N.I. Houses & Gardens

belfast Day 1 Belfast - Downpatrick 80 kms, 50 miles
After visiting Belfast?s Botanic Gardens take the A24 to Saintfield to the 100-year-old natural gardens of Rowallane. Enjoying fabulous views of the Mourne Mountains, continue south to Castlewellan Forest Park, where the National Arboretum contains one of Europe?s best tree and shrub collections. Drive via Downpatrick to Castle Ward an 18th-century mansion with opposing facades in different styles set in splendid grounds.

Day 2 Downpatrick - Cookstown 152 kms, 95 miles
Be sure to visit St Patrick?s Grave on Cathedral Hill before driving to Strangford, with stops en route at Struell Wells and the ancient site of Saul where St Patrick built his first abbey. Allow 10 mins to climb Slieve Patrick, then go by ferry to Portaferry and drive the inland road past Grey Abbey to Mount Stewart, ancestral home of Lord Castlereagh, British statesman in Napoleonic times. The gardens are famous for their exquisite 18th-century architectural features and themed gardens. Via Belfast, go to Moneymore (M2, M22, A6) to visit Springhill, a charming 17th-century house.

Day 3 Cookstown - Enniskillen 100 kms, 60 miles
Take one of the scenic routes through the Sperrin Mountains then south to the Fermanagh Lakeland to visit two great 18th-century houses in National Trust care: Florence Court, south of Enniskillen town, is set in a dramatic amphitheatre of mountains and has rococo plasterwork and a delightful walled garden. A mile east of the town is Castle Coole, the most important neoclassical house in Ireland, with a Palladian main front 90 yards long, an impressive interior and original furniture.