Mont Saint Michel – Normandy
Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel is an awe inspiring sight and it’s hardly surprising that it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in France.
Located in the Manche department of Normandy near to the Brittany border, Mont Saint Michel can be seen from many miles away. We recently visited Mont Saint Michel whilst staying at Domaine des Ormes and the view as you approach is spectacular.
Mont Saint Michel is much more that what most people imagine! Many people expect to see just a church on an island when in fact, behind the fortified walls and ramparts you’ll discover a medieval city containing a myriad of narrow medieval streets, filled with many shops and historical medieval buildings and of course sat high on top of this granite rock is the famous abbey.
The history of Mont Saint Michel is quite checkered having been used as a defensive position as far back as the 6th and 7th centuries. The story goes that in around 708AD the bishop of Avranches, Saint Aubert had a vision of the Archangel Michael who convinced him to build a church on the island. Eventually in 709AD he did so and the small chapel was dedicated to Saint Michael.
Over the following centuries Mont Saint Michel became more powerful and additions were added to the church to finally create the abbey, city and walls to protect it from invaders.
Mont Saint Michel has been a place for pilgrims to travel to ever since and the island receives in excess of 1 million visitors each and every year.
During the French Revolution, Mont Saint Michel became less popular and eventually became a prison until in 1864 it was classified as a historical monument. In the subsequent years a range of renovations took place and in the 1970’s Mont Saint Michel was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The bay in which Mont Saint Michel sits is just as impressive a sight as the island itself. The bay has one of the largest tidal ranges in Europe and the sea comes in and out extremely quickly. The surrounding landscape is home to a variety of animals and plant life and is especially popular with bird spotters due to the number of ducks, herons, gulls, oystercatchers, curlews, cormorants and swallows that can be found nearby.
The mud flats around the island can be walked upon, however we’d suggest that you do this only with the assistance of a guide. Guided walks are quite frequent and we saw many groups heading off onto the mud but please do take care.
The visitors centre can be found near the car park which is both large and convenient. From here you can either walk, which will take a reasonably long time, catch a ride on a horse and cart or use the free bus service which takes only a few minutes. One thing to bear in mind however is that on returning from the island you must pay for your parking before returning to your car.
Ticket machines can be found at the rear of the visitors centre near the car park.
We had a fantastic time visiting Mont Saint Michel but if you’d like to find out more about Domaine des Ormes or the other places we visited whilst staying there please take a look at our Domaine des Ormes article.