Mount Stewart isn't a hidden gem, it is one of Northern Ireland's diadem rocks, second to the actual rocks of the Giant's Causeway. The opening hours were flexible (to say the least) on the rainy day that we visited, so we wandered through the gardens whilst the grey clouds threatened.
Warning: I also somehow managed to get every photo slightly askew.
Inbetween the rumbling clouds, we explored the sprawling gardens, restored to the splendour of their original planting in the 1920s (overseen) by Edith, Lady Londonderry.
The greenery was interspersed with a scattering of fascinating statuary, politically planted flower beds (featuring the harp and red hand of Ulster) and a beguiling smattering of paths.
We were the only people
Out damned spot, or off damned raindrop, rather.
Behind large leafy fronds, concrete faces smiled out at us in a variety of curious gazes.
With the threatened rain drops beginning to splodge, we made our way inside the hallowed halls where the current generation family still live, after a National Trust regeneration of £8 or so million pounds. Running into Lady Rose Lauritzen, a direct descendant of the Marquesses of Londonderry, we took our time to explore each of the rooms.
The interior is all the glorious opulence I have come to expect of titled family estates usually established for longer than New Zealand has history (with some of that history caused by mischievous generations...)
Just a casual set of armour on the walls...
...titles on the dining room table...
...priceless artwork hanging on the stairwells...
...and galleons whimsically hung from the light fittings (an optical illusion that would sit on the nearby lake before the trees grew so high)
Though with animal snacks dotted around the living rooms, and silver-plated dog bowls, I feel like these would be my people.
I did wonder what these two dudes were discussing "OMG, did you SEE that volunteer's skirt clashing with her jumper?" < Why I can never work in a museum...
...before we finished the house tour with a peek into the family chapel hung with lions rampant.
Oh, and we couldn't get a seat in the cafe for a spot of tea and scones because when we wandered in it was swarming with elderly people. Does the disappointment make me an elderly people?
Luckily our friend and local guide extraordinaire knew of nearby village that purveys the most ridiculous cinnamon scones so all was not lost on our last morning of Northern Ireland rambling...