Fanfan is kind of obsessed when it comes to flowers here in Northern Ireland, to the point when she would try to have me take photos of them for her when she’s not here. Which I don’t. But when she is here, in Spring and Summer, it’s all about visits to Bangor’s parks and the Victorian Walled Garden, as well as her obsession with Mount Stewart House and Gardens, which is like a Mecca for pretty flower enthusiasts. So we do find ourselves there quite a lot.
Mount Stewart House
We did join the house tour on our 1st visit to Mount Stewart, just when it had reopened following extensive renovations (2015). And the house is kind of split between the private areas of the current resident (Lady Rose Lauritzen) while the National Trust open the main rooms of the house daily to the public with guided tours and free to roam hours. So the National Trust has taken on the main upkeep of the rather extensive estate, and it’s a bit of a win-win, I guess, apart from the time Lady Rose’s bedroom was burgled of £35,000 worth of jewellery during a National Trust open day.
Mount Stewart Gardens
The newest addition to the Mount Stewart estate (1915) was the “Formal Gardens”, and this is where the real magic is found at Mount Stewart, through a labyrinth of flowers and topiaries watched over by the residence and various beast-shaped statues. Some of the more famous installations in the gardens include the Irish Harp shaped hedge next to a Red Hand of Ulster flowerbed made up of red tulips. Apparently the garden is also shaped like a shamrock when seen from above (more on the garden features here). And overall they’re the most impressive gardens we’ve found in Northern Ireland.
Mount Stewart Estate
The Mount Stewart estate is roughly 950 acres in size. And with every visit, we do find new corners as we follow different walks and off-the-beaten-track trails throughout the estate, as we search for new scenic spots to set up our picnics. But all the main features are easily signposted including the massive lake which seems to be smack in the centre of the estate. Then the furthest we have reached would be the “Walled Gardens” which doesn’t quite compare to the formal sunken gardens next to the house. But there are just all sorts of walks and trails in the grounds of Mount Stewart passing various landscapes, monuments and farm buildings.
The Red Squirrels
There is a decreasing population of native red squirrels these days in the UK which is due to the takeover of the non-native grey squirrels from America which spread disease and steal all their food. As well the destruction of woodland through the years. But Mount Stewart is now one of the few places in Northern Ireland where the ‘Near Threatened’ red squirrel are preserved and continue to thrive. And while we didn’t go out of our way to track down Tufty Fluffytail and Squirrel Nutkin on our visits, a good start would be following the “Red Squirrel Trail”.
Temple of the Winds
The full name of the National Trust property is “Mount Stewart House, Garden and Temple of the Winds” and the “Temple of the Winds” is found on a trail which starts next to the main road entrance at Mount Stewart. Here it is somewhat separated from the rest of the estate, found on the opposite side of the car park and visitor centre, where we tried to sneak in before for a quick picnic (before purchasing passes). Only to be turned away by a volunteer who stands guard at a small hut at the start of the walk. And while the “temple” isn’t overly exciting in itself, it is surrounded by some nice forest walks, and there are great views from above over Strangford Lough and Ards Peninsula.
Mount Stewart in Autumn
We have been back a good few times since first writing this, squeezing the value from our annual National Trust Membership passes which were renewed for a year due to the closures and uncertainty of COVID-19. So it wasn’t until mid-October again when we could make a return, and while Mount Stewart is famous for its blooms in Spring, the fire blaze colours of Autumn definitely give them a run for their money. The contrasts and layers and Japanese Maples (Acers). The property does remain open year-round with their ‘Mount Stewart Winter Walk’ etc. and with fewer leaves and canopies it is a good time to catch the remaining birds and wildlife of the demesne including the red squirrels.
The National Trust
Mount Stewart House and Gardens is in fact the 2nd most expensive National Trust attraction in Northern Ireland after the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre, but it is definitely a lot better value for money. And with two months of summer in Northern Ireland, and Fanfan telling me she would “be there every day if she had a National Trust Pass”, we decided to buy the annual pass to make some overall savings (we did a tour of near all National Trust properties in Northern Ireland).
Mount Stewart Opening Times
Mount Stewart is open all year-round, although times do vary with the opening of the house being slightly later than the gardens. It is likely only guided tours of the house in the earlier hours before “free flow” from around midday. Closing times will also change slightly with daylight hours through the year as outlined below (and official times here):
|1 Jan – 3 Mar (Mon to Sun)||10:00 – 16:00|
|4 Mar – 3 Nov (Mon to Sun)||10:00 – 17:00|
|31 Oct- 31 Dec (Mon to Sun)||10:00 – 16:00|
Mount Stewart Prices
This has changed a bit through the years where there were once separate charges to visit the gardens and the house tour. Then there was a time when the house tour was closed to the public during renovations etc. But now it seems to be more permanent with prices including the “whole property” of Mount Stewart House and Gardens.