Once again I enjoyed taking friends to the National Trust's Mount Stewart. The gardens are a must, at any time of year for a garden lover - especially any lovers of topiary, one day I'll be able to stay long enough to explore the whole park. it's fun for children too with the statues of monkeys, and many more domestic, wild, extinct and mythological animals (an added treat for both children and adults is taking them there via the Strangford Lough ferry, though that only works for you if coming from the Downpatrick direction. The house was disappointing this year as it's in mid renovation and when we went the upstairs and the kitchens were closed. The tour guide was, as ever, informative, but the spiel does need a work over to maintain the interest of those less familiar with the historical figures described - it needs an injection of quirky stories, as you get at Castle Ward, down the road. Even the visitor I took commented on that, though she loved the elegance of the ground floor of the house. The cafe does excellent soups and has the fine array of cakes which you come to expect in Northern Ireland.
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