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Saint Michael's Mount

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Overview





Saint Michael’s Mount is a highly distinctive pyramid rock topped by a castle in Penzance Bay on England's southwest coast about fourteen miles northwest of Lizard Point. It offers the possibility of drying out in its small harbour or anchoring close outside.

Saint Michael’s Mount is a highly distinctive pyramid rock topped by a castle in Penzance Bay on England's southwest coast about fourteen miles northwest of Lizard Point. It offers the possibility of drying out in its small harbour or anchoring close outside.

The anchorage is exposed but the harbour offers tolerable protection to those that can dry. Although appearing to provide good protection, by facing inshore and away from Atlantic wind and waves, it is subject to a backwash of swell from the mainland during bad weather that creates a dangerous surge inside the harbour. Access requires attentive navigation, in daylight and at high water for those intending to enter and dry out in the harbour.



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Keyfacts for Saint Michael's Mount



Last modified
April 23rd 2019

Summary* Restrictions apply

A tolerable location with attentive navigation required for access.

Facilities
Hot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open water

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: harbour fees may be charged



Position and approaches
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Haven position

50° 7.178' N, 005° 28.698' W

This is the northwest corner of the west pier.

What is the initial fix?

The following Saint Michael's Mount will set up a final approach:
50° 7.004' N, 005° 29.467' W
This is a ½ mile west of Saint Michael's Mount and about 400 metres south of the unmarked Outer Penzeath Rock. Steering for the head of the western pier, on a bearing of 70° T for a distance of less than ½ a mile leads, into the anchoring area and the safe approaches to the harbour.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southwestern England’s coastal overview from Lizard Point to Land's End Route location. For local approaches see Newlyn Click to view haven.

  • Approach from southwestward steering for the head of the western pier on a bearing of 70° T.

  • Break off about 300 metres from the pierhead and sound into the anchorage between the pierhead and Great Hogus Rock or enter the harbour to dry out.


Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Saint Michael's Mount for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Penzance Harbour - 1.2 miles W
  2. Newlyn - 1.7 miles WSW
  3. Mousehole - 2 miles SW
  4. Porthleven Harbour - 4.1 miles ESE
  5. Mullion Cove & Porth Mellin - 6.5 miles SE
  6. Kynance Cove - 8.1 miles SE
  7. Helford River - 8.4 miles E
  8. Cadgwith - 8.7 miles SE
  9. Gillan Creek - 9.3 miles E
  10. Coverack - 9.9 miles ESE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Penzance Harbour - 1.2 miles W
  2. Newlyn - 1.7 miles WSW
  3. Mousehole - 2 miles SW
  4. Porthleven Harbour - 4.1 miles ESE
  5. Mullion Cove & Porth Mellin - 6.5 miles SE
  6. Kynance Cove - 8.1 miles SE
  7. Helford River - 8.4 miles E
  8. Cadgwith - 8.7 miles SE
  9. Gillan Creek - 9.3 miles E
  10. Coverack - 9.9 miles ESE
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

Resources search



What's the story here?
Saint Michael's Mount as seen from the ferry dock off Marazion
Image: Michael Harpur


Saint Michael's Mount is a conical islet about a mile in circumference and 80 metres high with a castellated building on the summit. It has a small drying Saint Michael’s Harbour, formed by two piers, on the northern side of the mount, facing inshore. The island is connected to the small town of Marazion on the shore by a rocky causeway that uncovers at low water. The island and its gardens is open to the public Sunday to Friday (closed Saturday) and managed and maintained jointly by the National Trust and the St. Aubyn family who have lived here since the 1600s. It is one of Cornwall’s most beautiful and popular visitor attractions that draws many thousands of people each year.

Visiting boats may enter and dry out inside the harbour by prior arrangement with the Harbourmaster, Mr Keith Murch, Landline+44 1736 711062, Mobile+44 7870 400282 or the National Trust Landline+44 1736 710265.

The harbour dries to 2.1 metres but has a depth of 3.3 metres at high-water springs and 2.1 metres at neaps. It has space for about six visitor boats alongside the west wall where they may dry over a firm sand bottom. If the harbourmaster cannot be raised just come alongside the wall and make way to the harbour office that overlooks the harbour from the north quay.


A yacht anchored outside with another dried out alongside
Image: Jon Watts


Alternatively, in settled or gentle offshore winds, it is possible to anchor just outside the harbour in depths of 2 to 3 metres. The anchorage has little protection from southerly swell but it makes for a good temporary berth from which to visit the island.


How to get in?
Saint Michael's Mount
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use southwestern England’s coastal overview from Lizard Point to Land's End Route location for seaward approaches and Newlyn Click to view haven for local approaches. Keep a sharp eye out for pot marker buoys throughout this area.
The distinctive pyramid of Saint Michael's Mount, topped by its castle and turrets, is unmistakeable from all parts of Penzance and Mount's Bay. It is advisable to keep south of a line joining the pierhead of Penzance and the summit of Saint Michael's Mount to keep offshore of the reefs and foul ground that front the head of Penzance Bay.

The small harbour and anchorage should only be approached from the south or southwest and no attempt should be made to come in from the east or north of the Mount where there are extensive rocky ledges that dry to 3 metres.


Saint Michael's Mount as seen from the west
Image: me via ASA 4.0


Initial fix location From the initial fix steer for the head of the western pier on a bearing of 70° T for a distance of slightly less than a ⅓ of a mile. This path passes midway and well clear of the unmarked dangers of the Outer Penzeath Rock, a shoal patch with just 0.1 metres LAT that lies a ½ mile offshore, and the Guthen Rocks, a shoal patch with 2.3 metres LAT, that lies 300 metres west of the island. It also avoids the dangerous Maltman Rocks that lie about 150 metres offshore of the southern point of the island and, like Guthen Rocks, are very much in the way of anyone following the island in from the south. The Maltman Rocks dry to 0.8 metres and covers at one-quarter flood.

Break off when at about the 5-metre contour when about 300 metres off the pierhead. Start to sound in in a northeasterly direction between the pier and the Great Hogus Rock. The Great Hogus is an extensive rocky cluster that lays up to a ⅓ of a mile offshore with Little Hogus inshore of it. It drys to 5.5 metres and the peaks of it remaining awash at high water so it is usually visible.


The anchoring area with Great Hogus and Little Hogus exposed
Image: Kathryn


Haven location The anchorage lies in 2 - 3 metres between the Great Hogus Reef and the western pierhead. A firm sandy bottom provides excellent holding. Anchor clear of the obstruction that lies about 100 metres out from the pier wall and about three-quarters of the way along its length.


The entrance to the harbour
Image: Kathryn


The harbour will be accessible to most average draught boats from half tide onward. Depths shelve gradually to about 100 metres west of the pierhead after which it becomes the same as at the entrance, 4.8 metres of water at high-water springs and 3.6 metres at neaps. Keep off the pierheads, and clear of the ferry boats when passing in. The ferries tend to come alongside on the east side of the harbour mouth which has the harbour's deepest water.


The west wall with its ample ladders
Image: Kathryn


Come alongside the ladders on the western wall and dry out on hard sand or as directed by the harbourmaster. Make certain to use adequate fenders as the harbour is subject to a fore-and-aft surge that tends to roll fenders up and exposing the topsides to its rough granite wall.


Why visit here?
St. Michael's Mount, the most prominent object for many miles out to sea, was believed to be the original Marazion, from the Hebrew, 'marath-aiyin' meaning 'the landmark'. If it was, it changed in 495AD when fishermen claimed to have seen an apparition of the Archangel St Michael, the patron saint of fishermen, standing high on a rocky ledge on the western side of the Mount. The legend brought with it the name along with pilgrims, monks and people of faith to pray, to praise and to celebrate.


Saint Michael's Mount today at dusk
Image: Public Domain


Its name in Cornish, however, remained Karrek Loos yn Koos, the 'grey rock in the wood' which appears very odd considering its present appearance. But not so in prehistoric times. Then the Mount was indeed a sharp hill surrounded by forest until the grounds at its feet were covered in an inundation almost four millennia ago. At that time the land extended nearly six miles south of the Mount and to a line from Mousehole to Cudden Point. Today, when gales strip away the sands of the seabed during low tides, fragments of its hazel woods forest still appear from time to time. Radiocarbon dating of these has established that the submerging took place at about 1700 BC. So it would appear that the Cornish name may represent an authentic folk memory of a time before Mount's Bay was flooded.


Saint Michael's Mount as painted by William Anslow Thornley James in the
19th-century

Image: Public Domain


Rising so abruptly and beautifully from either a forest or the sea, Saint Michael’s Mount would always have been a focus for human activity. Its possession would not only have conferred the greatest of local prestige but would have provided its holder with a virtually impregnable stronghold, particularly so after the sea had replaced forest. A leaf-shaped flint arrowhead, which was found within a shallow pit on the lower eastern slope, now part of the modern gardens, has been dated back to Neolithic times, c. 4000 to 2500 BCE years. Other pieces of flint are believed to have come from the Mesolithic period, c. 8000 to 3500 BCE, where it is expected the mount supported either a seasonal or short-term camp for these people.

Saint Michael's Mount as painted by James Webb in the 1890s
Image: Public Domain


Saint Michael's Mount is believed to have been a trading post from the earliest times, becoming an important port by the Iron Age. The mount is one of several candidates for the island of 'Ictis', or 'Iktin', wherein the fourth century BC Greek traders settled and dispatched Cornish tin to the Mediterranean. Diodorus Siculus, a Sicilian-Greek historian, writing in his Bibliotheca historica during the very early years of the first century B.C. gives an account of the island. In it, he described how the inhabitants of Belerion, thought to be Land’s End, went about tin streaming and the way that the early tin streamers used wagons to carry the hard-won minerals across to the island of Ictis. The text also described the principal feature of the trading station. That it was an agreed and distinctive location separate from the worlds of both sets of traders, tin producers and buyers, a neutral place, a port of trade. A place that the early tin streamers used wagons to bring the tin to, which in the case of the Mount would have avoided the treacherous journey around Land's End or indeed the Lizard. That these waggons would cross to the island of Ictis, during the ebb of the tide, when the intervening space is left dry, to trade with the waiting merchants. All present a strong case that it was probably Saint Michael's Mount that was the tin trading centre.


Victorian Postcard of Saint Michael's Mount
Image: Michael Harpur


The finding of a Roman coin of Tetricus I, AD 270-273, in the harbour in the early 20th-century could be evidence for the Mount continuing as a trading station from the days of Ictis into the Roman period. It impressive shape, its defensibility and its strategic location have been used to suggest the possibility that it was a post-Roman 'citadel' similar to Tintagel. It is likely that secular occupation continued throughout the early medieval period, possibly associated with an early Christian centre.


The impressive castle on the Mount
Image: Public Domain


Throughout the later Middle Ages, Saint Michael's Mount was seen as a Cornish counterpart of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. Although the French site is more significant, 247 acres as opposed to 57, the two have a lot in common. Both are conical-shaped islands close to the mainland and originally being inaccessible at high tide. This made them easily defensible, and both have a lot of military history to them. Both locations became religious sites dedicated to the Archangel Michael, and it is believed that both of the religious communities were originally founded by monks from Ireland. Finally, they were both home to a monastic community at the time of the Norman conquest, and it was this invasion that would soon link them closely together.


The gardens on Saint Michael's Mount
Image: Public Domain


The Abbey of Saint-Michel supported William’s claim to the English throne, and after the conquest, Saint Michael’s Mount was given to them as a reward. This was most likely by Count Robert of Mortain, William’s half-brother, who fought at Hastings under a banner bearing an image of St Michael. He was rewarded with huge landholdings in England, including most of Cornwall when he has bestowed the title 'Earl of Cornwall'. Robert granted Saint Michaels Mount to the Norman Abbey of Mont Saint Michael. By 1135 the French Abbot Bernard le Bec had built a Benedictine monastery modelled on its French counterpart, and the two houses prospered as places of pilgrimage. The target of the Saint Micheal's Mount pilgrimages would be Kader Migell, a difficult to reach stone seat that the saint was reputed to have left there. Sitting on the chair is the traditional end of the pilgrimage, and four miracles were said to have occurred here during 1262 and 1263 which only added to the religious magnetism that drew pilgrims from far and wide.


Mount Saint Michael's small harbour
Image: Stephen Colebourne


But being such a significant landmark meant it was never entirely going to be a place of peace and prayer. While King Richard I was on a Crusade in the Holy Land, the Mount was seized and held as a fortress by a group of his brother John's supporters. The buildings later returned to their monastic use, and by the early 14th-century, the harbour had been established. The Mount was garrisoned during the wars against France, and in 1414 Henry V appropriated the Mount as an alien priory. It was used as fortresses in the Wars of the Roses and the Cornish Rebellion against Edward VI. In the late 15th-century, it was besieged while in the hands of the Earl of Oxford and, in 1497, Perkin Warbeck, pretender to the English throne, refortified the Mount. The monastery was finally dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539 during the Reformation.


Boats in the harbour with the island ferries called 'hobblers' on moorings
The fender pattern to deal with the fore-and-aft surge

Image: Stephen Colebourne



It was here that the first beacon was to be lit warning of the arrival of the Spanish Armada and the Mount was garrisoned during the wars against France. The last occasion that the mount was used in a military role was in 1646 during the English Civil War. The Royalists then held the Mount for four years, and it provided an ideal place for the import and stockpiling of arms and ammunition brought in from France. But by then the technology of war had moved on and the military significance of the Mount had long since dissipated. This was accurately summed up by the Parliamentarian John Taylor's derisive observation after the uninspiring Royalist surrender in 1646... it was "not worth the taking or keeping".


Walking across the stone-paved causeway at low water
Image: Fuzzypiggy via ASA 4.0


The Mount was bought by Sir John St Aubyn during the 1660s, the mount's last military commander, and since that time it has had a peaceful existence. In 1727 the small harbour was rebuilt and extended and greatly improved in the middle of that century. By the early 1800's it was full of boats loading cargoes of copper, tin and cured fish that unloading timber from Scandinavia, coal and salt. This activity supported a population of about 300 who lived in 50 houses on the island. The entrance was enlarged in 1823 to accommodate vessels up to 500 tons, and during the early 19th century the island maintained a population of 200 people supported by several schools and a chapel.


A ferry or 'Hobbler' at high water
Image: Michael Harpur


In 1964 it was transferred to the National Trust. Since then the Aubyn family and the National Trust have preserved the island and its buildings for the nation. The north side of the island is still home to around 30 people who live in the cottages overlooking the harbour with at least one person from each household working on the island in the gardens, the house or on the water.


An anchorage with the most spectacular vista
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating point of view, Saint Michael's Mount could never be described as a great berth, either outside or inside its harbour. However, this is one of the most famous of Cornwall's landmarks, often described as the jewel in its crown, and it provides an awe-inspiring location to haul up. Those who land here will have a complete family day out enjoying its fascinating history, that is steeped in both legend and folklore, and it has a spectacular castle, complete with gardens to explore. The Mount has something for everyone.


What facilities are available?
Water is available from the harbourmaster and the National Trust operate a restaurant, cafe and gift shop by the harbour. Most normal provisions including a post office and several pubs can be found at Marazion.


With thanks to:
eOceanic


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Please zoom out to see the 'initial fix' for this location.
The above plots are not precise and indicative only.






Aerial views of Saint Michael's Mount




Historic overview


About Saint Michael's Mount

St. Michael's Mount, the most prominent object for many miles out to sea, was believed to be the original Marazion, from the Hebrew, 'marath-aiyin' meaning 'the landmark'. If it was, it changed in 495AD when fishermen claimed to have seen an apparition of the Archangel St Michael, the patron saint of fishermen, standing high on a rocky ledge on the western side of the Mount. The legend brought with it the name along with pilgrims, monks and people of faith to pray, to praise and to celebrate.


Saint Michael's Mount today at dusk
Image: Public Domain


Its name in Cornish, however, remained Karrek Loos yn Koos, the 'grey rock in the wood' which appears very odd considering its present appearance. But not so in prehistoric times. Then the Mount was indeed a sharp hill surrounded by forest until the grounds at its feet were covered in an inundation almost four millennia ago. At that time the land extended nearly six miles south of the Mount and to a line from Mousehole to Cudden Point. Today, when gales strip away the sands of the seabed during low tides, fragments of its hazel woods forest still appear from time to time. Radiocarbon dating of these has established that the submerging took place at about 1700 BC. So it would appear that the Cornish name may represent an authentic folk memory of a time before Mount's Bay was flooded.


Saint Michael's Mount as painted by William Anslow Thornley James in the
19th-century

Image: Public Domain


Rising so abruptly and beautifully from either a forest or the sea, Saint Michael’s Mount would always have been a focus for human activity. Its possession would not only have conferred the greatest of local prestige but would have provided its holder with a virtually impregnable stronghold, particularly so after the sea had replaced forest. A leaf-shaped flint arrowhead, which was found within a shallow pit on the lower eastern slope, now part of the modern gardens, has been dated back to Neolithic times, c. 4000 to 2500 BCE years. Other pieces of flint are believed to have come from the Mesolithic period, c. 8000 to 3500 BCE, where it is expected the mount supported either a seasonal or short-term camp for these people.

Saint Michael's Mount as painted by James Webb in the 1890s
Image: Public Domain


Saint Michael's Mount is believed to have been a trading post from the earliest times, becoming an important port by the Iron Age. The mount is one of several candidates for the island of 'Ictis', or 'Iktin', wherein the fourth century BC Greek traders settled and dispatched Cornish tin to the Mediterranean. Diodorus Siculus, a Sicilian-Greek historian, writing in his Bibliotheca historica during the very early years of the first century B.C. gives an account of the island. In it, he described how the inhabitants of Belerion, thought to be Land’s End, went about tin streaming and the way that the early tin streamers used wagons to carry the hard-won minerals across to the island of Ictis. The text also described the principal feature of the trading station. That it was an agreed and distinctive location separate from the worlds of both sets of traders, tin producers and buyers, a neutral place, a port of trade. A place that the early tin streamers used wagons to bring the tin to, which in the case of the Mount would have avoided the treacherous journey around Land's End or indeed the Lizard. That these waggons would cross to the island of Ictis, during the ebb of the tide, when the intervening space is left dry, to trade with the waiting merchants. All present a strong case that it was probably Saint Michael's Mount that was the tin trading centre.


Victorian Postcard of Saint Michael's Mount
Image: Michael Harpur


The finding of a Roman coin of Tetricus I, AD 270-273, in the harbour in the early 20th-century could be evidence for the Mount continuing as a trading station from the days of Ictis into the Roman period. It impressive shape, its defensibility and its strategic location have been used to suggest the possibility that it was a post-Roman 'citadel' similar to Tintagel. It is likely that secular occupation continued throughout the early medieval period, possibly associated with an early Christian centre.


The impressive castle on the Mount
Image: Public Domain


Throughout the later Middle Ages, Saint Michael's Mount was seen as a Cornish counterpart of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. Although the French site is more significant, 247 acres as opposed to 57, the two have a lot in common. Both are conical-shaped islands close to the mainland and originally being inaccessible at high tide. This made them easily defensible, and both have a lot of military history to them. Both locations became religious sites dedicated to the Archangel Michael, and it is believed that both of the religious communities were originally founded by monks from Ireland. Finally, they were both home to a monastic community at the time of the Norman conquest, and it was this invasion that would soon link them closely together.


The gardens on Saint Michael's Mount
Image: Public Domain


The Abbey of Saint-Michel supported William’s claim to the English throne, and after the conquest, Saint Michael’s Mount was given to them as a reward. This was most likely by Count Robert of Mortain, William’s half-brother, who fought at Hastings under a banner bearing an image of St Michael. He was rewarded with huge landholdings in England, including most of Cornwall when he has bestowed the title 'Earl of Cornwall'. Robert granted Saint Michaels Mount to the Norman Abbey of Mont Saint Michael. By 1135 the French Abbot Bernard le Bec had built a Benedictine monastery modelled on its French counterpart, and the two houses prospered as places of pilgrimage. The target of the Saint Micheal's Mount pilgrimages would be Kader Migell, a difficult to reach stone seat that the saint was reputed to have left there. Sitting on the chair is the traditional end of the pilgrimage, and four miracles were said to have occurred here during 1262 and 1263 which only added to the religious magnetism that drew pilgrims from far and wide.


Mount Saint Michael's small harbour
Image: Stephen Colebourne


But being such a significant landmark meant it was never entirely going to be a place of peace and prayer. While King Richard I was on a Crusade in the Holy Land, the Mount was seized and held as a fortress by a group of his brother John's supporters. The buildings later returned to their monastic use, and by the early 14th-century, the harbour had been established. The Mount was garrisoned during the wars against France, and in 1414 Henry V appropriated the Mount as an alien priory. It was used as fortresses in the Wars of the Roses and the Cornish Rebellion against Edward VI. In the late 15th-century, it was besieged while in the hands of the Earl of Oxford and, in 1497, Perkin Warbeck, pretender to the English throne, refortified the Mount. The monastery was finally dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539 during the Reformation.


Boats in the harbour with the island ferries called 'hobblers' on moorings
The fender pattern to deal with the fore-and-aft surge

Image: Stephen Colebourne



It was here that the first beacon was to be lit warning of the arrival of the Spanish Armada and the Mount was garrisoned during the wars against France. The last occasion that the mount was used in a military role was in 1646 during the English Civil War. The Royalists then held the Mount for four years, and it provided an ideal place for the import and stockpiling of arms and ammunition brought in from France. But by then the technology of war had moved on and the military significance of the Mount had long since dissipated. This was accurately summed up by the Parliamentarian John Taylor's derisive observation after the uninspiring Royalist surrender in 1646... it was "not worth the taking or keeping".


Walking across the stone-paved causeway at low water
Image: Fuzzypiggy via ASA 4.0


The Mount was bought by Sir John St Aubyn during the 1660s, the mount's last military commander, and since that time it has had a peaceful existence. In 1727 the small harbour was rebuilt and extended and greatly improved in the middle of that century. By the early 1800's it was full of boats loading cargoes of copper, tin and cured fish that unloading timber from Scandinavia, coal and salt. This activity supported a population of about 300 who lived in 50 houses on the island. The entrance was enlarged in 1823 to accommodate vessels up to 500 tons, and during the early 19th century the island maintained a population of 200 people supported by several schools and a chapel.


A ferry or 'Hobbler' at high water
Image: Michael Harpur


In 1964 it was transferred to the National Trust. Since then the Aubyn family and the National Trust have preserved the island and its buildings for the nation. The north side of the island is still home to around 30 people who live in the cottages overlooking the harbour with at least one person from each household working on the island in the gardens, the house or on the water.


An anchorage with the most spectacular vista
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating point of view, Saint Michael's Mount could never be described as a great berth, either outside or inside its harbour. However, this is one of the most famous of Cornwall's landmarks, often described as the jewel in its crown, and it provides an awe-inspiring location to haul up. Those who land here will have a complete family day out enjoying its fascinating history, that is steeped in both legend and folklore, and it has a spectacular castle, complete with gardens to explore. The Mount has something for everyone.

Other options in this area


Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Alternatively here are the ten nearest havens available in picture view:
Coastal clockwise:
Penzance Harbour - 1.2 miles W
Newlyn - 1.7 miles WSW
Mousehole - 2 miles SW
Bude Haven - 34.3 miles NE
Ramsgate - 168.6 miles ENE
Coastal anti-clockwise:
Porthleven Harbour - 4.1 miles ESE
Mullion Cove & Porth Mellin - 6.5 miles SE
Kynance Cove - 8.1 miles SE
Cadgwith - 8.7 miles SE
Coverack - 9.9 miles ESE

Navigational pictures


These additional images feature in the 'How to get in' section of our detailed view for Saint Michael's Mount.










































Aerial views of Saint Michael's Mount




Historic overview



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