From the Top Left, Clockwise; a Stream in Tollymore, Mount Stewart House and the Trees of Tollymore
Established in 1955, Tollymore Forest Park spreads out over 1,600 acres at the foot of the Mourne Mountains and enjoys the views of the mountains, as well as the sea in places. Enter the park through its large and imposing gothic-style arches constructed at the behest of Lord Clanbrassil in the 1700s with the park passing into the hands of numerous wealthy families. It is home to a great number of different varieties of flora and fauna including pines, oak trees (the oak wood used on the Titanic was sourced from here), giant redwoods, monkey puzzle trees and more. Beyond the plant life; there are streams to peer into, bridges to cross, rocks to climb and caves to explore. To find your way through the park, there are a number of walking trails which vary in length with the longest, aptly named the “long haul trail”, being around 8 miles long.
Predating the founding of Tollymore by over 100 years, Mount Stewart and its gardens are another of County Down’s great attractions. Founded by the Stewart Family, the house is filled with period art, furniture and clothing. The house’s collection includes the chairs used at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the famous “Hambletonian” by artist George Stubbs. Spread out over 98 acres, the estate of Mount Stewart includes its own lake, gardens, statues and The Temple of the Winds, a reconstruction of a building discovered by the 1st Marquess while holidaying abroad. The world famous gardens are broken down into a series of “rooms” each with its own distinct tone and feel. Mount Stewart’s house and gardens each have much to explore.
While Tollymore and Mount Stewart are both mainly outdoor experiences, they are both enjoyable all year round as each season brings something different. Whether it’s the changing colours of the leaves in Tollymore or the first day of spring in the gardens of Mount Stewart, there’s always something new to see in both of these. The peace which accompanies these is blissful but there is also plenty of open ground for any little ones to run wild. Mount Stewart is especially a favourite amongst families with its blend of historic intrigue and explorable gardens.
While Mount Stewart charges for access (though not a large amount by any means), entry to Tollymore is completely free.
Self Catering in County Down
Self Catering in Northern Ireland
Words by John Temke