The legacy of Edith, Lady Londonderry, whose celebrated gardens attract visitors from many far flung places, Mount Stewart is a real gem in the National Trust’s collection of properties.
Thanks to its location alongside Strangford Lough, it enjoys a mild climate that allows an exceptionally wide range of planting so there is much of interest all year round – and tours of the opulent neo-classical house are also offered.
But even if you don’t want to visit the house or gardens (or Temple of the Winds), the Bay Tree restaurant has become a destination in its own right. You don’t have to pay in to the property to visit it and this smart, bright self-service restaurant –which is just off the main reception area - is a very useful place to know about if you are exploring the area.
Menus change daily and Head Chef Jason Carnduff and Sous Chef Glenn Swift are kept busy preparing homemade scones, cakes and traybakes for morning coffee and afternoon teatime, as well as wholesome hot lunchtime meals based on locally-sourced, seasonal produce.
The many local suppliers proudly credited include Clandeboye Estate yoghurt, Bangor; Glastry Farm ice cream, Kircubbin; Oatland Fruit Farm, Hillsborough; Carnduff Butchers, Ards Fruit & Vegetables and Connoisseur’s Bakery - all Newtownards – and JT Seafood, Cloughey.
The style is “traditional with a contemporary twist” and you’ll find a choice of soups (vegetable or celeriac & spinach, perhaps), Chef’s Specials (such as warm potato & bacon salad or leek, broccoli & blue cheese tartlet) and main courses like Belfast ham with pineapple chutney, pan seared chicken with red onion marmalade, or beef lasagne, all served with a choice of sides.
Along with fair-trade tea and coffee and other hot drinks, cold drinks offered include wines and beers. Gluten-free bread, biscuits, and cakes are available, also sugar-free biscuits.
Dogs on leads are permitted at Mount Stewart and dog owners will be pleased to find a rail to tie them to just outside the restaurant, along with a welcoming bowl of drinking water.