The last time I visited Mount Stuart was shortly after the estimable James Alexander Sinclair had designed and planted the garden leading to the new visitor centre – it looked wonderful then and it was good to see that it is looking just as good now, several years on.
After a bit of a lull when things were kept ticking over, the gardens and parkland are the focus of restoration and reinvigoration with the brand new Head of Horticulture, Don Murray, bringing his experience in the same role at the Eden Project to move things forward with the Curator, Graham Alcorn. There are many stories to be told about the gardens and they are determined to uncover them, as well as doing practical things like opening up vistas, re-establishing pathways, lifting crowns on trees and replanting borders.
I hadn’t previously toured the house, but encouraged by garden photographer Andrea Jones, we did a tour that focused on the many botanical references in the house. The 3rd Marquess of Bute, who built the money-is-no-object neo-gothic house, had local flora incorporated into the carved capitols of marble columns, wood carvings, tiles, stained glass, tapestries and even the door furniture. It is all quite jaw-dropping. Photography is not allowed in the house so you will need to go there to see it. If possible ask for Bob to guide you round as he is finding more and more floral details and loves to share his discoveries. Check well ahead of your visit to make sure Mount Stuart is open – it’s a popular venue for celebrity weddings and is sometimes closed, even in high season. I was so over-excited by the house tour that I forgot to take any photos in the garden, so Andrea Jones has generously supplied me with some of hers. www.mountstuart.com