The 19th century garden, famous today for its colourful plant collection and rugged landscape, was started in 1860 by the Moore family and further added to from 1903. Glimpses of the garden on the left and surrounding farmland on the right through the tree stems will delight the walker when exploring this new area. Tranquil and calming, the walk skirts round the famous Rock Garden Wood on the edge of the garden leading out into the rugged Old Wood part of the garden.
Planted 25 years ago, initially for shelter for the garden, the trees consist of beech, birch, pine and ash. Underneath the tree canopy snowdrops, wood anenomes and bluebells thrive. In mid-spring the scent arises from the bluebells and gorse bushes which are naturalised within the fields surrounding the walk bounded by natural dry stone walls. Autumn brings the rustle of leaves with glorious yellows, oranges and reds as the trees prepare for winter.
This area differs in management from the garden, here wood piles are set to encourage woodland habitat for wildlife, bramble is controlled but allowed to grow and produce fruit for birds and other wild animals.
Popular with both dog walkers and ramblers, this woodland walk was generously funded by donation from the Ulster Gardens Scheme who encourage private gardens to open to the public. The money generated for viewing can help fund this type of work for the National Trust.
The Farmland Trail is a new addition to the warren of walks at Rowallane. It leads you through the fields and takes in the summit of Trio Hill and its spectacular panoramic views over Co Down, and the ancient Rath.
Point of interest:Tree-canopied trail and spring wildflower blooms
OS map:Sheet 21
Terrain:Natural woodland floor and grass
Route:Please refer to map attached for details of where to visit in Rowallane Gardens
Pond and Pleasure Ground area - approximately 30 minutes return journey from car park
1. Visitor Centre: Start your walk from the Visitor Centre which is located on the ground floor of the House. There is an interpretation area, café, shop and toilets. Pick up your activity sheets here to explore the changing colours of the garden throughout the year. Note: Café and shop are open seasonally – please check with staff or notice boards for opening times.
2. Pleasure Ground: Here many of the towering conifers were planted by the Reverend John Moore in 1858 when he laid out the Pleasure Grounds. You can explore the new path which meanders past the pond, through the trees, looping around with sweeping views of the farmland and leading back towards the Bandstand and the Visitor Centre.
3. The Bandstand: This unique feature originally stood proudly on Newcastle Promenade in County Down. It was given to the National Trust in 1986 and we carefully restored it and placed it on an existing stone dais (a low platform for a lectern).
Walled Garden area – approximately 20 minutes return journey from car park
4. Walled Garden: Originally built for fruit and vegetables by the Reverend John Moore, this sheltered space was changed to ornamental planting by his nephew Hugh Armytage Moore who inherited the garden. With such an eclectic mix of herbaceous plants, bulbs, herbs and climbers this part of the garden unfolds weekly from spring to autumn.
5. Outer Walled Garden: There is a secluded feel to this area of the garden with enclosed walls and a pond. In the centre of the lawn is a flowering Quince (Chaenomeles ‘Rowallane’) discovered as a seedling and named after Rowallane.
6. The Haggard: This is an old Celtic name meaning hedge. Now informally planted with trees and shrubs, it would originally have housed the ducks and hens and seen the cows coming in for milking.
Avenue area - approximately 40 minutes return journey from car park
13. The Paddock: Once the grazing area for the working horses, it now shelters some of the magnificent Southern Beeches (Nothofagus) for which Rowallane is famous. The rocky outcrops are being replanted to show off the natural rock and a plethora of wild flowers flourish in the sunny open meadow.
14. Avenue Ground: Rocky outcrops catch the eye as you explore this curious terrain. Primitive stone seats and cairns complement the unusual stone features that were erected by the Reverend John Moore in the 19th century.
Woodland area - approximately 50 minutes return journey from car park
7. Woodland Walk: Witness nature at its best in this relaxed area that loops around the perimeter of the lower garden. Bulbs carpet the ground in spring and there are splendid views towards the farmland and the garden. The National Trust carefully manage this woodland area to enhance nature’s bounty of blackberries and create woodpiles in which insects can make their home.
8. Trio Hill: Bordered by the woodland and rolling farmland, and parallel with the Spring Ground, this elevated area gives a pleasant view down to the lower part of the garden. Stately conifers and graceful deciduous trees thrive here.
9. Rock Garden Wood: This natural rocky outcrop is planted with a charming array of bulbs, herbaceous plants and small shrubs. From colourful spring flowers to flaming autumn shades there’s something to see all year round in this jewel in Rowallane’s crown.
10. Old Wood: Here the dry stone walls mark the site of a former tenant farm. It has an enchanting, secluded woodland feel, with Rhododendrons growing under a canopy of Scots Pine and Beech trees.
11. The Hospital: Named when this small, sheltered field housed ailing calves. Now it contains a collection of unusual trees most notably the Handkerchief Tree (Davidia involucrata), which flowers in May. Maples embrace their distinctive burnished tones in autumn and delicate wild flowers are scattered amongst the bases of shrubs and trees.
12. Spring Ground: Dating back to the days of the working farm when the young cattle were turned out to graze in spring, this ‘field’ now affords sweeping vistas out into the natural landscape. Here the Rhododendron flower in a variety of shades from early spring. This is also a fine area to savour the eye-catching autumnal foliage.
15. Ancient Rath - approximately 45 minutes return journey from car park
Dating back to 500-1100AD, this ancient fortified homestead would have originally been a defensible enclosure that provided protection for families and their livestock. En route there are panoramic views over three townlands and across to the famous Mourne Mountains.
* Please note that National Trust entrance pricing applies for Rowallane Gardens. Please see the link below for details *
Facilities:Carpark, seasonal tearoom, toilets (including disabled toilet), information shed.
Accessible toilet facilities:Yes
Accessible terrain:Woodland walk and garden – gradual inclines and pedestrian gates throughout. Farmland trail – steeper terrain. Comfortable walking shoes advisable.
Getting to the start by car:From Belfast follow the A7 to the village of Saintfield, go straight through towards Downpatrick. The garden entrance is signposted and situated on the edge of the village on the right.