If you visit a National Trust House then you are almost certain to visit a beautiful garden as well. This was certainly the case on my recent trip to Northern Ireland. And we had a third garden just thrown in for good measure! I’m no gardener nor connoisseur of plants or trees but I do enjoy the peace and relaxed atmosphere of gardens. I’m also fascinated by the other features of gardens – follies and lakes and water features and topiary – all those eccentric features of an English, or in this case, British garden.
As I wrote in the previous diary entry: Located on the shores of Strangford Lough Mount Stewart stands in beautiful grounds enjoying a microclimate of its own which supports a lush and green garden of trees and exotic plants. Edith, Lady Londonderry (1878-1959) wife of the seventh marquess was the major force behind the garden design that we see today. She gave the gardens to the National Trust in 1957. The garden is divided up into smaller specialised areas. The Shamrock Garden where the topiary harp (above) stands in pride of place amongst other topiary features that tell a story related to the house. Here is a description from the National Trust :
“One Irish symbol holds another at its heart in the Shamrock Garden at Mount Stewart. A hedge of Irish yew in the shape of a shamrock encloses a topiary Irish harp. Originally 30 topiary figures crowned the top of the shamrock hedge. Today there are eight, reinstated in the 1990s in Irish yew. Up to 4ft in height, they are a varied troupe of two royal crowns, a sailing boat, stags, the goddess Diana, the devil and two creatures from Celtic mythology.”
We enjoyed a walk around the beautiful lake and along the Drive where the rhododendrons were in full bloom.
The most interesting feature however was the octagonal folly – The Temple of the Winds – built by the first Marquess of Londonderry and which stands in a fine position on a small hill. It’s a short walk beyond the entrance and car park, but well worth the effort to see the building and the view.
The Temple may be visited on weekend afternoons and is also a romantic wedding venue.
The Gardens at Mount Stewart are classed amongst the very best in the country if not in the world.
“Mount Stewart is one of the most spectacular and idiosyncratic gardens of Western Europe and universally renowned for the ‘extraordinary scope of its plant collections and the originality of its features, which give it world-class status’ – excerpt from Mount Stewart’s listing on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage tentative list.” (National Trust website)
The red squirrels love it here too!