Day 146 (6.8.17): St. Michael’s Mount

This morning the weather report called for rain, but the chances were good that it would clear up later in the day.  We grabbed our rain gear and headed to St. Michael’s Mount, which was just a short drive from Mousehole.

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St. Micheal’s Mount is a small island off the the coast of Cornwall and is a fascinating place steeped in history and legend.  People have been living on the Mount for thousands of years.  Indeed, the local Cornish name for the island is “Karrek Loos yn Koos,” which roughly translates to “rock in the woods,” suggesting that people have known of the island from a distant time when it was surrounded by woods rather than the ocean.  (There are apparently evidence of trees in the ocean at extremely low tides dating back about 3000 years.)  The current moniker for the island comes from a Fifth Century legend of the archangel Michael rescuing some fishermen.

Today, the island can be accessed by foot at low tide, and we timed our visit to coincide with low tide.  I have been looking forward to visiting St. Michael’s Mount for 30 years, as we didn’t hit the tides right when I visited as a boy in 1987.  This was another reason that we were not going to let a little rain slow us down.

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To reach the island by foot, there is a stone road, and you can just a few people on this road at the left side of this photo.  We made our way down the beach until we reached the road and headed toward the Mount.

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When we reached the island, the kids walked in the small harbor intrigued by the boats that had been grounded by the low tide, while Julie and I figured out the details of exploring the place.

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We started by walking up the steep path to the castle.  As the weather started to improve, we reached the Giant’s Well.

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Cornish legends tell of a giant named Cormoran who lived on the island during the days of King Arthur.  The giant terrorized the local villages until a farmer’s son named Jack trapped the giant in a pit and killed him with an ax, earning the boy the title “Jack the Giant Killer.”  (In some versions of the tale, Jack becomes a member of the round table.  Sir Jack?)  Evidently, Jack threw the dismembered pieces of the giant in the well.  But not the giant’s heart.  That has turned to stone and is set in the walk further up the path.

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We have visited some amazing gardens on our trip and seen some beautiful flowers, but the plant life on St. Michael’s Mount was something else.  Our guess was that the location and geography of the island produced a small microclimate.

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We would our way up the path, and headed into the castle.  Today, it’s more of a manor house than a military fortification, though the location is certainly easy to defend.  At the top of the complex there is a small chapel.

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The chapel naturally features some extremely well done images of St. Michael.

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After we finished up our exploration of the castle, we checked to see if we could still walk back to shore.

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Uh, nope.  Fortunately, there are boats that will ferry people back and forth.  Before returning to the mainland, we decided to explore the island’s garden, which sprawls down the cliffs facing the ocean.

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Our suspicions about there being a small microclimate were confirmed.  When combined with some lordly money, the effects were extremely impressive.

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We saw amazing succulents growing outside that we hadn’t seen anywhere else in the U.K.

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We even saw bromeliads growing in protected cracks in the rocks.

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Subtropical plants growing in England?!  We wound our way along the cliff-side garden paths, ultimately reaching one of the small natural terraces, where we paused to enjoy the views of the sea.

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The chicklets were were tired and starting to get a little silly.

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We returned to the small harbor to find a boat back to the mainland.  While Julie explored the gift shop, the girls and I skipped stones across the same spots where the kids had been walking just a few hours earlier.

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We walked down the quay to the right and climbed aboard a small boat for the 10 minute ride back to the shore, enjoying our final views of St. Michael’s Mount.

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We had started our day early, so there was still plenty of daylight left.  We headed back to Mousehole.  Today was a national election (the so-called “snap election” called by PM Teresa May in an effort to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations), and we passed by the polling station in “downtown” Mousehole.

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Cassie and Lydie were tired, so they decided to rest for a bit.  Julie and I took the chance to walk around Mousehole a bit more, enjoying the harbor, the tiny streets, and the seaside charm.

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We decided to take a walk along the cliffs south of town and enjoyed looking back on the village as we climbed away from the ocean.

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We could just make out the small triangular shape of St. Michael’s Mount in the distance.  We soon found the cliff-side path and enjoyed a short hike.

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We would have loved to keep going, but it was getting late.  We headed back to our Mousehole cottage to enjoy take-away pasties and stay-in pints of Tribute, our favorite Cornish ale.

-Will

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