|3rd Marchioness of Londonderry, by Lawrence|
I've spent a marvellous morning at Mount Stewart, the National Trust's property on the Ards Peninsula in County Down.
Of course it was the County Down seat of the Marquesses of Londonderry.
Today I was invited to a special preview of the mansion-house, which has been lovingly restored.
I began the day with tea and a scone in the tea-room, which has also had a major "makeover".
The sky-light on the roof makes this tea-room wonderfully bright and airy.
I was seated beside an absolutely captivating lady who lives at Cultra, County Down. We chatted about this and that, though she intimated that she's a loyal member of the Virgin health club at Knocknagoney.
Thereafter I made my way in a stately fashion (!) under the portico and porch of the House and immediately encountered an old pal, Alan, whom I hadn't met for ages - understatement - and who volunteers with the Trust, as I do myself.
Thence I toured the principal rooms on the ground floor and was very glad to meet the staff in attendance.
There's a finely-woven carpet in the large dining-room which was especially made by Axminster, and boasts the Stewart dragon crest.
The National Trust has acquired many exquisite treasures from Lord Londonderry and his family, including valuable paintings and portraits by Sir Thomas Lawrence.
The fabric of the House has been restored and beautified tastefully and skilfully by the Trust: rooms have been renovated sympathetically and in keeping with the period.
Could this monogrammed leather case have contained Edith Lady Londonderry's binoculars?
Heartiest congratulations to all the staff at The National Trust, particularly at Mount Stewart; and the teams of staff who have spent so many hours in what has clearly been a labour of Love.