St Michael’s Mount: 10 facts

We bring you 10 facts about St Michael’s Mount.SuperStock_4042-357AMA

1) St Michael’s Mount has been in the St Levan family since 1659. The permanent resident, Lord St Levan, has only recently inherited the title from his late uncle, who passed away in April, and had no children of his own. However, St Levan, whose family name is St Aubyn, has lived at St Michael’s Mount since 2003 and recalls summers and the occasional Christmas spent there as a child.

2) The Change House is the first building on the left as you arrive onto the island. You’d be forgiven for thinking its name was something to do with the tide changes – but in fact it is so called because it was formerly a changing room for bathers.

3) It was from the Mount that the Spanish Armada was first spotted in 1588, and the beacon lit here was the first of a chain started along the south coast to warn of the threatened invasion.

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The medieval church at the top of St Michael’s Mount © Alamy

4) A recent unearthing of Bronze Age artefacts on the island has cemented beliefs that it was a hub of trade during that period.

5) There are three pillboxes on the island, used as bunkers for soldiers in the Second World War. St Levan recalls as a child how his grandparents lamented the pillboxes, dismissing them as eyesores, but now their roofs are covered with a carpet of mossy grass.

6) Looking over the balustrades to the south, the drop is sheer but the view is spectacular, not only because of the rocks and sea, but also because of the subtropical gardens, which are designed to look glorious from above, too. Lord St Levan explains that the rocks release heat at nighttime, which means unexpected plants grow here – cactuses and other rare beauties sprout from the arid crags.

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The Blue Drawing Room © Alamy

7) Underneath the chapel there’s a little room accessed by a steep narrow staircase. It is more of a cell than a room – there are no windows and the walls, ceiling and floors are all stone. It was perhaps the domain of a hermit – a role that was, amazingly, much coveted by monks in the past.

8) The only way to access the island on foot is via the causeway, but when the tide is high the island’s residents must take boats. St Levan keeps a book of tide timings by his bed so he can prepare for the coming days and weeks.

9) The north side of the island is also home to around 30 people who live in cottages overlooking a harbour of small boats – with at least one person from each household working on the island in the gardens, the house or on the water.

10) When they were younger, Lord St Levan’s children were known to skateboard on the large flat roof of the Victorian castle.

St Michael’s Mount is open every day from 10.30am until 5pm, except Saturday, until 3 November. The gardens are open until 27 September. For admission fees follow the link.

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