The Hills of Mount Stewart

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Before first visiting the great mansion and Gardens of of Mount Stewart it would not be unreasonable to imagine it perched on an elevation with magnificent views over Strangford Lough to the distant Mountains of Mourne. In reality the house shelters in a hollow whose benign microclimate supports lush and verdant gardens which completely shield it from the world beyond.

However, the hills are still there and, thanks to the recent acquisition by the National Trust of land covering the whole of the historic demesne, this walk allows you to visit some of them.

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Today we saw an Otter

Fish for breakfast – photo from a previous spotting of an Otter on the end of a storm drain outfall

Today we saw an otter eating its fishy breakfast just off the seawall walkway at Holywood. For 10 minutes it slipped in and out of view, sometimes just a raised line in the water, sometimes head up, jaws wide open and a fish clutched in its front paws and then a downward roll and just a magnificent tail slipping back below the water.

We were probably looking for seals (quite common here), or maybe Eider, but we were looking, and that makes all the difference!

Waiting for Spring

First Bluebells seen – 28th March – Killynether Wood – south facing niche in root collar

Marking the turning of the seasons is a old as as human life itself. Before there was writing stones set deep in the landscape marked out the critical turns of the year. Much of this has been lost with our modern world’s attempted disconnect from nature, but the turning year still influences our moods, fears and hopes. The coming of spring matters to all – even if only a precursor to barbecue season and summer holiday flights!

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Redburn Country Park

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The designation ‘Country Park’ suggests an accessible woodland on the urban fringe suitable for a gentle stroll. Redburn is not really like that and I have included 5m contours on the map above to make this clear. Any looped walk here will involve well over 100 metres of climb – a third of an Irish mountain and a significant workout for lungs, heart and legs! If you are of modest fitness be aware, take your time and pack in lots of stops to enjoy the great views which come with height and effort!

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