St. Michael’s Mount, Cornwall

 

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We’ve been wanting to go to this place for quite some time.

But, for us anyway, it takes a bit more planning than your average day out. St. Michael’s Mount is technically an island, linked to the mainland by a pedestrian causeway only accessible at low tide. And therein lies the rub. Longstanding readers may recall that water and me are not the best of chums and even a short trip in a boat is a non starter.

Thusly, a number of factors come into play before we can go:

1. St Michael’s Mount has to be open; it isn’t every day.

2. The tide has to be playing ball. There’s only a 4 1/2 hour window of opportunity to walk out to the island, visit the castle and its gardens and return back down the causeway before the sea swamps it again. It needs an undertaking from Mike that on no circumstances will he dilly dally in careful consideration of a suit of armour or some other ancient artefact if the water is threatening to cut us off. This would necessitate a tiresome wait for the next low tide and Burncoose Nursery is just up the road obviously that would mean getting home very late.

3. Ideally it should be a week day; less crowded.

4. The weather needs to be half way decent.

 

And yesterday all the planets were in alignment.

 
 

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It started out with an early lunch at a rather pleasant restaurant overlooking the causeway. A great place to keep an eye on the tide and await the right moment..

 
 

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The first brave souls venture out. But they are definitely still paddling out in the middle there and besides, I still have wine left.

 
 

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The castle and chapel have been the home of the St Aubyn family since approximately 1650. The earliest buildings, on the summit, date to the 12th century, with much rebuilding from 1860 to 1900 to give the island its current form. In its heyday, the Mount’s harbour side village was home to over 300 islanders and by 1811 there were 53 houses, 4 streets, 3 schools and 3 public houses – the last one, the St Aubyn Arms, closing in 1902. The harbour was a bustling hive of activity, where ships set sail with Cornish tin and traders made their fortunes. Today it is managed by the National Trust with, aside from the family, just 30 people living and working on the island (edited from the National Trust Guide and Wikipedia). 

 

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the weather would have been glorious had it not been for the wind. It was almost strong enough to blow a person over, not least at the very top of the island close to the castle. Worth it though, for the view…

 
 

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The village on the far side is Marazion

 
 

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The view down from the top of the castle walls

 

After spending an afternoon here I wonder if I should rename my own Precipitous Bank. St Michael’s Mount is positively vertiginous.. The gardeners literally abseil to tend the steepest parts of the rock face.

 
 

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This plant was everywhere, seemingly clinging on to bare rock. I should have got a closer shot, it’s some sort of succulent.

 
 

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So many tender plants that I’ve never encountered before, the climate here is truly sub tropical. That’s not to say it’s easy. The far south west coast of England is first in line for many an Atlantic storm.

 
 

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In a few places low walls provide some protection from the salt laden spray off the sea. Here ‘hidden’ gardens thrive, tranquil spots that provide a welcome respite from the wind, even on a sunny day in June!

 
 

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Agaves, aloes, aeoniums and many I wouldn’t even hazard a guess at: almost every available nook and cranny filled with plants

 
 

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Echium pininana

 

I bought an echium. It was only ever going to be on the basis that I (definitely not he) carried it back across the causeway and thankfully it was only a baby. Even so, cradling it to my bosom to protect it from the wind was no mean feat. I think we both made it unscathed. Yes, it is tender. Whether it will now like our inland valley garden is another matter again. But if you can’t indulge in a little bit of adventure for under a fiver then when can you.

 
 

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The harbour

 
 

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The causeway at low tide.

 

They are repairing storm damage, hence the diggers. Part of the stone work has been completely taken up. I wonder if they’ve ever got the JCB stuck out there? To recover from our my own epic battle with the echium we returned to the watering hole where ‘our’ table was still free and watched the last of the tourists wend their way back.

 
 

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A marvellous day

 
 

But wait….

Did I mention Burncoose?

 
 

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🙂 🙂 🙂

 
 
 
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2017-10-24T19:32:44+00:00 June 9th, 2015|Tags: |

82 Comments

  1. Christina June 9, 2015 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    Dear Jessica, it sounds like indeed that you had a marvelous day! St. Michael’s Mount is an incredible beautiful place. The castle is very stunning by itself but the gardens, they are incredible. To plant and maintain these gardens must be a heck of a job, though. It amazes me to see that many of the plants growing there would be happily thriving in San Diego inland, where I live, as well. Thanks for sharing your day trip with us.
    Congratulations on your new plant purchases. Hope you tell us a little more about your new beauties soon! I am curious to see where they will go in your garden…
    Warm regards,
    Christina

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 7:42 pm - Reply

      It is a unique microclimate Christina. The rock absorbs the heat of the sun and releases it back to the plants like a giant radiator. And being on the coast there is very little frost.

  2. pbmgarden June 9, 2015 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    This sounds like so much fun. Glad the planets aligned so you could get there.

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 7:43 pm - Reply

      It’s a good place to visit, I’m sure we’ll go again!

  3. Pauline June 9, 2015 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    What a lovely day you had! I’ve always wanted to cross to the Mount but time has always been against us. maybe one day? The planting round the island is amazing, so different from what we grow in our gardens. I hope you are successful with your Echium, I look forwards to photos of it in the future! Your other purchases look interesting, what is the plant on the right with the large leaves?

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 7:46 pm - Reply

      That’s the echium. Whippy stem, totally useless trying to carry it in the wind! I read that it’s a biennial so I’m wondering whether to just put it in a larger pot this year, overwinter it in the greenhouse and plant it out next Spring. More research needed I think.

  4. countrysidetales June 9, 2015 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    Perfect. Glorious. I must go too.

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 7:49 pm - Reply

      You should. We saw a jellyfish, huge one. Not very photogenic though!

  5. Mark and Gaz June 9, 2015 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    It’s up there as one of our top favourite places. I so miss it now after seeing your pics. And we still tinker on the idea of living in Marazion in the future.

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      I’d be tempted too. I dream of gardening in a frost free place!

  6. Jacqueline June 9, 2015 at 6:47 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful part of our coastline Jessica { it’s years since I went there } and, the gardens are lovely. That beautiful purple carpet reminds me of the poppy installation at the Tower of London.
    …. and, about an hour ago, I had a delivery from none other than Burncoose nursery !!!!! They were probably packing my plants when you were buying yours !!
    ….and, is that little pink plant in the front a geranium ? We have so much of it in our garden that I could have given you LOADS of it !!!!!! XXXX

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 7:54 pm - Reply

      I was spoilt for choice at Burncoose, but also very short on time much to Mike’s relief. However, I did bring away the mail order catalogue.. 🙂

  7. Rosemary June 9, 2015 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    I have failed three times with Echium pininana, she definitely does not like the Cotswolds.
    I have only been to St Michael’s Mount once and within weeks happened to visit the French version, Le Mont Saint-Michel.
    I actually prefer ours, much quieter, less crowded, and of course without the extra trappings of shops, restaurants etc.
    Loved your photos, especially those with the rocks draped in that ‘pink stuff’.

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 7:57 pm - Reply

      I’ve not yet seen Mont Saint-Michel. Mike has… ironically getting an extra day’s holiday having missed his ferry dropping me off at CDG airport for my plane home!

  8. Dorothy @ The Nature of Things June 9, 2015 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    Such wonderful pictures and it certainly does sound as though you had a glorious day of it. The gardens there look truly spectacular.

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 8:03 pm - Reply

      The gardens make my Precipitous Bank look very tame in comparison. But I presume they have less trouble with mice!

  9. Sam June 9, 2015 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    What an amazing garden at St Michael’s Mount! Lovely to see it via your photos, thank you. Good luck with the Echium.

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 8:05 pm - Reply

      I’m not counting any Echium chickens, but it will be fun to have a go. You might have a better chance than me!

  10. frayed at the edge June 9, 2015 at 9:53 pm - Reply

    Stunning photos!! Another place to put on my to-visit list …….

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 8:06 pm - Reply

      You would enjoy it I think, just don’t look over the castle wall at the top..

  11. AnnetteM June 9, 2015 at 10:10 pm - Reply

    That sounds a lovely day out. The gardens look amazing and not British as all. I have been to the French version but sadly not the British one. I hope I get the chance one day.

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 8:08 pm - Reply

      I’ve always wanted to go to Tresco, which I imagine is similar in terms of the exotic plants they can grow. Sadly I can’t now, there used to be a helicopter over there but now it’s only accessible by boat 🙁

  12. Amy at love made my home June 9, 2015 at 10:51 pm - Reply

    We loved our visit to St Michaels Mount in April, I have yet to write about it, but your lovely post has reminded me just how much I enjoyed my visit and that I must get on and write about out time there. I loved seeing your pictures of the gardens! Hope that your echium and the other plants all do really well! xx

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 8:11 pm - Reply

      I hope you had good weather too. The beautiful blue sky and colours in the sea made it look so exotic.

  13. jenhumm116 June 9, 2015 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    Stunning photos of an extraordinary place. Now when will the planets align for me?

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 8:18 pm - Reply

      We’d been waiting awhile.. the gardens are quite often closed, especially after June, and that was the highlight for me. Apparently it is to restrict the wear and tear, the pathways are quite narrow and rocky in places.

  14. CherryPie June 9, 2015 at 10:58 pm - Reply

    It looks like a really interesting place to visit and your photos are stunning!

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 8:20 pm - Reply

      Thanks Cherie.. it’s time you came down this way!

  15. mattb325 June 9, 2015 at 11:09 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful garden – so many drought-tolerant species crammed cheek-by-jowl make for wonderful scenes.

    I think that purple succulent is a Delosperma sp. ‘Lesotho Pink’ – otherwise known as the Hardy Ice Plant. I have been looking for it in nurseries here for ages for the drier parts of the sloping areas in my garden.
    If your slope is well drained, that could be one plant to hunt down: given adequate drainage it is hardy to about -30C, and of course is easily grown by piece, so you only need to keep one plant alive in a pot to get many….!

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 8:42 pm - Reply

      Thanks Matt. I put it in the google search and a picture of it at St Michael’s Mount came up, so I think you are right! Where it might look good here is on the terraces, tumbling over a wall. I’m on the case.

  16. Chloris June 9, 2015 at 11:13 pm - Reply

    A lovely post about a magical place. Great photos. And Burncoose, you lucky girl. Is that a Sanguisorba you bought?

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 8:44 pm - Reply

      It is. I’ve done OK with S. tanna, a much smaller one, so hopefully this will do a similar job for me on the bank.

  17. woolythymes June 10, 2015 at 12:42 am - Reply

    another outing i’m so glad you took me on!!! (wish I didn’t have to settle on it being a virtual outing!) What a great place….and those gardens! At the moment, I can’t seem to get the weeds out of mine, let alone plant interesting stuff like that!

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      I share your pain on the weeds. It is taking me an age to plant anything after all the showers we’ve had. An hour to clear the ground for every two minutes planting!

  18. Kris P June 10, 2015 at 1:40 am - Reply

    That looks like a perfectly wonderful way to spend a day. The lavender-pink succulent is possibly Delosperma cooperi, commonly called ice plant here, although Oscularia deltoides is similar in appearance, at least from a distance. As obsessive as I may be about gardening, I cannot imagine rappelling down rock to weed or plant.

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 8:57 pm - Reply

      I think Delosperma, having looked it up. For all the rain we have in the west country, this place looked really dry. Presumably the wind combined with the south facing slope. Xeric plants the way to go here too. I’d agree on the rappelling.. most of my sheer vertical bits I can reach from below!

  19. Amy June 10, 2015 at 3:11 am - Reply

    Definitely a place for steel-nerved gardeners 😉 Your shots are gorgeous, and the character of those plantings is marvelous – what a unique little patch of growing conditions! I hope to hear that the Echium thrives – perhaps I should dare try some…? What a lovely adventure…

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 8:59 pm - Reply

      We should both have an echium adventure Amy!

  20. Peter/Outlaw June 10, 2015 at 6:43 am - Reply

    What an amazing place! I’m glad the planets finally aligned for you and that you shared this incredible garden with us. A great tour and shopping at Burncoose in the same day sounds like heaven. Looks like you brought home some treasures!

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 9:02 pm - Reply

      I’m afraid I must be really far gone Peter, whenever we go anywhere I’m looking for nurseries nearby..

  21. CJ June 10, 2015 at 7:22 am - Reply

    It’s gorgeous there isn’t it. We stayed in Marazion a couple of years ago and visited St Michael’s Mount on the last day. The littlest boy dressed up as a pirate, complete with gold hoop earring, hook and sword and we went on the boat. In fact the picture is my laptop wallpaper. We had the most wonderful day there. I remember the little library room with its thick walls and little window looking straight out to sea and I thought it would be the most fantastic place to sit in a winter storm. You’ve brought back some happy memories. Glad you had a good visit too. CJ xx

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 9:06 pm - Reply

      I thought exactly the same as we walked through the door, I’d love to experience a full blown storm there. The walls are so thick, you’d feel so exposed and yet so safe at the same time. And I can just imagine the pirate! It must be even more of an adventure for a child.

  22. Sarah June 10, 2015 at 8:36 am - Reply

    Your photos are just wonderful. My very first visit was in June 1995 (!!!!) and I’ve got a favourite photo of my then 21-month old-son walking up the steep cobble path. We’ve made a few crossings over the years by boat and on foot and just a few weeks ago we were sitting outside having lunch at Tremenheere Sculpture Garden at Gulval overlooking Mount’s Bay and the castle. We’d been up to Chysauster that morning where on a clear day you can see both coasts. But I’ve clearly failed as a plantswoman Jessica, my only shopping was in Newlyn for fish!

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 9:08 pm - Reply

      Fish shopping in Newlyn is a very acceptable alternative Sarah!

  23. Rosie June 10, 2015 at 8:44 am - Reply

    You timed your visit perfectly, such a beautiful place:)

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 9:09 pm - Reply

      As it turned out, we did. The weather hasn’t been nearly so nice the last couple of days.

  24. Sue Garrett June 10, 2015 at 10:30 am - Reply

    Not a visit for when a gale force wind is blowing is it? is the purple plant a delosperma?

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      It felt like gale force that day.. I had trouble standing up at one point. Yep, I looked it up, delosperma. I wonder why I haven’t encountered it before.

  25. I do love St Michaels Mount but have only ever been in the spring. What a delight to view your summer photos. It really is gorgeous. I saw on a tv show the gardeners abseiling down to weed and tend plants – scary!

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 9:14 pm - Reply

      Very scary. And with the sea crashing on the rocks below…

  26. Linda P June 10, 2015 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    St. Michael’s Mount looks magical from afar and an amazing place close up with an unusual garden to admire. I’m glad to see that there are some areas where there are paths and you can stand and get closer to some planting. I went to the town by the causeway many years ago and did not visit the Mount, so I’m appreciating this post and beautiful photos.

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 9:17 pm - Reply

      Yes, you can get very close to the planting and it’s well worth the visit. We made good use of our NT membership that day.

  27. Sigrun June 10, 2015 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    Wow, wow, wow. What a lot of brilliant fotos! I have visited Marazion severel times, but I was’nt on St. Michaels mount. I must see it! It has the wow-factor. What a lot of plants I have never seen. And to sit and drink a glas of wine, looking at the mount!

    Sigrun

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 9:22 pm - Reply

      It was a perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine, especially before the main tourist season while it is still relatively quiet. All the more remarkable for being a day trip from home and not somewhere we’d had to travel half way round the world to see.

  28. Eleanor June 10, 2015 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    Lovely lovely post, one of my favourite places on earth, another is the nearby minack theatre which I would thoroughly recommend if you get down there again. I shall be visiting in August all being well. xx

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 9:41 pm - Reply

      You have given me food for thought with the Minack Theatre, especially having looked it up. Thanks Eleanor.

  29. Annie Cholewa June 10, 2015 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    I remember the excitement of that causeway from my childhood. I was always convinced we’d be cut off by the tide! What I don’t remember is that gorgeous garden, either it wasn’t there then, which seems unlikely, or I had no awareness of it as a kid, little philistine that I was!

    I’m glad to see that despite your problems afloat you have no trouble when confronted with a (small) sea of plants 😉

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      Seas of plants I can do!
      The gardens were designed in the 1870s…

  30. Anna June 10, 2015 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    What a fabulous place to visit and it looks as if the weather gods were most considerate too. A perfect way to round up the day too Jessica. I’ve bought plants online from Burncoose but would love to visit.

    • Jessica June 10, 2015 at 9:49 pm - Reply

      Burncoose is a good place to visit and I could have spent quite a while browsing the polytunnels. Shame we didn’t have that much time. Next time my planning will be better.

  31. Anne Holt June 10, 2015 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    What fabulous photos Jessica. We went there a couple of years ago. We’ve spent the last 35 years holidaying in Cornwall on the north coast and had never visited it before then. We didn’t go across but as my first grandaughter has been born down there we’ll be down there even more so hopefully will go back and get over to the island next time. If you end up in Penzance there is a caravan on the promenade that does the most amazing food. L Anne

    • Jessica June 11, 2015 at 8:42 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the tip Anne, I’m sure we’ll be back down that way. Lovely part of the world.

  32. Freda June 10, 2015 at 11:17 pm - Reply

    A magical place! Also at night illuminated (you can request this apparently!) Loved your photographs and that waterfall of lilac.

    • Jessica June 11, 2015 at 8:44 pm - Reply

      Now that you come to mention it, we were in Mousehole a few years back (just down the coast) and I do remember seeing the mount lit up.

  33. hoov June 10, 2015 at 11:37 pm - Reply

    I’ve actually been there, which is distinctive only because I’ve hardly been any where. Walked out but had to take a very small boat back–it was not my favorite part of the visit. A lovely place, thank you for the reminder of its loveliness.

    Enjoyed the photo of the Rusties admiring your new acquisitions.

    • hoov June 10, 2015 at 11:38 pm - Reply

      Sorry, forgot to say, the groundcover with pink flowers might be Drosanthemum floribundum.

      • Jessica June 11, 2015 at 8:49 pm - Reply

        I just googled that. It looks very similar too. Wish I’d taken a closer photograph now and be able to identify it. I’ll just have to go back and do it. (Sigh)

    • Jessica June 11, 2015 at 8:46 pm - Reply

      It is a very small boat, there is no way you would get me on it.
      The rusties are about to become even more so.. it is hurling it down with rain here tonight. Wish I could send you some.

  34. Beth @ PlantPostings June 11, 2015 at 3:24 am - Reply

    Ooooo, I want to go there! Thanks for sharing your amazing images and information!

    • Jessica June 11, 2015 at 8:51 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome Beth. We don’t get the time for many days out, so we make them good ones.

  35. Pats. June 12, 2015 at 8:15 am - Reply

    The quality of the light makes all the colours sparkle, doesn’t it. I’ve never been there, but it ‘s on the list! Sooo beautiful!

    • Jessica June 12, 2015 at 10:05 pm - Reply

      It certainly does. The sea was turquoise in places, throw in a few more palm trees and turn the thermostat up a bit and you could almost be in the Caribbean.

  36. Suffolk Pebbles June 12, 2015 at 10:05 am - Reply

    glorious images of a beautiful place (although I have yet to go there!). I always find that photos I take on a bright sunny day can appear too harsh, but yours are super-quality x

    • Jessica June 12, 2015 at 10:09 pm - Reply

      We’ve had that problem photographing plants in the garden. Quite often the colours are either wrong or just lost altogether. Softer light at either end of the day or under cloudy skies seems much better for flowers.

  37. Helen Johnstone June 13, 2015 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    We visited a few years back when we were staying near Truro but we went across on the boats which was fun. I didn’t know Burncoose was near or it could have become very expensive!

    • Jessica June 13, 2015 at 8:49 pm - Reply

      It’s about 10 mins off the A30 at Redruth, so a handy stop over on the way down south. Don’t follow sat nav in Redruth though, it sends you down the narrowest lanes which also happen to be bus routes. And the bus drivers don’t take prisoners.

  38. casa mariposa June 17, 2015 at 2:43 am - Reply

    What a super cool place! I must add it to my ever expanding list of places to go. 🙂

    • Jessica June 17, 2015 at 7:26 am - Reply

      Definitely!

  39. Tracey @ Mummyshire June 19, 2015 at 10:50 pm - Reply

    I’m amazed this place is in Cornwall, it looks stunning from the photos and in some instances almost tropical, although you did say it was windy!! I love discovering part’s of this country which are truly beautiful & this looks like one of those places. Although I have to confess I am on plant expert but I lose everything you purchase comes up blooming marvellous !!

    • Jessica June 20, 2015 at 7:44 am - Reply

      Hi Tracey and welcome to rusty duck!
      Living next door to Cornwall we visit often and I’d never done so before moving here. I was amazed at the colour of the sea and I agree, almost tropical (except for the temperature!). If you are ever down this way try St Ives too. The sea there is even more turquoise when the sun is shining.

  40. Izzie Anderton (@IzzieAnderton) June 23, 2015 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    I was lucky enough to visit St Michael’s Mount last year and we paddled across the causeway – not as bad as you might imagine. Sadly the gardens weren’t open, so I guess we’ll have to go again when they are.

    • Jessica June 23, 2015 at 4:18 pm - Reply

      Hi Izzie and welcome to rusty duck.
      It would be quite fun to paddle I should think. I was wondering how people managed it on the day we went.. part of the causeway was dug up! There were red bouys out there which must have been providing a warning. Definitely go back for the gardens if you can, they are quite something.

I'd love to hear from you..

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