Whilst staying in Normandy, we decided to visit Mont St Michel on a lovely sunny day towards the end of our holiday. Mont St. Michel is a medieval monastery (seriously, its well over a thousand years old) that was built upon an island where Normandy and Brittany meet. It’s simply awe-inspiring, a sort of fantasy like castle and it’s a great place to visit with kids.
As you’re driving towards Mont St Michel- it appears like a mirage across the fields and you almost can’t believe it exists! Elodie’s first thoughts went to Harry Potter whilst Orla thought it was Sleeping Beauty’s castle- it certainly looks like it’s a floating magical island.
As you approach, you realise it’s not actually floating when the tide is out- it’s surrounded by shallow water and quicksand. While the kids thought that being close to quicksand was pretty cool — you’ll be pleased to know that there’s a trusty bridge to get across it now.
If we were ever to visit again I’d do a guided walk through the tidal basin, we heard it’s important to stick with a guide, though, because the tides do change quickly. We saw groups doing this walk – shoes off, all muddy, trekking through the mud and shallow water – it looked like such fun! I’d also love to see Mont St. Michel at night. It’s magical during the day, but, I imagine, as the sun sets, it comes into it’s own and apparently, you can see bats! I don’t think our kids would have lasted to have stayed until the evening though!
We arrived around 1pm as we’d heard this was a good time to avoid crowds. We went out of season at Easter time (it was not the French school holiday yet) it was still busy but easy to get around but I’ve read that the crowds in the summer can make it feel pretty packed. You head for the car parks and then get a shuttle over the island. You can walk but we weren’t sure our little legs would manage that and the climbing!
We had a picnic lunch before we set off but there are lots of little hidey holes in the walls of the streets that would make a pretty fine place for a picnic!
The streets are lovely and quaint although a bit touristy too in some places, they are narrow and mostly uphill so our trusty carrier was a must for Archie (who is 20 months) and Mr M did a sterling job hiking him up to the top. Buggies are a complete no-no. The climb is manageable for little ones- Orla (aged 4) had no trouble at all getting to the top and all the kids loved finding the narrow, winding streets and enjoyed exploring where they would lead. I felt a little like I was in ‘Lord of the Rings’ at times- it has that feeling to it.
There is a little chapel before you get to the Abbey which is worth a visit for the gorgeous stained windows and to say a prayer with a candle. Thankfully, we’d remembered to explain this to Orla so she didn’t blow out people’s prayers- thinking is was some elaborate birthday!!
The Abbey itself is much larger than I had imagined and we enjoyed imagining the nuns and monks in solitude walking around the garden cloisters (it reminded me of the ‘How do you solve a problem like Maria’ scene in ‘Sound of Music’! Kids enjoyed the Abbey too because there are dark tunnels, turrets, battlements with great views and winding staircases. You can never quite see where any bit leads and so I think this was half of the fun for the kids- finding what was around the corner! Oh what an amazing game of hide and seek you could have at Mont St Michel!
The way down is a little more tricky than the climbing up to be honest- kids have a tendency to go a little too quick! Orla had a fall from running down from the Abbey- not advised!
Mont St Michel is a great exploring kind of day out- there is something for everyone- history, rock climbing, pretty scenery. If you should ever find yourself near Normandy- Mont St Michel is definitely worth a visit.