Sunday was to be our last day in Northern Ireland, with a stop at Mount Stewart, a beautiful home and gardens in Portaferry. This was the only stop on the whole cruise that required us to tender in. All of the other stops were in places where the ship could dock. On our other Hebridean trips, we’ve had to use the tenders many times.
Bill, decked out in his finest lifejacket…
The plan was to take a local boat to Portaferry, where we would be picked up by a coach and taken to Mount Stewart. We’d spend a few hours there, have lunch, and then meet the ship in Bangor, which was a bit further north. The ride to Portaferry was nice. Everyone fit in one tender, so it was easy for us all to get there. The drive to Mount Stewart was quick and easy and the place itself offered a nice respite from being herded around on tours. Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland is not to be confused with Mount Stuart in Scotland, another fabulous place we visited on prior cruises. Frankly, I think I’m partial to Mount Stuart’s house, although the gardens at Mount Stewart are not to be missed.
Scenes around Portaferry. It looked like a peaceful place. It’s also really close to where a friend of mine grew up. I met him at church camp in Virginia back in 1994. He was a counselor and I was the cook. He and another counselor married and now live in Northern Ireland with their five kids! The funny thing is, a few years after I met my Irish friend, I was waiting tables in a restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia and a couple with an Irish lilt sat at one of my tables. We got to talking and it turned out they were from Newtownards… and were actually neighbors to my old friend from summer camp. I am forever running into people like that. It’s one of my quirks.
Once again, Bill and I skipped the house tour and just wandered around the beautiful gardens, talking. Bill was wanting to tour the house and I told him he should if he wanted to. But once again, he decided to stick with me. I was enjoying the beautiful sunny weather and relative peace and quiet. Lots of people brought their dogs and I was starting to miss mine with a passion.
Once again, we had lunch off the ship. Once again, I was thinking I would have preferred lunch on the ship. The folks at Mount Stewart had prepared leek soup, some crumbly breads, beef bourguignon, and raspberry lavender ice cream with fruit. There was also wine and water. I knew the beef would have mushrooms in it, so I was a bit annoyed. They found some stuffed chicken wrapped with bacon that looked a bit tired, but offered me mushroom gravy. I said, much too quickly, that I didn’t want mushroom gravy. Then I apologized quickly, because I realized I must have sounded like a nut. One of the ladies serving the food smiled and said, “Don’t worry. I don’t like them, either.”
They found a quiche for one passenger who was a vegetarian and I think I saw one or two people with fish, too. Maybe I would have liked the fish. I got plenty to eat, anyway, and several folks donated wine to me. I was feeling fine when lunch was over. Everyone else went on a guided garden tour while Bill and I wandered some more and took more pictures. Here are some for your perusal.
Mount Stewart House in Northern Ireland.
The above photos were taken in the formal gardens near the house.
A giant sequoia. I couldn’t fit the whole thing in a photo.
Here’s a video I took of some ducks enjoying dinner in the peaceful lake. The ducks were not bothered by us standing there.
Although we did not go on the guided garden tour, we did hear many of the passengers raving about it. If you’re into gardens, this might be a good place to visit and be sure to take the guided garden tour. As for me, I was content to people and animal watch and take pictures of all of the beautiful nature. I was marveling at how beautiful the gardens were and wondered how they stayed so gorgeous without obvious gardeners going around fixing everything.
We took a nice bus ride to Bangor, which appeared to be a nice looking town. I was starting to feel a little sick, so we headed straight for the tenders. I had heard another lady onboard who was sniffling and hacking a bit, so I wasn’t surprised when I started getting sick, too.
Unlike our peaceful ride to Portaferry, we were in for a slightly rougher time. This time, they used the small tenders from the boat, which required many trips. The surf was also pretty rough and there was talk we might have to be bussed somewhere else because there was a risk of injury. Fortunately, Hebridean Princess’s crew was on point and everyone made it back safely, though it took longer than usual.
We got back in time for tea. I noticed the sandwiches were particularly popular on Sunday. I guess I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t into the lunch.
One really nice thing Hebridean Princess does on Sundays is provide a “Sunday roast”. This time was no different. For dinner, we had a choice of fish, a vegetarian selection, or the delightful roast beef. Bill and I both had the Sunday roast.
A shrimp salad starter. I believe Bill had a bleu cheese broccoli soup, which I neglected to photograph.
Sunday roast with Yorkshire pudding and potatoes. I really am a Brit at heart. This was probably my favorite of all of the meals, as much as I love seafood.
This dessert was fabulous. It was basically White Russian ice cream with chocolate.
Of course, with Sunday roast comes the realization that the cruise is about to end. We had one more full day onboard and would be returning to Scotland before the morning.