Crossing the causeway to St Michael’s Mount
I wanted to visit St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall as a consequence of seeing a photo of France’s Le Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy. I was like – “Oh, that reminds me – we’ve got one of those tidal islands in the UK too!”
And so it was, while down in Cornwall on a week long holiday we made sure we added it to our “things to see” list. St Michael’s Mount is located just 4 miles drive to the east of Penzance and 9 miles south of St Ives. So if you’re staying at either then I thoroughly recommend visiting.
Check the St Michael’s Mount opening times
Before you go you’ll want to time it right!
- Check the causeway opening and closing times so you can walk over to the island at low-tide (unless you simply want to take the boat over). The opening times shift by roughly 45-60 mins every day.
- Check the castle and grounds opening times (normally 10:30 – 17:00).
We managed number 1. OK but the castle and grounds had closed by the time we got there. On the day we visited in September the causeway opened at 18:25 and closed at 21:50. The causeway is exposed for around 2 hours either side of low water. Actually this worked out pretty well as as we could then stroll over to the island in the early evening. Then, afterwards sit ourselves down in the Goldophin Arms pub on the mainland overlooking the Mount to watch the sun set.
… but get there slightly earlier!
One tip is to get there slightly earlier than the advertised opening times. The times in the causeway calendar are for when the tide has completely parted and the causeway is dry to walk across. Arrive 15-20 minutes earlier and you’ll get to see the Mount fully cut off. Watch the stretch of water across the causeway narrow second after second. Until finally it’s just a few metres wide and then in the blink of an eye the water has simply disappeared. Just like Moses parting The Red Sea. Many people take off their shoes and socks and paddle across when the water’s still 3-4 inches deep. For me visiting the Mount was all about that parting of the waters and we weren’t intending on staying 3.5h to await the returning tide at 21:50.
Get lucky and have the Causeway to yourself
If you want to take those majestic, moody shots without too many people in the way then time your visit wisely. As you might expect on a nice day there are ample people patiently waiting to walk across so you’ve got to be quick. A photographer friend of mine had full intentions to capture the “perfect” shot but when he saw the small “crowd” gathering he headed west to take a longer distance shot instead.
You don’t have to visit the castle and gardens
Your experience will be dictated by the tidal patterns when you visit. We walked across onto the island, around its small harbour wall and back along the causeway again. We simply couldn’t access the grounds or castle due to their 17:30 closing time. In fact not even the souvenir shop was open. However, that meant we could just “be” and enjoy the magnificence of the island and the causeway itself instead.
On the walk back across back to the mainland we could more fully appreciate the raised nature and permanence of the structure. With some of its cobbled blocks actually cemented in place. In the time it took us to walk the 2-3 minutes back along the Causeway the tide had moved much further out, revealing first seaweed clad rock pools and then almost instantly large expanses of rippled sand. Perfect for the local dog owners and holiday makers alike.
Stay to enjoy the view and maybe even sunset
Before you head off be sure to take a pit stop in the Godolphin Arms restaurant which overlooks St Michael’s Mount. We intended to stay for just a quick drink. But after snapping up one of the sunset terrace’s picnic tables it made more sense to stay. We’d timed it to enjoy both tasty locally caught fish ‘n’ chips and a glorious sunset. In the summer months the sun sets way to the west of St Michael’s Mount. I imagine in the winter the sun would be setting almost behind it. Either way if you’re an avid photographer check out the Sun Calc website so you can see exactly where the sun will be at whatever time of the year.
So behold a wonderful setting, Mother Nature doing her thing and a tasty drink at this delightful location down in Cornwall.