St. Michael’s Mount
Back to travel photos! While in Cornwall, we had to go to the coastal city of Penzance (because one of our favorite Gilbert and Sullivan plays is, of course, The Pirates of Penzance). From there we walked to the neighboring city of Marazion (don’t do this… drive!) to see St. Michael’s Mount http://www.stmichaelsmount.co.uk/ . From about 350 BC the Mount was a place where much trade took place, especially in local tin. Smuggling, too, I’m sure. Then in 495 AD some fishermen saw on the rocky island the vision of the angel St. Michael. Not long after a chapel was built and religious pilgrams flocked to the Mount.
A priory joined the chapel and the old, glorious castle appeared, jutting out of the hard stone and overlooking everything. Although a place of worship, many times in its history did the Mount have to take arms. Most notably it was from St. Michael’s Mount that the first beacon light was lit to warn of the Spanish Armada.
After the Dissolution, it was purchased as the home of the St. Aubyn family, which it has remained ever since. In the 1950’s one of the family gave the structure into the hands of the National Trust, with the codicil that the family could live in it for 999 years. What makes St. Michael’s Mount very special is that it can be walked to across a causeway when the tide is low; when the tide covers the cobblestones, it becomes and island. We’d come to know about the causeway as it was used the in movie version of Shakspeare’s Twelfth Night.
We walked across the ankle-twisting cobbles to the imposing and ancient fortress.
We were still experiencing the very heavy winds from Hurricane Irene, so at times sand blew into our faces and it was a little hard to stand. Otherwise it was a clear and gorgeous day. Although still a private residence most of the castle can be toured.
There is a grand library, and the place is rife with window nooks with the most incredible views of the English Channel.
The amount of labor that went into building these stone fortresses,
to make them last for centuries, always amazes me.
The chapel boasts a rose window dated from the 15th century,
as well as other fantastic artworks.
In every room there are displays of beautiful handicraft,
and some unusual furniture.
Below the castle are sub-tropical gardens, which were closed the day we were there. We peered down at them and discovered… a good portion of the plants we have here in San Diego!
When we were to leave, the water had just begun to cover the causeway. Some souls were crossing but getting their feet wet as the winds brought the tide in quickly. We waited for a boat ride and for only one pound fifty pence (!) each, we could achieve the mainland!
The water was choppy but we were with people who joked a lot, which we often found to be true in our British travels, and that made the crossing fun. There are festivals held on the Mount, along with re-enactments and garden tours. Check their website for announcements if you plan to visit, and keep an eye on the tides!