Saturday, 20 June 2020

The Red Trail

The Original Hut in 2016

Mount Stewart's Red Trail opened four years ago.

I first explored the trail on a glorious Sunday in May, 2016.

It was sunny and pleasantly warm.

After lunch at home I got a few things together and motored down the Ards Peninsula to Mount Stewart estate, a property of the National Trust, though formerly the ancestral seat of the Stewarts, Marquesses of Londonderry.

The Red Trail runs on land to the south-east of the demesne.

Having ambled past the Lookout and had a look in the shop inside the mansion house, I donned the wellington boots, ensured that my camera was in the pocket, and began the walk.

The Red Trail starts at a quaint little shepherd's hut, a sort of information centre for greeting visitors.

I walked in and chatted for several minutes to the person on duty.

The trail cuts through woodland and then there was a gradual ascent to Temple Hill and the Temple of the Winds, an octagonal building perched at the top of the hill, with a spectacular prospect of Strangford Lough.

The Temple was inspired by the Grand Tour the 1st Marquess took in his youth.

From here we begin a descent, walking on fairly level ground through enchanting woodland to the north-west of Patterson's Hill.

Eventually I emerged at a clearing, where there is a very large field at Cumming's Hill.

To my right, isolated and overgrown in semi-woodland, there's an old, derelict stone lodge or cottage.

It was doubtless inhabited by an estate worker and his family, perhaps a woodsman or gardener.

It appears rather romantic now, with the creeping ivy and resident crows, a pair of which I disturbed.

The windows are open to the elements.

Hopefully, in time, this will be restored as a holiday cottage.

Downpatrick Lodge and North Lodge at Castle Ward were both once derelict for many years until they were restored; and now they have tenants.

I continue my walk, northwards towards Bell's Hill.

The Glen Burn, a small river, runs alongside the Red Trail for part of the way.

Between Cumming's Hill and Bell's Hill there is a glen, where I made a short detour past picturesque little hump-back bridges to The Folly, at ruinous cottage ornée at the top of a hillock.

The Folly

It has the familiar Gothic window apertures seen, too, at the old schoolhouse; only the bare walls remain, though, and there is evidence of plasterwork on some of them.

This ruinous building aroused my curiosity.

There's something particularly special about walking new trails and discovering unknown features for the very first time.

According to my old chart there are the ruins of an old chapel or church at the extreme north of the Glen; at the edge of the estate, in fact.

Continuing my walk I begin a slight climb, past Bell's Hill, to the old piggery; then through a handsome, new, wooden gate which leads to a small track.

This track winds its way up New Hill, though a carpet of bluebells and woodland. It is relatively steep.

New Hill descends towards sea-level and brings one back to the start of the trail again.

First published in May, 2016.

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