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Mount Stewart

Pgds 20080619 221151 Mount Stewart Co  Down Ni  Ntpl 85148


Mount Stewart is a demesne with a mid-19th-century house and an early 20th-century garden set within a late 18th-century landscape park overlooking Strangford Lough. Garden compartments around the house are planted in dramatic colour schemes around geometric spaces. The garden decorations include a great deal of historical and political symbolism. Further from the house, planting is of a woodland character around a large lake. Built features include the 18th-century Temple of the Winds on a prominent site commanding the lough and the distinctive Tir na nOg, the family burial ground in the form of an Irish cross overlooking the lake.

Visitor Facilities

See the National Trust handbook.

Th demesne is entered from the road via decorative lodges. The formal gardens are grouped around the house, with the informal areas around the lake.

The Italian Garden is set out below the terrace on the south front of the house. This is laid out as a parterre of multicoloured beds, with herbaceous perennials framed in low hedges. This planting is sheltered by groves of Eucalyptus and other ornamental trees. Walls and gatepiers support the many statues of the Ark Club menagerie.

Projecting further south from this garden is the Spanish Garden, a sunken rectangular space framed on one side by a tall hedge clipped as an arcade. The ground falls via decorative steps to a central elliptical pool surrounded by lawns with narrow, straight rills converging on the pond. Beyond the pond is a green-tiled garden house. The planting is of a spiky and brightly-coloured character, much of it in a wide range of decorative containers.

The Sunk Garden lies under the west front. This is rectangular space with a paved perimeter walk under a pergola, overlooking a central lawn with ornamental flower beds. On its western side this garden opens onto the Shamrock Garden. The name relates to the plan. The central feature is the Red Hand of Ulster, planted annually with low bedding plants. Beyond it is the Irish Harp in yew. The framing hedge is decorated with symbolic topiary, including a huntsman with horn.

Beyond these enclosures lies the lake. Its shore is planted with a wide range of trees and shrubs in the manner of a Robinsonian garden. Beyond the lake the land rises. A winding staircase leads up through dense ornamental planting to the family burial ground of Tir na nOg. Though only family members may enter it, the visitor may view in from a staircase next to the entrance lodge. The space is laid out on a large scale in the form of an Irish cross, with the tombs progressing radially round the centrepiece. A retaining wall is punctuated with large Mediterranean oil jars, with the lake viewed beyond and Strangford Lough visible over the trees.

In another part of the estate stands the Temple of the Winds, an octagonal stone garden building commanding views of the lough from a height.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

See the National Trust handbook for opening arrangements.


Five miles south-east of Newtownards via the A20. On the eastern shore of Strangford Lough.


The National Trust

The estate was purchased by Alexander Stewart MP in 1744. The first house, Mount Pleasant, stood on the site of the present version.

Stewart's son Robert, first Marquess of Londonderry, developed the grounds. The landscape gardener William King was paid for work in 1781 and 1782, and was probably responsible for the overall layout. The present walled kitchen garden was completed around 1780, with glasshouses constructed soon afterwards.

The Temple of the Winds was built on a prominent site in 1782 to the design of James 'Athenian' Stuart, closely based on his drawing in Stuart and Revett's 'Antiquities of Athens' of 1758.

A proposal for a new house on a different site within the demesne was submitted by James Wyatt in 1783, but this was not implemented.

Extensive tree plantings took place from 1785 to 1801 in a series of campaigns.

In 1804 the architect George Dance the Younger produced plans for the remodelling of the west wing of the house, which was completed in 1806. Dance also designed several lodges on the perimeter of the estate, and probably also the hunting lodge of around 1810.

In 1835 the architect William Vitruvius Morrison was invited to remodel the rest of the house. These proposals were carried out from 1845 to 1849, resulting in the present appearance of the house. During the same period the present lake was formed, on the site of a former gravel pit.

The present garden was laid out from 1921 under Edith, wife of the 7th Marquess of Londonderry, who had been appointed Minister of Education in the new government of Northern Ireland. She took advice from a number of designers, including Gertrude Jekyll, but insisted that the layout and planting had been worked out between herself and her head gardener, T. Bolas, on the spot.

New flower gardens were laid out in geometric compartments around the house. A multicoloured flower garden was established under the windows of the house. Many concrete statues were included, representing the nicknames of her dining club of political figures known as 'The Ark'. These included Arthur Balfour, Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan, James Ramsay Macdonald and others. The statues take the form of animals and birds. They were made of concrete worked over chicken-wire armatures by Thomas Beattie of Newtownards.

Nearby the Spanish Garden was formed with a Lutyens-like layout flanked by a topiary arcade. The Sunk Garden, a rectangular compartment, included a pergola. A hedge was grown to include historical allusions such as a coracle and a huntsman. The Shamrock Garden included national and political symbols such as the Red Hand of Ulster, associated in legend with the Ards Peninsula, and a topiary harp.

A garden of woodland planting was established on the shore of the lake.

Above the lake a burial ground for the Stewart family, called Tir na nOg, was laid out in the form of an Irish cross. The site is approached by a winding staircase.

A key intention from the outset was to form a plant collection which would take advantage of the mild climate on the Ards Peninsula, with the result that the garden contains much planting which would not be hardy elsewhere in Ireland.

The garden was transferred to the National Trust in 1955. The Trust acquired the Temple of the Winds in 1962, the house in 1977 and Tir na nOg in 1986.


Early 20th Century (1901-1932)

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • Environment and Heritage Service of Northern Ireland Heritage Gardens Inventory

  • Reference: D037


  • Temple
  • Description: The Temple of the Winds is a two-storey octagonal stone garden building with two Corinthian porches and a circular stair-turret at the back. It has a decorative interior and commands views over Strangford Lough. Its designer had published a measured drawing of its ancient prototype in his 'Antiquities of Athens' in 1758. This is a significant builsing in the Greek Revival.
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  • Lake
  • Description: The lake was formed from an old gravel pit. In the early 20th century it became the focus for ornamental plantings and the family burial ground known as Tir na nOg.
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  • Garden Ornament
  • Description: There are many types of garden ornament at Mount Stewart, including a wide range of plant containers, but the distinctive features are the concrete statues representing birds and animals made in the 1920s and positioned around the Italian Garden. These figures refer to the nicknames of Lord and Lady Londonderry's political coterie, the Ark Club.
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  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: The kitchen garden was formed by 1781, when glasshouses were constructed within it. It was perhaps designed by William King, who appears to have largely responsible for the ornamental layout of the demesne.
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  • Gate Lodge
  • Description: Three gate lodges to the Mount Stewart estate in a range of decorative Regency styles.
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Key Information


Landscape Garden

Principal Building



Early 20th Century (1901-1932)



Open to the public