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Weekend Walk: Rowallane Gardens Winter Woodland

Area: Co Down.

Distance: One mile circular.

Map: Sheet 21 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series available from Land and Property Services www.osni.gov.uk or www.nidirect.gov.uk/map-shop-information.

Nearest town to start: Saintfield.

Facilities: Car park, toilets, cafe and shop within grounds.

Publication: Property Trail leaflet available from the National Trust ticket hut.

Terrain: Natural woodland floor, gravel surfaces and grassy paths.

Walk Description: Escape the overcrowded shops and head to the National Trust property of Rowallane for a tranquil woodland walk, before soaking up the festive atmosphere at the Yuletide market.

Popular with both dog walkers and ramblers, the woodland of beech, birch, pine and ash trees was originally planted to shelter the formal gardens, known for their colourful plant collection and rugged landscape. The woodland walk is a fantastic location to witness nature at its best in these tranquil surroundings which loop around the perimeter of the lower garden.

Starting from the car park, turn right up the drive towards Rowallen House, turning right again along the narrow gravel path beside the house. This will lead you towards the sundial and low stone steps to the pleasure grounds, where many of the towering conifers were planted by the Rev John Moore in 1858. From here, follow the high wall on your left till you reach a wooden swinging gate, which marks the starting point for the Woodland Walk.

Continue along the natural trail keeping the garden nursery and outbuildings on your left as it leads towards a gap in the wall. Here you can return via the gardens to rejoin the festivities or can extend the walk by passing the Rock Garden Wood and 'hospital', the name given to this small area when it was used as a sheltered field house for sick calves.

The area now contains a collection of unusual trees, most notably the Handkerchief Tree. Here you are able to join a gravel laneway which can be followed into the Courtyard and Bell Tower where the walk ends just in time for a warming cup of tea in the cafe.

Responsible Walking: Please remember to practice the principles of 'Leave No Trace' when enjoying the outdoors in order to minimise your impact on the environment. For more information, visit www.leavenotraceireland.org.

Disclaimer: This information has been provided by WalkNI.com in association with The Irish News. Every care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information. However, neither WalkNI.com nor The Irish News can accept responsibility for errors or omissions. Where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.

:: Visit WalkNI.com for route descriptions, maps, and transport and facility information for over 240 quality walks across Northern Ireland.

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