THE summer holidays are just around the corner and if you are looking for a different or unusual way to spend a day with friends or family then why not immerse yourself in the history and heritage of the many stately homes and country houses that are dotted all around Northern Ireland.
Tourism Northern Ireland is encouraging everyone to find out more about these beautiful homes and gardens and the upcoming summer holidays are the perfect excuse for a day out or short break.
Tourism NI’s Destination PR Officer, Pauline Gormley explains why a visit to a stately home or country house is the perfect way to spend a day:
“Historic homes allow visitors to uncover interesting links to the past as well as explore lavish surroundings and stunning gardens and walking trails. A visit to a country house is a great way to spend a day with friends or family especially if you love to learn more about the history of the area or like to appreciate the stunning gardens that usually accompany these beautiful houses.
“Whether you are a green fingered gardener or not you simply won’t fail to appreciate the beauty of the surrounding gardens. Why not turn your visit to a stately home into a short break by booking into nearby accommodation and spending a weekend exploring all that the area has to offer,” added Pauline.
Tourism NI has put together a list of homes that are available to visit all over Northern Ireland:
The Argory in Co Armagh is a beautiful Irish gentry house surrounded by a 320 acre wooded riverside estate with grounds that include sweeping vistas, scenic walks and fascinating courtyard displays. The home was once owned by the MacGeough Bond family and has remained largely unchanged since 1900 and visitors can spend the day exploring the second hand book shop, adventure playground and Lady Ada’s award-winning tea room.
If you are looking for a place to spend a whole day exploring beautiful surroundings then you should consider Mount Stewart House in Co Down which is known for its inspiring and unusual garden as well as its fascinating heritage and history. The building has recently undergone a three year, £8million restoration project to bring the house back to its former glory and visitors can experience previously unopened rooms and hundreds of previously unseen items on display.
Over 160,000 people visited the house last year and tours include paintings and stories about prominent political figures to whom the Londonderry family played host. Those who embark on a tour of the house will learn more about the opulent house, its heritage and world famous artefacts. Visitors can view beautiful gardens, a picturesque lake as well as woodlands and dramatic views across Strangford Lough.
Hillsborough Castle in Co Down was built in the 1770s by the first Marquis of Downshire and was later remodelled in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, the Castle is used as the official residence of the Royal Family when they are in Northern Ireland and has also been the home of the Secretary of State since the 1970’s. The picturesque building boasts 98 acres of beautiful gardens which include ornamental grounds, peaceful woodland, meandering waterways and trimmed lawns.
Visitors to Florence Court House, in Co. Fermanagh will find something for everyone at this warm and welcoming 18thcentury property which is the former home of the Earls of Enniskillen. The stunning property offers a peaceful setting with a dramatic backdrop of mountains and forests. There is a range of glorious walks, play areas as well as a charming walled garden to discover and lavish interiors and exquisite decorations. Florence Court House is also famed for its beautiful gardens and is the home of the Irish Yew which was discovered in 1760.
Colebrooke Park in Co Fermanagh was the home of Viscount and Vicountess Brookeborough and one of the region’s most important and historic stately homes. This unique house is set in a lush 1,000 acre working estate and as it is only a short distance from the wonderful tranquility of Lough Erne, it is the ideal setting for a family picnic.
The beautifully landscaped Downhill Demesne in Co Derry~Londonderry is set on the wild, rugged coast and is one of the best known features of Mussenden Temple, the ruined palace of the nobleman Frederick Hervey, the Earl Bishop of Derry. Visitors can soak up the stunning scenery as they take a drive along the coast and later this summer Downhill will be brought to life with the annual Kite Festival on 2 August.
Once described as ‘one of the prettiest houses in Ulster’, Springhill House, Co Londonderry is a 17th century plantation home. The charming house offers visitors the chance to explore family portraits, furniture and decorative arts that bring to life the many generations of Lenox-Conynghams who lived there from 1680. The old laundry houses one of Springhill’s most popular attractions, the Costume Collection with some exceptionally fine 18th to 20th century pieces. Interestingly, Springhill has a beguiling spirit that captures the heart of every visitor. Described as ‘one of the prettiest houses in Ulster’, its welcoming charm reveals a family home with portraits, furniture and decorative arts that bring to life the many generations of Lenox-Conynghams who lived here from 1680. The old laundry houses one of Springhill’s most popular attractions, the Costume Collection with some exceptionally fine 18th to 20th century pieces.
Famed for its unique architectural style, Castle Ward in Co Down is a unique 18th century mansion which boasts 820 acres including walking and cycling trails, exotic gardens, stunning vistas and a picturesque farmyard. The parklands are ideal for those interested in garden history and heritage.
Following extensive redevelopment, Lissan House in Co Tyrone reopened in 2012 and now offers a range of interesting things to view such as modern interactive exhibits and original family furnishings which take visitors on a unique journey through the history of the estate and the family characters that have shaped it.
The stunning country residence is set within a 250 acre demesne of ancient woodland and forestry and also features a playground for children, a wooded picnic area, walled garden and secluded walks. Lissan house is perfect for exploring on a sunny summer day and is ideal for families.
Other houses across NI that are also sure to delight include:
Sentry Hill is a 19th century farmhouse in the parish of Carnmoney, County Antrim which has been long associated with the McKinney family who first came from Scotland to Ireland in the 18th century.
Benvarden Garden in Co Antrim is a historic estate built in the 1630s and has been owned by the Montgomery family since 1798. Visitors can explore the stable yard, stables, coach houses, cart houses and a tea room which was converted from a stable.
Derrymore House is an elegant 18th century thatched cottage in Bessbrook Co Armagh that boasts a rich history and delightful walks
For information log onto www.discovernorthernireland.com.