The magnificent 18th-century Mount Stewart is one of Northern Ireland’s grandest stately homes. Entertaining tours tell the story of the house and its contents; treasures include a painting of racehorse Hambletonian in Hambletonian, Rubbing Down (1799–1800) by George Stubbs, one of the most important paintings in Ireland. The house overlooks formal gardens filled with colourful sub-tropical plants and eccentric topiary.
Mount Stewart is on the A20, 3km northwest of Greyabbey. Buses from Belfast to Portaferry stop at the gate.
This National Trust property's contents reflect the period when Lord Londonderry and his wife Edith would entertain guests such as WB Yeats, Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain; the dining table has place settings for an imagined 1930s dinner party with illustrious attendees. As part of a three-year restoration project completed in 2017, the central hall's original 1840s Scrabo stone floor was uncovered and the delicate plaster work repaired.
Much of the landscaping of the beautiful gardens was supervised by Lady Edith for the benefit of her children – the Dodo Terrace at the front of the house is populated with unusual creatures from history (dinosaurs and dodos) and myth (griffins and mermaids), accompanied by giant frogs and duck-billed platypuses. There are several walking trails around the gardens and grounds.
Don't miss the 18th-century Temple of the Winds, a folly in the classical Greek style built on a high point above the lough. Tours of the Temple of the Winds interior are only offered on the last Sunday of the month (advance booking required), but it's worth the walk up to see the building from the outside and take in the views.