Mount Stewart, the house inspired by Edith, the Marchioness of Londonderry (aka Derry), has the most beautiful garden in Ireland. It is famous for its world class gardens. It is located just outside Newtownards and overlooks the shores of Strangford Lough, County Down. The Stewart Family bought the estate in 1744 and over time it became known as Mount Stewart. The house and its contents reflect the history of the Stewart Family, who played a prominent role in British and Irish social and political life. The place was not always as bright. When Edith came to Mount Stewart in 1919, it was a dark, sad ancestral home. However, she turned what was once a depressing place into a deluxe for entertaining guests, such as Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan.
The estate is now run by the National Trust since 1977. In 2015, the National Trust completed a three year £8 million restoration program of the property, a complete transformation of the place, and bought additional lands to bring the size of the estate to 950 acres, which makes this place a must-see attraction in Ireland. The house and its themed garden compartments, including the Italian, Spanish, Mairi and Shamrock Gardens, are open to the public and you can spend a whole day in those splendid gardens. It is truly worth it. In addition, this year, 2017, the newly restored Central Hall floor and stunning Rome bedroom will be unveiled and collections of international and national significance will be displayed as well as one of the most significant silver displays in the Trust’s care. Among these collections will be exquisite family collections, including works by Lawrence, Brock and Stubbs.
The splendid 80 acre garden, which dates back to the 19th century CE, encloses a sophisticated series of formal gardens of specimen trees, brilliantly planted around the house. This splendid design indicates a time when garden design had reached an exquisite peak. The gardens hold a lovely combination of colors, beautiful contrasts of mood, swinging from hot reds, yellows and oranges in the geometric parterres on one side of the Italian garden, and silvers and mauves on the other side, to cool greens and curved design of the Spanish garden with its circular pool, which can be seen from above via a pantiled loggia and screened by arches of clipped leylandii. The gardens reflect a rich tapestry of design which was the hallmark of Edith, the Marchioness, and are currently maintained by head gardener Phil Rollinson and his team. The garden is voted for as one of the top ten gardens in the world.
The Dodo Terrace is magic. It has stone carvings of animal characters given by Edith to members of her Ark Club, such as Harold the Humming Bird and Winston the Warlock. The silver and white planting in the circular Mairi Garden, named after Edith’s youngest daughter, echoes the rhyme “Silver bells and cockle shells”, in this case with campanulas, agapanthus, stachys and Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’. There is also a Red Hand of Ulster in the Shamrock Garden alongside an Irish harp, which is surrounded by yew hedges clipped into various animal shapes and other creatures, from deer to devils. The Shamrock Garden is a representation of Edith’s love to Irish mythology. The topiary atop the Shamrock hedge is a beautifully depicted children’s tale.
Heading towards the Lily Wood, you can see shrubs and tender trees prosper in the microclimate of the Ards Peninsula. There lie beautiful lilies and colonies of Himalayan poppies, contributing to the exquisite scenery. Adding to this beautiful masterpiece, there are paths around the lake overlooking the hill topped by Tir Na n’Og, the Londonderry’s private burial ground, which is planted with exotic shrubs, some of which are fruit of plant hunting expeditions embarked upon by Lady Edith.
Somewhere in the spatial area of the estate are the are the Coronation Walk, rhododendron glades with of the aristocracy of the rhododendron family R. sinogrande and falconeri and many others, and the Jubilee Walk planted in 1935 for George V’s Jubilee. You can also visit the Temple of the Winds, designed by James ‘Athenian’ Stewart in 1780. The temple is based on the Tower of Andronicus Cyrrestes in Athens and it overlooks Strangford Lough.
You can also get a different view of Mount Stewart if you walk around the new walking trails. These trails will give a journey through a magical woodland and farmland located within a spectacular elongated landscape next to Strangford Lough.
The estate is accessible on specific days. However, the gardens are open daily and here are the opening times of 2017:
- 1 Jan – 3 Mar 10:00–16:00
- 4 Mar – 29 Oct 10:00–18:00
- 30 Oct – 31 Dec 10:00–16:00
And these are the house opening times:
- 4 Mar – 29 Oct: open daily 11:00–17:00
- 4 Nov – 31 Dec: open weekends 11:00–15:00
Temple of the Winds opening times:
- 5 Mar – 30 Oct: open Sundays 14:00–17:00
You can stray around by yourself or guided by a tour guide. An annual program is held throughout the year. Tea-room is open daily, and you can take your tea in indoor or outdoor seating. At the end of your visit, you can buy some souvenirs and locally hand-crafted gifts. The tea-room and shop close at 5pm at weekends, bank holiday Mondays and public holidays.
The lake walk is wheelchair friendly and disabled parking is available as well. However, the gardens include paths and steps that are not always wheelchair friendly. Scooters are available as well on the site. Guide dogs are permitted inside the house and the Temple of the Winds.
Child: £4.75 (child is aged 5yrs to 16 yrs).
Family: £23.75 (2 adults and up to 3 children)
Under 5 years of age: free.
It’s worth to know that the last admission to the house is 45 mins before closing. Last admission to the gardens is 1 hour before closing. The whole estate will be closed on 25 and 26 Dec.
Contact Information for Mount Stewart:
Tel: +44 28 4278 8387