The Terrace Gardens at St Michael’s Mount adorn the steep granite slopes on the south-eastern side of the island. Today the gardens attract 65 thousand visitors a year from April to September – the number of days they’re open being restricted to safeguard them from too much erosion. The gardens are carefully and lovingly tended by the head gardener, Lottie Allen and her team of three.
To many visitors, it may seem strange that these beautiful gardens exist at all in such a location. The steep granite cliffs, with the sea thrashing against the shore beneath and the brisk, salty winds and harsher gales – make it an unlikely place for any type of garden. Yet that is far from the truth. Gardens cover 12 of the island’s 21 acres.
The waters of the Gulf Stream moderate the climate so that frosts are rare and the granite rocks of the cliffs act like a great radiator, absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night:
This creates a micro climate in which a variety of plants flourish. Abundant blooms and exotic plants have thrived here since 1780: aloes, agapanthus, puya, agave, rosemary, cornilla and lavender – amongst a whole host of others – fill the gardens with texture, shape and colour. Winding paths and stone steps lead visitors on a wonderful journey of exploration along which cameras continuously click. As did ours.
So how did these unusual gardens come about?
As I mentioned in Part 1 of this post yesterday, the castle has been owned by the St Aubyn family since 1659. It is thought that, in 1780, the four Misses St Aubyn of that time initiated the building of the Walled Garden, a delightful and relatively sheltered space for the family to enjoy. Today it is positioned between the East and West Terraces, which were created during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. The gardens as we see them today were designed in 1987 by Michael Paul Harvey along with Lord St Levan, who died in 2013. (Lord Levan was grandfather to the current castle resident, James St Aubyn.) The development of the gardens are still under the guidance of Michael Paul Harvey.
These are a few more of the dozens of photos we took that day.
Naturally, all visitors are advised regarding the safety aspects of visiting the gardens. As it says on the leaflet, ‘A guide to the Gardens‘:
There are steep drops from the lawns down to the rocks below as well as significant drops within the garden. The paths and steps are steep, rocky and uneven and in some places there are no handrails…. Sensible footwear is essential…. Please see that children are supervised at all times… Please do not handle the plants or pick the flowers as some may be hazardous to health… Dogs are not allowed in the garden… People with limited mobility or significant health problems will find the terrain challenging…
Much of that information may seem like common sense to most people, but I think the warnings are excellent and an important reminder to those about to embark on a walk round these wonderful gardens.
There is so much more I could have said about Saint Michael’s Mount, as even two posts haven’t really done it justice. All I can say is that we enjoyed our visit immensely and learned a lot about this lovely isle.