Pocket Britain
Britain > N.Ireland > Co.Down > Mount Stewart

Possibly the strangest and most interesting mansion in Britain


Art & Furnishings
Formal & Informal Gardens
Temple of the Winds
Mount Stewart is an 18th century National Trust property. It's on the east shore of Strangford Lough, although its owners were the Marquesses of Londonderry, a town on the other side of the country. They were called the Vane-Tempest-Stewarts, and their bank balance was as big as their name. When they originally bought the estate, it was known as Mount Pleasant. Then their money was put to work with an extensive remodelling project, resulting in the house we can see today. They renamed the place Mount Stewart, so everyone would know who lived there.

Mount Stewart from the air.
Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
The new building spared no expense. Everything was decorated with lavish furnishings that must have cost the earth. Extra rooms were added, just to house the huge collection of art. These expensive tastes must run in the family, because in the early 20th century the 7th Marquess and his wife carried out a similarly comprehensive project that not only redecorated the house, but transformed the gardens into a treasure box of wonders. Later in the same century the family kindly donated both the property and grounds to the National Trust, so the public can enjoy the fruits of this costly labour.

Mount Stewart House.
Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
Right from the start, the central hall gives you an idea of just how flamboyant this place is going to be. The bold black and white checks on the floor contrast strongly with the fiery red of the walls, grabbing your attention whether you like it or not.
A guided tour takes you round all the main sights, like the garden views from the Drawing Room or the stained glass windows in the Chapel. Along the way you'll learn about the distinguished visitors that came here, and the many treasures accumulated by the Vane-Tempest-Stewarts. A particular highlight is a huge painting by George Stubbs, which is often described as one of Britain's greatest. Elsewhere is set of 22 chairs that were used in the Congress of Vienna, an important political meeting that decided the fate of Europe after Napoleon's surrender. Throughout the building you'll see the eccentricities of its former owners. The guest bedrooms, for example, are each named after a European city.

Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
As interesting as the house is, it pales in comparison to the grounds. They're the work of the 7th Marquess' wife, Edith. It was a labour of love, into which she poured all her time and imagination. The result is probably the quirkiest garden in Northern Ireland, and quite certainly one of the best.

Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
It's divided into formal and informal sections. The first of these connects directly with the house, as if it's simply an extension of the rooms. Everything has been carefully shaped, with square flower beds and circular stone paths placed in rigid formations. There's a strong Mediterranean influence, with a particularly Italian feel.
The informal garden, meanwhile, haphazardly throws together plants from every corner of the globe. Strangford Lough's kind climate gives all sorts of strange species a chance to grow. Odd details hide round every corner. You might stumble across a lurid flower, or a hedge shaped like a harp. The statues are particularly demented, with representations of orang-utans and dinosaurs. They supposedly represent previous visitors to the house.
Follow the paths a little further and you'll reach the lake. Here, you can spot the towers of Tir Nan Nog, the family burial ground. This is where the Vane-Tempest-Stewarts rest in peace, surrounded by statues of Irish saints.

The Lake at Mount Stewart.
Photo Caroline & Rodney
Another eye-catching building is the 8-sided Temple of the Winds. Like much of the garden, this summer house is inspired by designs from the continent. It's perfectly placed to offer fine views over Strangford Lough.

The Temple of the Winds.
Photo Sitomon
Back at the manor, a couple of shops and restaurants offer further surprises. Mount Stewart even makes its own ice cream!
Visitor Information
Mount Stewart is open daily, 10am to 6pm (House open March to October). Entry costs around £8 for adults, £4 children, £20 families. Portaferry Road, Newtownards, Down, BT22 2AD. Tel: 028 4278 8387

Back ~ Top ~ Home ~ Index

Pocket Britain is optimised for use on a smartphone or tablet with internet access. All content is subject to copyright. All reasonable methods have been used to ensure information supplied is accurate at the time of publication. However, it is advisable to check information before relying on it. Privacy Policy