Hooray, it’s June and summer has finally arrived! I write this as I stare out through my rainy bedroom panes (sigh) hoping desperately that last weekend’s sunshine was not the beginning and end to my favourite season. But let’s stay positive and not put away those new shorts just yet…
Last weekend, after calling in for morning coffee in the sun with dad in his beloved new vegetable garden I set off to explore the grounds of Castle Ward in Co. Down. I’ve been wanting to visit the estate since coming home to Northern Ireland (almost 8 months ago now), but have been waiting for some summer sunshine to show off the impressive grounds in their most beautiful and flattering light. Now owned by the National Trust, the historic grounds are open daily to the public and are often used for filming purposes by the hit HBO series Games of Thrones. Gives a somewhat new view to Winterfell, eh?!
The house itself is thriving with interesting tales of family politics and ruthless class division, and entertaining hourly tours of the eccentric mansion are now provided by the National Trust, inviting visitors to enter into the lives of Lord and Lady Bangors’ of times past.
What immediately sets this house apart from the rest of its kind is its bizarre mix of architectural design. The house is split equally in two – on the front facing side (viewed above) is a classical Palladian build commissioned by Lord Bernard Bangor, whom the house was built for in the early 18th century. However, the fiery Lady Bangor (whom it may be noted had not married Bernard through choice) insisted that they adhered to a Georgian Gothic-inspired build, more in fashion at the time. Unable to reconcile their differences, it seemed to the couple that there was only one viable solution. The house was radically divided into two:
The Wards owned the land here in Co. Down from the 1500s and many generations of Wards/Viscount Bangors have enjoyed the luxuries of the lavish residence. It was only upon the death of the 6th Viscount Bangor in 1952 when the National Trust was entrusted to preserve its legacy. The house is brimming with more scandal than an episode of Hollyoaks, and that’s what gives Castle Ward its vivid character.
After finishing the house tour it was time to enjoy the first days of summer and take a stroll through the magnificent grounds; 820 acres to be exact. The blossoming gardens of the estate wind effortlessly down to the tranquil shores of Strangford Lough and luckily the weather was perfect to showcase the splendor of the landscape which Castle Ward is so admired for.
There is something for everyone at Castle Ward, from indulging in the history of the estate like I did, to biking/hiking the new 21 mile multi-use trails, to archery lessons at Clearsky Adventure Centre, so my advice for interested visitors is to try to allocate an entire day to your planned journey.
You can find out more about Castle Ward, including opening times on the National Trust website at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/castle-ward/
p.s. Apologies for the lack of posting lately, I’ve been admittedly distracted by job hunting, moving house and other such grown up responsibilities, but I’m hoping to continue planning and sharing my adventures with you as much as possible this summer – so please stay tuned 🙂Until next time, Kathy x