The wonderful Mount Stewart House and Gardens

Mount Stewart is a little way east of Belfast and is a stunningly beautiful old manor house with incredible gardens and parks. It’s probably the most beautiful house and gardens I’ve ever seen on the island of Ireland…

Garden views at Mount Stewart
Garden views at Mount Stewart (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

Intro

We were tipped off by the hostess of our B&B in Northern Ireland: “You can take a look at this, it’s a lovely old house with very pretty gardens”. And what a tip that was!

Coming from Germany, we have been living in Ireland (second home) for several years. South of Dublin, we run our motorbike rental (https://www.easycruiser.tours) and our guest rooms (https://www.the-view-accommodation.ie) here in the summer months.

We have the beautiful Wicklow Mountains on our doorstep and Wicklow is known to be the garden of Ireland, as there are many manor houses with beautiful gardens and parks, of which the magnificent Powerscourt Estate is certainly the most famous.

Flowers at Mount Stewart Gardens
Flowers at Mount Stewart Gardens (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

But Mount Stewart has become my personal favourite, because this house and these gardens are not just luxurious, as was the taste of the time, but also incredibly tastefully designed. You want to walk and explore and spend a lot of time here!

What’s more, we were able to admire this green splendour in peace and quiet. The few visitors almost get lost in the extensive grounds. This is no comparison to other sights, where it can get much more crowded. Simply beautiful!

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Background information on Mount Stewart

Mount Stewart dates back to the 19th century and is now lovingly cared for by the National Trust.

The Stewarts were an influential family of the English aristocracy and held the title of Marquess of Londonderry from 1816. Mount Stewart House was the family’s Irish residence.

Successful in agriculture and the linen trade, the Stewart family was not only influential but also financially wealthy.

Hallway at Mount Stewart House
Hallway at Mount Stewart House

Alexander Stewart acquired the estate, previously known as Mount Pleasant, in 1744. It was initially not in particularly good condition and was only repeatedly remodelled, extended and furnished from 1803 onwards until it reached its current splendour.

The late start to the renovation can be excused, however, as times were turbulent. In the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the Society of United Irishmen attempted to achieve Irish independence from England.

Lake and swans at Mount Stewart
Lake and swans at Mount Stewart (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

The rebellion started in Belfast and then spread across the whole island. It was put down by the English in several battles and culminated in the 1800 Acts of Union, which brought Ireland into the United Kingdom of England and Scotland.

A sad chapter, however, is that although the Stewart family furnished their house with an incredible amount of money, they did little for their tenants when they suffered terribly during the Great Famine in the mid-19th century. Unfortunately, this was a widespread phenomenon among the predominant English aristocracy in Ireland and further exacerbated the mass emigration of the Irish population to North America.

Staircase at Mount Stewart House
Staircase at Mount Stewart House (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

Whilst the house took its present form in the 19th century, the gardens were only partially laid out and landscaped in the early 20th century. The last member of the Stewart, or later Londonderry, family, Lady Mairi Bury, lived in this house from her birth until her death 88 years later in 2009.

A visit to Mount Stewart

East of Belfast, on Strangford Lough, lies this estate. The visitor entrance on the A20 Portaferry Road is signposted, but if you don’t know you want to visit Mount Stewart, it’s easy to drive past.

We walk from the car park to the visitor entrance. Lush greenery surrounds the small terrace, where we quickly grab a refreshment. Until then, everything is “quite nice”…

Gardening art at Mount Stewart
Gardening art at Mount Stewart (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

A little further on we come to the manor house: large pillars in front of the entrance, a representative entrance hall with lots of marble and decorative statues. A collection of the finest porcelain on the staircase and magnificently furnished rooms throughout the house. I have seen many mansions and castles and am not the biggest fan of lavish luxury, but this house impresses me because it is incredibly harmoniously furnished.

Nevertheless, we would rather be outside than inside: On the garden side, the house is almost overgrown with lush greenery. Several gardeners are at work here while we stroll around. There are lots of flowers and blossoming bushes and beautiful things to see around every corner.

Gardens at Mount Stewart
Gardens at Mount Stewart (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

The gardens have a structure, but they also have this cosy wildness that invites you to explore: Behind the bushes is a small clearing, then carefully manicured shrubs, another colourful flower bed, then a pergola, then jungle again…

At the front of the house begins a parkland with marvellous old trees. Native and exotic trees have been growing side by side here for many decades or even longer.

The footpath leads to a small lake surrounded by lush bushes. Swans and ducks bob in the water. In the green “jungle” on the other side of the lake, we see a small summerhouse. A dream in green!

Entrance to Mount Stewart House
Entrance to Mount Stewart House (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

All information for visitors can be found here: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/northern-ireland/mount-stewart.

What else you can do in the area

You can of course combine Mount Stewart with a visit to Belfast and continue along the coast towards Dublin. See: https://visitbelfast.com/.

From Belfast, you can follow Strangford Lough to the coast via Mount Stewart. A small ferry will take you from Portaferry to Strangford. A little further on you will find Castle Ward & Winterfell. See: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/northern-ireland/castle-ward.

Follow the coast to Carlingford. The small village on Carlingford Lough is very nice and is ideal for an overnight stay. See: https://www.carlingford.ie/.

You can also take a trip through the Mourne Mountains and go for a walk or hike. See: https://www.visitmournemountains.co.uk/.

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Conclusion

If you want to see a beautiful old mansion with lush gardens and a marvellous park, then Mount Stewart House & Gardens is the place for you.

Even the drive along the lake is a beautiful experience. On the way to or from Belfast, you can easily include Mount Stewart in your tour.

I hope you have a wonderful time in beautiful Mount Stewart!

More interesting articles for you

A WALK ON THE CITY WALLS OF DERRY / LONDONDERRY


FANAD HEAD LIGHTHOUSE – IN THE FAR NORTH OF IRELAND


THE CLIFFS OF SLIEVE LEAGUE – MAJESTIC AND MARVELLOUS


POWERSCOURT HOUSE AND GARDENS


Picture credits cover picture: Mount Stewart House, photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg (www.easycruiser.tours, www.the-view-accommodation.ie, www.irland-insider.de, www.ireland-insider.com)

Uli Written by:

Hello and welcome to my blog. Originating from Germany, my family and I now live in Ireland (at least part time). We have travelled this amazing isle many times and know many parts of it very well. In this blog, I would like to share valuabe tips and information for your next trip to Ireland with you. Enjoy the content, yours, Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg