Historic Houses & Gardens
If you love exploring historic houses and glorious gardens, Northern Ireland is full of exciting locations. The National Trust Northern Ireland plays an important role in providing access to Historic House & Garden experiences. Highlights include:
Mount Stewart on the shores of Strangford Lough, County Down, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is Northern Ireland’s most celebrated garden. A simply ‘must-see’ on the list of UK gardens, if not the world, Mount Stewart was voted European Garden of Inspiration in 2003! Almost every style of gardening over the last two centuries is represented at Mount Stewart. The great diversity of styles and plants from every continent were ingeniously combined by Lady Edith Londonderry (1879-1959) to produce a garden of outstanding quality & character. It is split into a magnificent series of outdoor ‘rooms’ and vibrant parterres containing many rare plants that thrive in the mild climate of the Ards Pennisula. An eclectic series of topiary can be enjoyed in the Italian Garden, the Spanish Garden, the Mairi Garden and the Sunken Garden. You can also see Japanese, South African, Australian, and South American influences. Look out for the Magnolia Campbellii planted in the 1920s, it flowered for the first time on April Fool’s Day 1956 and when Lady Londonderry spotted the pink bloom, she thought someone had played a joke on her – but, to her delight, it was the first of many blossoms that have appeared every springtime since.
Rowallane Garden in Saintfield, County Down a true plantman’s garden houses one of Ireland's premier plant collections. The main garden is the Spring Garden with a mass planting of Rhododendrons. The Walled Garden once the Kitchen Garden for the Big House is filled with mixed shrub borders for spring, and roses and perennials for summer. Particular highlights are the rhododendrons, hydrangeas, fuchsias, shrub roses, primulas, meconopsis, heathers and dwarf bulbs. Indeed many plants have carried the Rowallane name throughout the gardening world – Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Rowallane’, Chaenomelles ‘Rowallane’, Hypericum ‘Rowallane’ and Primula ‘Rowallane Rose’.
Castle Ward Estate has 40 acres of parkland and contains many enchanting historical garden features such as the Temple Water, an early 18th century formal canal created to reflect the picturesque ruins of Audley Castle at one end and Lady Anne's Temple along one side. The Sunken Garden with grass banks and Irish Yew trees and The Rock Garden created on a natural outcrop. The parkland grounds are ideal for those interested in Garden History and those wishing to immerse themselves in ‘Times Gone By’.
The herb garden at the pretty 17th century ‘Plantation’ home of Springhill, County Londonderry, is designed around a scented Camomile Lawn. The Camomile Lawn has a long tradition in big houses in the British Isles. The Elizabethans enjoyed the sweet fragrance that filled the air as they walked on the soft, springy Camomile. Situated on the edge of the picturesque Sperrin Mountains, this charming house is also home to a series of small walled gardens.
The magnificent Florence Court gardens in County Fermanagh, is overlooked by the dramatic outline of the Cuilcagh mountains. Florence Court is well known to gardeners as the home of the Irish Yew (Taxus baccata ‘Fastigata’). The original tree discovered in 1760, can still be seen on the fringe of Cottage Wood to the southeast of the Florence Court house and its offspring are now featured in gardens throughout the world!
In a wooded park above the River Blackwater, the early Victorian house of The Argory, County Armagh is surrounded by sweeping lawns with two formal gardens. The first, a charming rose garden with dwarf rose bushes in box-edged beds, is planted around a sundial. The second much larger and called the Pleasure Ground, has a terrace overlooking the river, the view framed by a pair of striking, stone-built houses with Chinese-style windows. The surrounding borders reflect the taste for exotic trees and shrubs, a special feature being made of the many famous shrubs raised at the Slieve Donard nursery in County Down.
The beautifully landscaped Downhill Demesne, County Londonderry is set on the wild and rugged north coast. The best known features of this famous demesne are the exquisite Mussenden Temple and the ruined palace of the eccentric nobleman, Frederick Hervey, the famous Earl Bishop of Derry. But if you enter the estate via the Bishop’s Gate you come upon an appealing modern ornamental garden.