Friday, July 30, 2010

Mount Stewart

Life is an adventure, but does it have to be the sort of adventure you would really rather skip?  Driving on the M2 when something under the van started banging around!  Bill pulled off the road (thank goodness it was the M2 as most roads have no shoulder) where we discovered one side of the cover plate for the muffler had rusted through, but was still attached on the other side.  We carefully drove on until we could get off the freeway; didn't wish to have the thing flying out from under the van into the vehicle behind us! 
On the smaller road, we drove until we found a parking area.  Bill gets out and looks at it again, then takes the tire iron and proceeds to beat the cover plate loose while lying on his back, using one arm.  I really should have taken a picture.

Back to the M2 onward to our destination: Mount Stewart House and Gardens, a National Trust Property.
The back of the house.

This is the first house or castle we have visited in Northern Ireland where we both have said, 'WOW!'  The place has been owned by the Stewart family, now known as the 9th Viscount of Londonderry, since the 1700's.  The grand daughter of the 7th Viscount still lives in the house.  The tour of the house was given by a delightful elderly gentleman with a twinkle in his eye at his humorous remarks.  No pictures were allowed.  There were 3 young girls on  the tour, who he tried to impress with the fact that they could have their wedding at Mount Stewart.  With the twinkle in his eye, he continued, 'Start saving your money now!'

While the family has had its share of soldiers, business magnates, and such, they seem to have been very successful breeding race horses.  The beautiful back gardens were built with the winnings from one horse!
The gardens are a wonderful example of the micro climates that exist in this part of Ireland.  They are full of plants that normally don't grow at this far northern latitude, 55*.  There are California redwoods, myrtles, assorted palms and orchids, just for starters.
Standing by an enormous fern tree, not what we expected in Northern Ireland.  Notice my short pants, the first time I felt warm enough to wear them.  It may be the last time, as it has been chilly and  raining every day since!

The Red Hand of Ulster, in flowers instead of blood.

An Irish Harp topiary set in a shamrock shaped garden.

The Spanish Garden, complete with scaffolding being used to prune the hedges.  The gardeners were on lunch break.

These sculptures were set around the garden.  Each is a different head with an orangutan sitting on top holding a pot.

The Dodo Garden, with Noah's ark and a wonderful assortment of animal sculptures both real and imaginary.  A very whimsical feeling place.

Mairi, Mairi, quite contrary how does your garden grow?  A wee garden fountain made for Mairi's Garden, the owner's young daughter. The sculpture caught her expression perfectly, as we saw the picture it was taken from on our tour of the house.  Mairi is the old  Irish Gaelic spelling of Mary. 

The woodland gardens include several acres of trees, lawn, a large lake with a walking path around it, and the family burial ground, known by it's old Irish name of  Tir N'an Og, meaning The Land of Eternal Youth.  Ones soul is carried to this place by a white stag.  This must be a spectacular place earlier in the year when all the rhododendrons are blooming.  We had to be satisfied with the beautiful hydrangias and wildflowers.

A pair of huge old trees in the woodland garden.

The lake.

Locals feeding the ducks.

The entrance to the burial grounds.
We had to peek through the gates see Tir N'an Og.

Oh the suffering; we had to be satified with hydrangeas.

The Viscount of Londonderry's formal coach, last used for the coronation of King George V, in 1937.

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