We have been recently looking for newer pastures to explore in Northern Ireland on our National Trust Pass, as we aim to tick off some of the less obvious properties on the list, and ultimately get our money’s worth or the year. And this brought us out to Rowallane Gardens (a name I continue to forget) which is found out near Saintfield and Ballynahinch in the rural landscapes of County Down. But having found so little info online for our visit, we more or less approached it as a stopover, with plans of forwarding on to Castle Ward if there wasn’t much going on at Rowallane Gardens. Yet we easily spent a full day exploring and picnicking in the gardens and wider estate of Rowallane.
Unlike many National Trust Properties, the house is not so much a heritage attraction (like Mount Stewart) as it is a visitor centre, where the interiors have been seemingly stripped and replaced with information boards, visitor tidbits, and a busy cafe area that connects to a big patio out the back of the house. And this would be mostly for the kids to check out the seasonal activities and goings-on at Rowallane and to pick up their free “Plant Hunters Passports”. And the outhouses are similar again with activities and workshops mostly for kids, although we were enticed and followed the signs for the Rowallane Pottery demonstrations, only to find that “Matt the Potter” was away on holiday for the week, and the pottery barn was closed 🙁
This visit was 100% inspired by Fanfan and her obsession for flowers, and, in this respect, Rowallane Gardens did not disappoint. And most of the flowers are found in the main enclosure and the walled garden which is found directly next to the manor and outhouses. And the gardens reminded me of the Victorian Walled Garden found in the Castle Park area of Bangor. But it did feel like one thing was missing at Rowallane, in a water feature like a fountain or something, which really could add to the overall tranquillity of the victorian garden experience. There is even a big patch of wasted grass in the centre of the garden which would be the perfect spot for a nice decorative fountain.
The Rowallane Estate
There is of course more to Rowallane Garden than just the walled garden, as it is more of a layered estate that widens out from the house and outhouses. So the gardens expand out to an outer walled garden, and then there is parkland and woodlands, and, I’m guessing, the estate reaches to a far perimeter of fields and rural farmland (walking trails here). Although we never did get this far. And while I was tempted to skip into the distance through the tall grasses of the paddock, we otherwise remained nearer to the central garden walls in search of more scenic spots for the perfect picnic.
The National Trust
It’s hard not to compare Rowallane with similar National Trust properties, and I would say it’s a bit like a smaller, less prestigious Mount Stewart. But it is also cheaper on entry and it’s a lot less busy, so there are always the advantages. And the Saintfield/Ballynahinch location would also be more convenient for some areas. (Official website here).
Rowallane Gardens Prices
Rowallane Gardens Opening Times
Rowallane Garden is open year-round, although opening times do vary through the year depending on daylight hours. Otherwise the gardens will always open at 10:00AM in the morning, and then it will vary between 16:00PM in winter months up until 20:00PM in the summer months. Shown below.