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Island of Giants and Angels: Cornwall’s Historic St Michael’s Mount

By Kat Piper
Epoch Times Staff
Created: September 6, 2011 Last Updated: September 6, 2011
Related articles: Life » Travel
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The impressive granite castle of St Michael's Mount towering above the sea. (Trevor Piper/Epoch Times)

The impressive granite castle of St Michael's Mount towering above the sea. (Trevor Piper/Epoch Times)

Visiting Marazion beach in a Force 6 northwesterly wind is not recommended. In true British fashion, we get out the pop-up tent (which is immediately flattened) and weigh down the picnic blanket with bags. With the wind whipping our hair and sand stinging our faces, we attempt to make sandcastles and enjoy the view for at least half an hour before we finally give in, dig out the picnic blanket, and head for something requiring less endurance.

In Mount’s Bay, just opposite Marazion, lies one of Cornwall’s most famous landmarks – St Michael’s Mount. Atop the cone-shaped island sits an impressive granite castle dating back to the 12th century. Myths and legends surround the Mount, not least the story of a giant named Cormoran who is said to have built and lived on the island many years ago. After stealing one too many cows from the locals, so the story goes, he was finally tricked into falling into a pit and killed by a local boy named Jack.

The Mount gets its name from the legend of the appearance of the Archangel St Michael in AD 495 to fisherman, and has been a pilgrimage destination ever since.

To get to the island you can walk along a roughly 300-metre-long cobbled causeway. But this is only exposed at low tide, and today, the tide is in. So we set off down to the Gwelva landing point to catch one of the many small boats ferrying people back and forth to the Mount.

A cannon from a French frigate, wrecked during the Napoleonic wars. (Trevor Piper/Epoch Times)

A cannon from a French frigate, wrecked during the Napoleonic wars. (Trevor Piper/Epoch Times)

The wind has churned up the waves, making the short crossing an exhilarating rollercoaster ride. My son and I cling on to my husband, who claims this is just a light swell, as we head for the granite harbour steps.

Back on dry land, my back wet with spray, we seek refuge in the National Trust’s Sail Loft Restaurant. The restaurant serves dishes made from local, seasonal ingredients, including freshly caught fish, and has beautiful views of the sea. Two Cornish pasties and a kid’s lunchbox later, we are ready to tackle the climb up to the castle.

The steep steps and cobble paths wind up the wooded hillside among granite boulders, one of which is labelled the “giant’s heart”. Looking back as we climb higher and higher, the view over the bay is stunning. At the top we are greeted by a battery of cannons that guards the entrance to the castle – a relic from the War of the Roses (1473) and the Civil War (1642–46).

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