Spectacular U.K. Island Seeks Rugged Gardener

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For a couple of hours every day, you can walk a cobbled path to the island from the mainland. stocker1970/Shutterstock

Standing on the coast of Cornwall, it's impossible to miss St. Michael's Mount.

The island lies about a third of a mile off the U.K. coast, a jagged jewel of stone rising from the sea — and crowned not only with a medieval monastery but a castle fit for a fairytale princess.

But if you want to live on St. Michael's Mount, you may have to be as fit as a mountain goat.

Because the only way you could join the community of about 30 people living there would be as its head gardener. The good news is, according the St. Michael's Mount website, they're hiring. The bad news is that even the job listing warns that this kind of work has its ups and downs.

"Gardening on a rock in the middle of the sea isn't for the faint-hearted, nor is abseiling from the battlements of a castle," the listing reads. "But the Garden Team on St Michael's Mount take all this in their stride as well as the general terrain which would challenge the most agile mountain goat."

Afraid of Heights?

a winding path at St. Michael's Mount.
The job requires sure-footed and sturdy legs. Shelli Jensen/Shutterstock

Indeed, the island's dizzying heights are only compounded by its facilities — the village, monastery, fortress and castle perched at the very peak. From there, the new gardener would have to make a daily descent to minister to the exotic plants that lie below.

If you're horticulturally inclined, however, those plants seem well worth the journey. St. Michael's Mount boasts one of the world's most stunning collections of exotic plants, from rosemary to lavender to aloe and agave that sprout directly from the bedrock.

Many of those plants might not believe their luck in being able to live there — not unlike the person who gets this job.

"It is astonishing that a garden exists here," the website notes. "But despite the gales and salty winds, the Gulf Stream tempers the climate so that frosts are a rarity and the rock acts as a gigantic radiator — absorbing heat by day and releasing it at night, creating a micro climate in which all sorts of unlikely plants flourish."

A Different Kind of Commute

In fact, the spectacular Walled Garden has been blooming since 1780.

The only missing ingredient is someone who can give these precious plants their undivided attention, while scaling ancient stones and precarious paths day after day.

But maybe you prefer to commute to work every day?

You can always walk the causeway, a cobbled ribbon that stretches from the beach at the coastal town of Marazion to the island. But it only appears for a fleeting number of hours before high tide washes over those ancient stones.

The cobblestone path leading to St. Michael's Mount.
At high tide, this ancient road is submerged. Murray Golder/Shutterstock

Best to take one of the daily ferries. Or better yet, take St. Michael's Mount up on the offer of living on the island. The job promises a Victorian terraced house with all the requisite breathtaking views.

And what, you may rightly ask, happened to its previous occupant ? Did the last gardener lose her footing while stretching to prune some stubborn sempervivums? Did she hear an echo of ghosts while trimming the echeverias — and plunge from the battlements in fright?

St. Michael's Mount as seen from the coast at night.
At night, St. Michael's Mount makes an eerie silhouette against the Marazian coast. Matt Gibson/Shutterstock

Actually, Lottie Allen is fine. These days, the only thing haunting her, after five years as head gardener at St. Michael's is the memories. She's moving on to, if you can imagine it, a "new challenge."

"II will miss everything about this job," she told the BBC.