to re-visit ever since.
The small small tidal island is crowned by a medieval church and castle, leaving it only accessible by foot along a man-made causeway of granite setts, passable between mid-tide and low water and upon checking the tide times, it was the perfect time to visit.
St Michael’s Mount is an hour and fifteen minute drive from Coombe Mill and with it being out of season, we were pleasantly surprised to find that parking was free in the main car park when we arrived. It is then a short five minute walk along the promenade to the causeway.
As the tide was still going out, the causeway was quite damp underfoot, but although uneven, it wasn’t slippery like I expected and took just 5 minutes to cross.
You can wander around the harbour area, where there are around 30 islanders still living and working, but to climb to the castle you have to pay an entry fee, or be National Trust members.
A visit to the island is not suitable for pushchairs, especially the steep cobbled slopes to the castle so if travelling with a young family, I would recommend a sling or back carrier.
Legend has it that the Mount was built by a giant called Cormoran who would wade ashore to snatch up livestock from local farms and take them back with him and our first mission was to search for the giant’s heart.
As you walk up to the castle you come across a heart-shaped stone on the pathway which is the apparently the Giant’s heart and we all remarked it was a lot smaller than we thought it would be. Rumour has it that if you stand on the heart shaped stone you can still hear the Giant’s heart beat and the kids were eager to give it a try.
The walk up to the castle, although tricky underfoot is quite simply beautiful and offers you glimpses of the breathtaking views that surround the island.
There are plenty of places to stop, rest and enjoy the views if you need a breather from the climb.
Some of the buildings date back to the 12th century and since that time the Mount has been a priory, fortress, a place of pilgrimage before finally becoming the private home of the St Aubyn family in 1659.
Inside the castle the kids were challenged to find their favourite display in order to win a prize and they happily scampered off to see what they could find.
There is a huge variety of things to see, from gun batteries and suits of armour that hark back to the Wars of the Roses and the Civil War, a Bronze Age Hoard exhibition to opulent rooms offering spectacular views over the coastline.
They also couldn’t believe that the sundial told the correct time!
Kids being kids, they were happiest outside, pretending they were being attacked by pirates and working out a battle plan to defend the island.
One of the highlights of visiting a National Trust property over the Christmas period, is seeing the Christmas decorations and St Michael’s Mount was full of them.
The Priory Church sat the Mount’s summit dates back to the 12th Century and features some stunning stained glass windows, which threw colourful patterns onto the walls thanks to the glorious sunny day outside.
It is the terraces at the top of the castle that offer the best views from Lamorna to the Lizard over the turquoise sea.
I was surprised by how much the kids had taken in during their visit and they all came up with a different answer about their favourite exhibit, each winning a medal.
Sadly the gardens are closed during the winter months, but that really did not detract from our visit at all.
By the time we came back down from the castle, it was low tide, so the kids darted off to play on the beach.
A Family Ticket to the Castle costs from £20 but National Trust members can get in free.
National Trust Membership gives you free entry to over 500 special places, free parking at most National Trust car parks a National Trust Handbook full of ideas to help you plan a visit, a National Trust Magazine sent to you three times a year and regular newsletters sent straight to your inbox, plus save £8.40 per year when you use Top Cashback to purchase your pass.
Have you visited St Michael’s Mount?