The house on St Michaelʼs Mount is a magical topsy-turvey place. One minute your standing on the rocks at the top of the island, then you take a few paces and find your on the roof of a three-story building, looking down on gardens that, in turn, plunge to the sea way below. Check the National Trustʼs website for opening times etc.
In turn, a priory, a castle, and a stately home, the island has been in the St Aubyn family since 1659*.
Back in 2003, we were fortunate enough to come across the then Lord St Levan (St Aubyn is the family name) showing some personal guests round the church, and he gave us all a demonstration of the bell ringing machinery.
His Lordship (who died in 2013) was then in his eighties, and the illusion that one was in the presence of some elemental spirit, possibly J R R Tolkienʼs Tom Bombadil, was quite overwhelming.
A magical place indeed.
About half-way up the main path is a sign pointing out a vaguely heart-shaped cobblestone. This, apparently, is the heart of a Cornish Giant. Like all good giants, he liked nothing better than to go down to the sea and hurl rocks around (presumably he thought this would impress the kids). This is one explanation for the otherwise incongruous position of St Michaelʼs Mount.
However, about a metre further down the path there is another cobblestone that had my teenage daughters in fits of giggles. For some reason the National Trust choose not to point this one out.
* In 1954 Lord St Levan gave St Michaelʼs Mount to the National Trust, but it is still the family home.
At the time of my visit (2003), St Michaelʼs Mount Gardens were only open on weekdays in April and May, and on Thursdays and Fridays from June to October. Check with the National Trustʼs site for up-to-date information.
Do, however, try to get to the island on a day that they are open, if at all possible. Not only are the gardens magnificent, terraces of sub-tropical plants hanging precariously to the side of the island, it also gives one a chance to see the house from the southern side.
St Michaelʼs Mount was an important tin port in Roman times. Now it is home to a few inshore fishermen and, of course, the string of little boats that provide the ferry service when the tide covers the causeway. It is effectively Marazionʼs Harbour, as to this day there is no one satisfactory landing point even for the ferries which use a variety of different landing stages depending on the tide.
It always seems more satisfactory to me, if you can arrange things so that you take the ferry to the island and walk back.
The village is owned by the National Trust and has a Gift Shop, Restaurant and Cafe, all with the usual snooty Nat Trust service. Check the National Trustʼs website for opening times etc.