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Walk of the Week: Rowallane Garden

Rowallane Garden lies in the beautiful drumlin landscape of Co Down and is home to a dazzling array of exotic species.

Visitors can enjoy spectacular colourful displays of shrubs, spring bulbs and several areas managed as wildflower meadows.


From Belfast follow the A7 to the village of Saintfield, and go straight through towards Downpatrick. The garden entrance is signposted and situated on the edge of the village on the right.

Park in the main car park and after the staffed reception hut go over the pedestrian bridge and turn right up the slight hill to Rowallane House (The National Trust’s Regional Office in Northern Ireland).

Turn right onto the narrow gravel path just immediately past the house and walk towards the sundial and low stone steps to the Pleasure Ground. Follow the high wall on your left which also curves round through the tall trees (Walled Garden).

Keeping this wall on your left you will come to a wooden swinging pedestrian gate. This is the starting point for the Woodland Walk.

Follow the natural path — the garden nursery is on your left with some outbuildings. Keep along this path where the bluebells abound in spring. You can re-enter the garden along here, or go down the slight incline through a wall cutting into the extended walk which passes the Rock Garden Wood. Here the bluebells and birch intermingle with beech and hazel plantings.

Go down the path and skirt round the bend approaching up to a wooden gate into the last section of the shelter belt. A metal gate ahead brings you back into the garden through the Old Wood area.

Turn right and keep straight on the grass through another metal gate within dry stone walling into the Hospital — the area is named after the sick calves that were put in here to be nursed back to health when Rowallane Garden was a working farm — and then enter Holly Rock.

Go up a short incline until you reach a gravel lane, turn left and keep going up this hill into the Haggard (name for farmyard), turning right along path into Courtyard and the Bell Tower. The toilets are located just through the second gated arch on the left here.

Keep straight on the tarmac drive past the small clipped yew trees leading back to Rowallane House, where you first came into the garden, and go down to the bridge at the bottom turning left into the car park.

For the Farmland Trail, turn right at the starting point for the Woodland Walk indicated above.

A stile takes you from the woodland belt into the field. Dogs are not permitted on this trail as sheep are grazing for much of the year. Carry straight on up to the summit of Trio Hill (marked with a bench for the weary!) for breathtaking views down over the Rowallane Gardens and the 220-acre estate, and east towards the Mournes. Head down the other side of the hill towards the stone pillars and up the hill opposite towards the early Christian Rath (550-1100AD). Retrace your steps down the hill towards the pillars again and veer right towards an old stone outbuilding — originally a farmhouse.

Head towards the field boundary facing the far gable of the outhouse and skirt the hedge to the left until you come to a wooden stile. Cross the stile into the adjacent field and turn left.

Veer right down the hill back towards the woodland, where a final stile will take you back onto the Woodland Walk at the Rock Garden Wood. From here you can follow the directions above through the garden back to the car park.

The backdrop

The 19th century garden, famous today for its colourful plant collection and rugged landscape, was started in 1860 by the Moore family and further added to from 1903. Glimpses of the garden on the left and surrounding farmland on the right through the tree stems will delight the walker when exploring this new area.

Tranquil and calming, the walk skirts round the famous Rock Garden Wood on the edge of the garden leading out into the rugged Old Wood part of the garden.

Planted 25 years ago, initially for shelter for the garden, the trees consist of beech, birch, pine and ash. Underneath the tree canopy, snowdrops, wood anenomes and bluebells thrive. In mid-spring the scent arises from the bluebells and gorse bushes which are naturalised within the fields surrounding the walk bounded by natural dry stone walls. Autumn brings the rustle of leaves with glorious yellows, oranges and reds as the trees prepare for winter.

Further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN) at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com.

CAAN in association with The National Trust and Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. CAAN and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.

Nearest town to start point: Saintfield.

Distance: 1-2 miles.

Terrain: Natural woodland floor, open field, gravel surfaces and grassy paths. The main avenue is a tarmac surface.

Facilities: There is a carpark, toilets (including disabled toilet) and information shed at Rowallane.

Publications: A Property and Trail leaflet is available at the ticket hut.

Walk Developed By: The National Trust (nationaltrust.org.uk).

Map: Sheet 21 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).

Belfast Telegraph