Exactly a month ago today it was my birthday. We both took the day off work and the husband and I had a great day out. Amazingly the weather was good that day!
Mount Stewart, a National Trust property, has recently been renovated and re-opened to the public. So it was in this beautiful location that we spent the day.
First of all we wandered round the house. They don't do guided tours; you just wander about at your leisure and can ask questions of the guides located in each of the rooms. Lady Rose Lauritzen still lives in her private wing of the house. She passed us while we were on the landing! When she heard it was my birthday, she invited us for afternoon tea. Oh, sorry, that didn't happen. She did pass us but moved swiftly on.
The gardens (voted one of the top ten gardens in the world) have also had a lot of restoration work done to them. We were really glad that it was such a nice day for our look round the gardens. First, though, we treated ourselves to lunch in the lovely restaurant.
There were lots of rhododendrons and azaleas blooming; they were magnificent.
Look at the bark on this tree!
There were plenty of bluebells among the trees.
There is a beautiful, calm lake in the gardens.
There are ducks ...
... and swans.
Swans with their little family of cygnets.
There's always one offspring bringing up the rear!
Seven cygnets all in a row.
We carried on with our walk.
Still getting odd glimpses of the lake on our way.
We had to cross two of these little bridges over streams that feed the lake.
We came to Tir Na'n Og, meaning Land of the Ever Young in Gaelic. A good place to visit on your birthday! We climbed the steps ...
... to the small Vane-Tempest-Stewart's burial ground.
There is a beautiful white wisteria growing round the building.
There is also another view of the lake from up here.
Back down again and past the lake ...
... to get to the formal gardens. This is the shamrock garden, an area in the shape of a shamrock, hedged with Irish yew with this fantastic topiary harp in the centre.
There are various topiary figures on top of the hedge. This hare is on one side ...
... and opposite it is the goddess Diana with her bow and arrow.
She has managed to hit the hare with her arrow!
You can just make out a topiary ship here.
This is it a little bit closer; you can even see a person in the ship.
You can just make out a figure on top of the hedge here; as far as I know, this is the devil!
A horse and rider. The gardeners are very talented!
I'm not sure what these bedding plants are but they were just started to bloom with red flowers. When they are in full flower this will represent the Red Hand of Ulster.
More gardens, called the Italian gardens, close to the house.
There are old, twisted but beautiful wisteria bushes everywhere.
We were there quite early in the year so there will be lots more flowers to come.
There's a lovely pond.
We spotted some newts in the pond.
Can you see the newt?
Even though the visitors can walk round the gardens, volunteers and gardeners are still working hard to keep the gardens looking their best.
This sculpture is amazing! There's a Noah's ark with dodos on either side. See that arched bit underneath? I'll show you what's in there just below.
So here's what's in the arched section. I think this is meant to be a snake's head but I'm not sure.
Anyway, whatever it is, it has two crocodiles for company.
More strange animals for Noah to look after.
There are all sorts of unusual sculptures round this garden.
Each of these were made up of different parts of animals. This one has a monkey's head and also a man's head with goats legs.
A little sheltered spot to sit and enjoy the garden.
The house from that sheltered spot.
You can tell I was really in love with the wisteria!
A dinosaur guarding the entrance to this part of the garden.
A last look at Noah's ark.
That was the end of our very enjoyable visit to the gardens. This photo lets you see where Mount Stewart is situated; right on the shores of Strangford Lough.
I'd better go and prepare myself for a barbecue we're having this evening. Weather permitting!