One of the most spectacularly positioned gardens you could possibly find in the country is the one on a magical island in the sea and shares its home with a medieval castle. St Michael’s Mount in Marazion, Penzance (TR17 0HS) is the jewel in Cornwall’s crown; it has an ancient castle, a church and a remarkably exotic garden that swathes the island’s circumference. You will be truly amazed at the variety of plant life that survives and thrives on an island in the Atlantic Ocean that gets battered by gales and salty winds.
However, due to its position in the Gulf Stream, frosts are rare and the rock itself acts as a radiator – absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night, thus creating a micro climate that cultivates a cornucopia of colour. The really fun thing about St Michael’s Mount is that when the tide is in you have to take the little boat that ferries you out across the crystal-clear waters; with a magnificent and majestic castle rising out from the ocean in front of you and a perfect view across the bays of Penzance behind you, the gardens of St Michael’s Mount are well worth a visit.
St Michael’s Mount is as National Trust estate, open from Sunday-Friday (not open Saturdays) from 10.30am-5.00pm and prices for access to the gardens start from £4.00 for children and £8.00 for adults. NT members can of course get in free of charge. Dogs are welcome in the village and harbour areas of the island but cannot enter the castle or gardens.
Two further National Trust gardens in West Cornwall which are also most definitely worth seeing are Godolphin House and Estate (TR13 9RE), between Marazion and Helston, and Trengwainton Gardens (TR20 8RZ) near Penzance. As well as some superb grounds to explore, Godolphin also has a historic manor house to discover. Whilst you cannot visit the historic house that overlooks Trengwainton (it’s a private residence) it does have an outstanding tea room in the grounds…which you most certainly can and should!
Set right in the heart of St Ives is another castle garden. Though not technically a real castle, Tregenna Castle Hotel (TR26 2DE) features a sub-tropical walled garden and a water garden. Head gardener Bill Price and designer John Moreland are available to give guided tours by prior appointment and you can even finish your garden experience off with a delicious dinner in the castle’s restaurant.
Before we leave West Cornwall, don’t forget about Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens too. There you can combine the love of gardens, horticulture, art and food all in one indulgent outing!
If losing yourself in a garden is a central part of your holiday, then there are several inspiring and captivating gardens a little further up Cornwall that are worth travelling the distance for. You will no doubt have heard of the Eden Project, and if you haven’t already paid it a visit then this is definitely something you have to do.
The Eden Project really requires a blog all of its own, simply because of how much there is to see and do there. Located in an old China clay pit, the Eden Project is a man-made marvel that enables visitors to walk amongst the plants and trees that flourish in the worlds rainforest environments and the landscapes of the Mediterranean, South Africa, California and Western Australia. Boasting the largest indoor tropical rainforest in the world, thousands and thousands of varieties of plants, outdoor gardens, restaurants, sculptures, ice rink and England’s longest zip wire, the Eden Project will leave you feeling truly exhilarated.
If you’re looking for something a little more traditional and tranquil then you are spoiled for choice in Cornwall. Trelissick Gardens in Feock, near Truro offers a welcoming country house and gardens set in an estate with lovely woodland walks and spectacular maritime views. Being another National Trust property, members get in free – and a top tip is to combine a visit with a ferry trip from Falmouth or Truro. Trelissick has its very own pontoon with ferry stop!
Trebah Gardens (shown in main image) on the Helford River, near Falmouth is a sub-tropical paradise with a stunning coastal backdrop. Set in a Cornish valley, the gardens at Trebah are bursting with beautiful blooms to enjoy all year round. After a coffee in the dog friendly café, saunter down through the gardens until you reach the little beach at the bottom.
Right next door is to Trebah is the National Trust garden of Glendurgan. So members may prefer to make a beeline there instead. It’s quite similar to Trebah – in terms of size and relief – but with a small fishing village at the bottom.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan, in St Austell, is one of the most mysterious and thrilling estates in England. Rediscovered in 1991 after being lost and overgrown for decades, Heligan is a genuine secret garden. With a story that goes back as far as the 1200’s, an enchanting tale of loss and rediscovery and over 200 acres of Victorian Estate, the Lost Gardens of Heligan is a paradise for explorers, wildlife lovers and garden romantics. The full story of The Lost Gardens of Heligan can be found on their website www.heligan.com and is well worth a read.
These are but a few of the stunning gardens that are dotted around Cornwall; all are not only a joy to behold but also offer visitors a real education in floriculture and history.
To reserve your own small slice of the outside of course, you can always book your own St Ives holiday cottage with a garden.
Images on this page courtesy of Visit Cornwall, Matthew Jessop and Toby Strong.