Blue poppies and a handkerchief tree

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Last weekend hubby, myself and the hound dog spent a lovely Saturday afternoon at Rowallane, a National Trust garden located a few miles just outside of Belfast. To be honest, we have often overlooked this place in the past, opting instead to go to better known National Trust estates such as Castleward and Mount Stewart.  However, in an effort to try somewhere new, off we ventured to Rowallane and I have to say we were not disappointed.

The Rowallane  garden dates back to the 19th century and has passed through various owners until the National Trust acquired it in the 1950s. It is a mixture of formal and informal garden spaces and is often described as one of the most beautiful gardens in N Ireland.

We were very lucky to have chosen a day when some of the most spectacular blooms were on display. As we walked through the entrance gate, beautiful rhododendrons in shades of pink, red and white greeted us.

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From there we made our way into the Walled Garden, a delight to walk through with beautiful flowers on display throughout.

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I made a beeline for the Himalayan blue poppies which I have never seen before so this was a real treat for me. I learnt while there that these flowers thrive better in the cooler and wetter parts of northern Britain . They were so delicate and such an amazing shade of blue it’s hard to believe they would do well in our soggy climate but they looked amazing and I was so chuffed I got to see them when they were at their best.

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After lingering at the blue poppies for quite some time, we continued our walk in to the Outer Walled garden before passing through into the Rock Garden Wood where more beautiful rhododendrons were on display.

We then made our way into an area known as The Hospital – a part of the estate that used to house ailing calves. Here we discovered the Handkerchief Tree , given its name from the beautiful white leaves that hang from the tree like handkerchiefs. To be honest, it’s probably one of the most beautiful trees I have ever seen. It’s an old tree that was planted last century and comes into flower in May – our timing could not have been more perfect.

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I could have sat happily under the canopy of the Handkerchief Tree for hours. However, we were starting to feel a little peckish and made our way back gradually to the visitor centre and café. The café was well stocked with homemade cakes and there were a nice selection of gifts on sale.

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A huge bonus for us, Rowallane is a very dog friendly garden, so it was great to be able to sit outside on the patio area at the café and enjoy a cappuccino and traybake with Boris the hound in tow. There were plenty of places to attach his lead so we could sit down and bowls of water dotted around the place for all the thirsty dogs. You need to keep your dog on the lead at all times, something I prefer as it makes for a safer and hassle free day. However, for the more energetic dogs, there is also a dog exercise area where you can let your dog off the lead safely.

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I should also mention that there is a pottery at Rowallane which you can walk around and buy from the maker. Some of the pieces were beautifully crafted and glazed and I think I will be back there to get some Christmas pressies !

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All in all, a really lovely day enjoyed by us and our dog in equal measure. Rowallane is a great place for a leisurely walk, a chance to clear the head, enjoy the fresh air and draw inspiration from the landscape around you. Clearly the National Trust do a great job protecting our heritage and  I’m really glad I made the effort to visit this hidden gem.  I’m pretty sure I will be back quite soon and I hope these pictures encourage you to do the same.

You can find out more about Rowallane from the National Trust website here

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