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St Michaels Mount is by far the most magical place to visit in Cornwall. It’s almost like a fairytale.
A tidal island off the coast with a mystical castle perched on top that is cut off by the sea. Then, as if by magic, the tidal waves part and reveal a hidden trail leading straight over the mount!
It’s one of the best feelings to travel to the mount but you do need to be careful about planning your visit in advance.
Accessing St Michaels Mount, especially on foot, is completely down to tide times and the weather.
Here are some practical tips for crossing St Michaels mount causeway, with the best times to visit and how to check the St Michaels Mount tide times!
2021 update: Please know that entry to St Michael’s Mount attractions are now on timed bookings and tickets need to be pre-booked to avoid disappointment. No tickets are sold at the entrance. Also, only guide dogs are permitted on the mount.
What is St Michaels Mount?
St Michaels Mount is a tidal island that lies off the east coast of Cornwall in Mount’s Bay.
The mount is part of the civil parish of Marazion (pronounced Ma-ra-zy-un) and there is a man-made causeway that connects the island with the town.
Running the mount is a joint venture between the National Trust and the St Aubyn family who live in the castle.
The medieval castle perched on top is now a National Trust attraction along with the amazing coastal gardens on the grounds.
It’s a huge tourist attraction that sees well over 300,000 people visit every year!
As well as a hot spot for visitors, it’s also a living community with a working village and harbour. There are 35 lucky residents who call it home.
The legends & history of St Michael’s Mount
St Michaels Mount is a melting pot of legends, myths and tales that date back to prehistoric times.
From mermaids luring fishermen onto the rocks and Jack the Giant Killer, who saved Marazion from a huge beast terrorising the villagers.
The Bronze Age hunters, medieval pilgrims and soldiers of the civil war. This island has seen them all through the chapters of time!
The island has been seen as a religious place since Edward the Confessor gifted the site to the Benedictine order of Mont Saint-Michel in the 8th century.
It was a place of pilgrimage with many crossing the sand causeway barefoot and climbing up to the priory like many do today. Except, back then, there was no laid path like there is now!
The castle was built on the mount around the 12th century during the Norman Era and became a place many wanted to conquer. Indeed, it was fought over in both the War of the Roses and the Civil War.
In the 17th century, the Colonel John St Aubyn purchased the mount. Even today his descendants the Lords of St Levan have a seat in St Michael’s Mount!
In its heyday, the village had over 300 residents. There were many streets and houses in the village. The residents that lived here worked at the castle and out on the harbour.
Can you visit St Michaels Mount?
YES, you can! Although it is a tidal island that is blocked off by the sea at certain points of the day. It’s completely possible to visit St Michaels Mount every day of the year.
As the majority of the island and its attractions are owned by the National Trust, there are a number of options you can take to access it.
When the tide is high, you can take a boat over St Michaels Mount causeway and when the tide is low you can cross over it on foot.
It’s good to note that if the island’s main attractions of the castle and gardens are closed, the boats will not be running. Also, there will be no facilities open on the mount. But, the tidal pathway is still open every day for crossing.
Do you have to pay to visit St Michael’s Mount?
No, it’s free! The amazing thing about the mount is that it’s a natural tidal island.
So, there is no fee to cross St Michaels mount causeway or step on the island itself.
You also don’t pay to visit the harbour, village, cafés and shops on the island.
The only thing you’ll need to pay for is parking in Marazion which comes at an all-day fee and to pay for the National Trust attractions.
The castle and gardens have separate ticket prices but you can pay for a joint ticket which is best to save money.
If you’re a National Trust member, it’s completely free.
How long is St Michaels Mount Causeway?
The causeway is around half a mile long and only takes you around 10-15 minutes to cross it!
The timing issues come from making sure you cross at the right times and aren’t waiting around.
Crossing the St Michaels Mount Causeway – my best tips!
If you are planning to visit St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, it is really important that you know what to expect before you visit.
Checking tide and opening times, wearing the appropriate gear and even things like bringing some cash are all essential for a day out that’s smooth sailing.
Here are my top tips for visiting St Michael’s Mount!
1. Check St Michael’s Mount tide times & opening times first
The very first thing you need to do is check the tide times before you visit. The causeway is open to cross on foot a couple of hours at low tide. This happens twice a day.
If crossing the causeway on foot was something you really wanted to do, you need to time it right.
The tide times change every single day. You can easily check the tide times yourself on a calendar here.
I would say you should arrive a little earlier than the actual low tide time itself.
Some people are even brave enough to cross the causeway as it’s still parting but you’ll need some good wellies for it!
Can you cross St Michael’s Mount at high tide?
Yes, you can cross the causeway at high tide when the National Trust attractions are open. Taking a ferry over to St Michael’s Mount costs £2 one way for an adult and £1 for a child.
These are small ferry boats and typically take 8-10 people at a time, so you maybe waiting a while for a boat if it’s a busy day.
These boats stop sometime before the low tide times as the water levels get too low to safely run them.
So, if you find yourself on the island after the boats stop for the day. You’ll need to wait for the tide to clear to leave the island.
Lot’s of people decide to wait it out and gather in the village or sit on the harbour walls before low tide.
It’s quite funny to watch people trying to attempt to cross the causeway and wade through the water!
St Michael’s mount opening times
Opening times for St Michael’s Mount can mean a couple of things; when the island is accessible and when the island’s attractions are open!
Low tide: happens twice a day usually in the morning and afternoon/evening and tide times change every day. You’ll need to check the tide times calendar here. They are predicted far in advance. The island is open all year to cross over at low tide.
High tide: when the island’s National Trust attractions are open, there are public ferry boats which are chargeable to cross over to the mount at high tide. You may see some boats running in the off season, there are private boats for residents and staff on the island, you cannot ride these.
St Michaels Mount National Trust attractions
Are only open seasonally throughout the year and on certain days of the week.
St Michaels Mount castle: is open on Sunday to Friday from the end of March to end of October. Last entry is an hour before closing;
- March – June: 10.30am – 5pm
- July – August: 10am – 5.30pm
- August – October: 10.30am – 5pm
St Michaels Mount Gardens: are open from mid-April to September on restricted days to protect them as they are heritage. Last entry is an hour before closing.
- April – June: 10.30am – 5pm (Monday – Friday)
- July – August: 10am – 5.30pm (Thursday and Friday only)
- September: 10.30am – 5pm (Thursday and Friday only)
The castle is closed on Saturdays. The island is still accessible at low tide but there will be no boats or facilities.
2. Come early & bring change for the Marazion car park
St Michaels Mount is one of the busiest places to visit in all Cornwall. Each day, it typically sees hundreds of cars pile on the small town in order to visit the mount.
People tend to spend a whole day here and so all the car parks in the area have an all-day charge.
It’s best to get to the mount early in the day to bag a good parking spot nearest to the mount as car parking places fill up. Plus, if you leave it too late you’ll be here with all the coach trips.
When the car parks near the beach are full, they shut the car park off completely. Then you’ll need to park in the overflow car parks around the village which are further away.
The car park is strictly CASH ONLY, so make sure you have some coins spare. It costs £4.50 for the slipway car park at an all-day fee.
There is NO National Trust parking at St Michael’s Mount, everyone has to pay.
Where to park for St Michael’s Mount
The best place to park for St Michael’s Mount is the slip way sea front car park at Marazion Beach. This is clearly sign posted in the village.
You’ll be queuing to enter the car park and it will be manned by a warden who’ll guide you on where to park.
We got lucky and managed to bag the last spot in the car park closest to the mount for the day. This was around 10 am!
3. You don’t need a car to travel to St Michaels Mount
If you were thinking of travelling to St Michael’s Mount by public transport, it’s totally doable and you get a nice cheeky discount on entry as an incentive too.
Anyone who has travelled to the mount by bus or train gets 10% off attraction prices if they show their tickets as proof. So, don’t forget to present them at the ticket desk!
Marazion by train: the nearest train station to St Michael’s Mount is Penzance. From here, you can take a bus or taxi to Marazion to access the mount. This is a ten-minute ride away.
Marazion by bus: From Penzance station, there are regular bus services that stop off at Marazion in order to visit the mount. First Group has a number of services that run this route and you can plan your journey here.
4. Prepare for the weather – it gets COLD
Although it may be sunny and warm on the mainland in Marazion, it gets really breezy out on the island with its position off of the coast. Of course, it’s never easy to predict the weather. We are in the UK after all!
I would definitely come prepared with an extra layer to keep warm or something to protect you from the rain.
When the weather is wet, or stormy, prepare for the high tide to be pretty shaky. Especially when crossing over on the ferry!
5. Bring a GOOD pair of walking shoes
Something that many people don’t realise is that walking over and around St Michaels Mount isn’t as easy as it looks.
The tidal causeway is made of granite blocks which are almost like cobbles. So, walking over these in heels would be a no go!
Also, as it’s been covered in the sea, you’ll find lots of seaweed and things washed up which could be slippy.
Walking on the island is also not very accessible. The areas around village, harbour, shop and cafés are quite flat. But, the Pilgrim’s Way up to the castle is where it ends.
The climb up to the castle at the top of the mount is uneven, with huge steps, steep slipways with big rocks. There are some rails to hold onto and some places to take a break. I saw many people here climbing up with walking sticks.
The gardens are also on grassy land without many flat walking trails. You’ll be climbing up and down the many tiers of planned gardens, with steps and walled areas.
However much it takes your breath away, the views from the top of the mount are SO worth it. Just come prepared with some good walking shoes on the day.
6. To avoid the crowds, come later in the day
Most tourists flock to St Michael’s Mount when the attractions are open as there will be more to do.
However, visiting in the morning or even around lunchtime could see hundreds of people crossing the causeway and walking around the island.
The best time to visit St Michael’s Mount would be much later in the afternoon. Make sure you leave at least 2-3 hours before everything closes.
There will be far fewer people and after the attractions close you can cross over the causeway back to shore.
If you weren’t bothered about going into the castle and gardens, you can easily cross St Michaels Causeway and visit the mount in the evening time.
7. Sunset is the best time to capture the mount
Even if you’re not into photography in a big way, taking photographs of St Michael’s Mount is a must. It’s a beautiful muse and one you’ll want to remember!
There are a few tricks to capturing the mount without many people in the photos.
One is to make sure you’re at the tidal causeway as the tide is coming out- there won’t be anyone crossing around this time and you can get a beautiful shot of the causeway just visible under the water.
Another is to visit very early in the morning or later in the evening time when the lighting is softer.
If you’re lucky enough to catch a colourful sunset behind the mount it will look gorgeous.
Many photographers want a clear shot of the winding pathway towards the mount. I cannot tell you how LONG it took me to wait for a clear moment. Even then, it was a lucky shot.
To get around this you can wait for lulls in the crowds or bring a tripod to try some long exposures. If you really don’t have the patience, there are some great angles to the side of the causeway on Marazion beach.
Here you can get some of the lovely rocks and boulders on the bay at the foreground to create some texture.
8. You don’t have to visit the castle & gardens… but there isn’t much to do otherwise!
Visiting St Michael’s Mount is completely free. To cross the causeway, arrive on the harbour and explore the village.
But, there is very little area to explore on the mount if you don’t plan to visit the main attractions.
Most of the Pilgrim’s way up to the castle, the castle itself and the gardens are completely blocked off if you don’t have a ticket.
There is a small shop, a café that serves up coffee or lunch during the season and you can explore the village at leisure. That’s really your lot.
I actually loved exploring the island once all the attractions had closed and most people had gone home for the day. It was really lovely and peaceful.
9. Avoid a Saturday as everything is closed
As the island is home for many, the castle and attractions are completely closed to the public on a Saturday. This to give the families and residents privacy but also work on maintenance.
That means no ferries running, no attractions open and facilities like the café and shop will be closed.
The island itself isn’t blocked off, however. You can still cross over to the island if you wanted at low tide on foot over the causeway.
It’s the quietest day of the week for the mount which is perfect for some people including eager photographers!
10. Take water or a picnic with you
If you were to cross over the tide in low season, there won’t be any facilities on the island itself. It’s best to take some bottled water with you and some snacks or a picnic.
Even when the cafés are open, these can be quite pricey. So, if you were wanting to save some money bring some supplies.
This is especially important if you’re planning to climb up to the top of the mount. The walk is quite tough and you’ll need to keep hydrated.
Where to eat on St Michael’s Mount
In the season, there are a number of food stalls and cafés open. Where you can get a caffeine fix, lunch or afternoon tea;
- Sail Loft: An upscale restaurant on the mount that prides itself with fresh dishes made with local produce. You can get breakfast, light snacks, lunches of a catch of the day along with adult beverages here.
- Island Cafe: serves up brunch, lunch, light snacks, soft drinks and tea and coffee! I had one of the nicest lemon drizzle cakes here with a coffee as a pick me up. You can sit outside on the benches to enjoy the views of the sea and Marazion
- Cornish Sausages: St Michael’s Mount even has its very own sausage wagon! Cornish Sausages provide many hotdog options including vegetarian and vegan. Which come with a load of toppings to choose.
11. There will be cars crossing the causeway too!
One thing I wasn’t expecting walking along the St Michael’s Causeway was the fact there would be cars and vans crossing too!
You sort of imagine that when boats stop for the day, that you could only access the island on foot. But, there are some vehicles that transport the staff and residents back and forth on the island.
They will be driving really slowly but just be careful to mind out when they’re driving towards you, especially if you have a tripod set up.
They will beep if you overstep the mark and they can’t get passed you.
12. Be respectful of residents living on the island
The island is a major tourist attraction and is open to the public but the residents and family do deserve some privacy. If you’re visiting the island out of hours make sure to keep noise to a minimum.
Also don’t sneak around houses taking a look inside!
There is 24-hour security on the island and a warden who sits in his security office. Just in case you were tempted to scurry off somewhere out of bounds.
13. St Michael’s mount is dog friendly
St Michaels Mount causeway and accessing the mount is dog friendly as long as they are kept on a lead. Dogs are also allowed to cross the ferry boats over to the island as well when they are running.
You’re then free to wander about the harbour and village as you please.
But, dogs are not allowed on the grounds up to the castle, in the castle, or in the gardens. Assistance dogs are an exception.
There are plenty of doggy bowls with water around the café to make sure they keep hydrated.
14. Leave enough time to explore St Michaels Mount!
One of the most important tips in planning your day is to make sure you leave enough time to explore the mount.
Crossing over the causeway or taking the boats can take up time. Plus, you’ll need at least 2-3 hours to explore the castle and gardens.
You’ll also need to factor in a break or stops on your visit for photos and resting (I’m not kidding, the walks are SO steep).
I would personally recommend 3-4 hours minimum. I visited here for a whole day from around 10.30 am – 6 ish!
So, what is there to see on St Michael’s Mount?
There is so much to do on St Michaels Mount you will need some time to explore what’s on offer.
When you arrive into the scenic harbour with boats bobbing along, you can look back at Marazion over the sea.
A walk along the docks will then take you to the village with some picturesque houses and the ticket office for the castle and gardens.
The Pilgrim’s Way is a great way to start off the journey and will get the hard work over first. The walk, which was rediscovered in the 1950s, is a steep cobbled walkway.
Don’t forget to stop on the way to see the Giant’s heart, a heart-shaped cobblestone!
At the top of the mount is where you’ll get some incredible views from the old battery with their historic cannons.
It’s just a few steep steps more from here to enter the castle where you can learn about its past residents and a royal visit which nearly went wrong!
The historic chapel is also incredibly beautiful with large stained glass windows. Once you reach the bottom of the hill, it’s time to climb up once more on the grounds.
But, your reward will be the most fabulous coastal gardens in all of Cornwall. These are lined up along the base of the castle walls and there are plenty of terraces and walled areas to explore.
You could relax here with a good book in amongst the blooms and enjoy the sounds and views of the sea!
Where to stay in Marazion
There is currently no option to stay on St Michaels Mount. However, you can find accommodation close by the causeway in Marazion just opposite.
Many of the hotels are on the seafront and have fabulous views that overlook the island!
- The Godolphin Arms – is a popular pub with a restaurant overlooking the mount during the day. But, also has some chic sea view rooms that you can check into. This place is inches away from the causeway! Click for rates.
- Mount Haven Hotel – is another spectacular hotel that has rooms overlooking the mount. Also, there is a beautiful terrace where you can enjoy dinner or a drink overlooking the view. Click to book.
- St Aubyn Estates Cottages – St Aubyn Estates have adopted historic homes and converted them into holiday cottages for rent! These bespoke properties are perfect for sleeping 1-8 people. These aren’t in Marazion, but are tucked away right in the heart of coastal walks on the South West Coast Path. Giving you some peace and quiet! Click here to enquire.