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 Tea Room is useful to know about. 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 handy to drop into if you are exploring the area.
Menus change daily and head chef Pauline Shields and the team are kept busy preparing homemade scones, cakes and traybakes for morning coffee and afternoon tea, as well as wholesome hot lunchtime meals based on locally-sourced, seasonal produce.
Many local producers in the Newtownards area supply the kitchens, including Glastry Farm at Kircubbin, whose famous ice cream range includes Raspberry & Lavender which is flavoured with lavender grown in the formal gardens at Mount Stewart.
All food is made on-site, using the National Trust Cookbook as well as local recipes; baking is a strength - all available gluten free - and the wholesome hot food offered at lunchtime includes soups (always gluten free), signature home-made sausage rolls, stews, baked potatoes and daily specials.
For morning coffee or afternoon tea the choices include cream teas with home-made scones, local jam and clotted cream, served with the National Trust’s bespoke espresso blend perhaps. Teas and other speciality coffees and available too, of course, while cold drinks include wine and local beers and ciders.
Outside in the courtyard, a snack kiosk offers ice creams, ice lollies, coffees and cold drinks to take with you when exploring the gardens.
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.