Posted by: Shanna Germain | 05/12/2009

Pg. 42: Mt. Stuart


The tour guide for the Mount Stewart trip. No, I’m kidding, of course. This guy was just hanging out in the greenhouse, having a wee slimy nap.


  • Weather: Glorious May-like day. I might have gotten a bit of sunburn. Okay, maybe not…
  • Mileage: 5 miles from Rothesay to Mt. Stuart, and then at least two more ambling through the gorgeous gardens there.
  • Discovery: I can almost make it up all four flights of stairs without dying now.
  • Media: Started East of Eden, John Steinbeck.
  • Worst Thing: Missing the bus home by one point four seconds. Seriously. The bus driver saw me too, I know it!
  • Best Thing: Smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches.
  • Quote of the Day: See below about third and forth earls and what-not. Confusion reigns.
  • Word of the Day: Am pure done in. I am so freaking wiped…


Today, it was off to Mount Stuart, a five-mile hike from the flat to the front door of the gardens, and a rather glorious and sunny day. The majority of the walk was even on the road, so it was uneventful in the boggy, soggy kind of way, but eventful in the sighting of cars, kayaks, beaches, birds, cows and deer kind of way. For the record, there is also no bathroom between the door of the flat and the entryway of Mount Stuart. You have been forewarned.

What, you ask, is Mount Stuart? Yeah, I asked the same thing, only I called it Mount Scott, which garnered me some rather baffled looks. Oops.

Mount Scott is a volcano in Oregon.

Mount Stuart, on the other hand, is an amazing Gothic Victorian Mansion. But it’s also (I didn’t realize until after I arrived, sweaty and beat from walking for an hour and a half), a huge estate filled with gardens, wooded walks and beach trails (300 acres worth of huge, in fact).


The ferns and the sunshine along the path between the Kitchen Garden and the Mt. Stuart House.


The grounds, the gardens and the restaurant are free, but for eight pounds, you can take a tour of the Gothic Mansion as well. Let me tell you — the man who built this place was both smart and very, very rich. They don’t allow you to take pictures inside the house, but you can see the virtual tour of the place here. You really need to check it out. I’m not a ga-ga over architecture girl, but this place was amazing. My favorite part was the accurate-to-the-dot star chart/constellations on the ceiling, as well as the twelved stained glass window depictions of all four seasons (four walls, three windows for each wall), corresponding to colors (red for summer, for example), zodiac signs (each window had a different zodiac scene depicted) and mirrored by carved statues beneath. I can barely even explain it, it was so elaborately intricate. Suffice to say, I spent a great deal of the tour with my head hanging back and my mouth open. My neck was so tired by the end of it that I could barely hold my head up.

The tour guide was fantastic — I had no idea what she was talking about half the time, and couldn’t keep the history straight at all: “So, Mary Goodwife Gottenmired, fourth dutchess to the Firth of Flutterbutter, married Charles Skippenhall, who was the third Earl of SomethingOrOther but had become friends with the king, who proclaimed him First Marquis of ThisOtherPlaceIDon’tKnow, and then she died, and he remarried… ” I just stood and looked at the pretty pictures while she talked about history, but the rest of the time, she had me in the palm of her hand, with her wit and her knowledge about woodwork, tapestries, statues, artists, marble and the like. And don’t even get me started on the library… I could have curled up there in front of the fireplace with just one of those ancient books and been happy for a long, long time.

Home was a bus (after the first one left without me, on purpose, I’d almost swear it), a rather difficult trek up the four flights of stairs, and then a long shower for my tired legs. Back ‘home’, in this high-ceilinged flat that could have fit into just one of the rooms at the Stuart house, I sat and wrote for a few hours, thinking about how much money and time someone put into creating their “dream home” (and not just a dream home, truly, but a dream estate — the gardens, the walks, the architecture of the land even) there on the end of the Island. What labors, what attention, what grand plans. And I thought about what I’d do with all that money. What dreams I’d plan and build. What legacies I’d leave, be it stone or paper or words or thoughts.

And then I began to wonder what everyone else dreams of. What they’d build or create or do or design or become if their wallets and hourglasses were big enough. What great things would you be the architect of?

Far and fast, s.


Blue poppies from the gardens.


I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.

~Edna St. Vincent Millay, from her poem “Afternoon on a Hill”



  1. ooooooohh! BLUE poppies and woolly fences! I feel so loved ! Sheep are sheep the world ’round, Josh still insists we only need one sided fences as the sheep will only stick their heads through the fence squares to eat on the other side and never look around to see that the other 3 sides are open. What would I do without kids OR sheep? 🙂

    ( I never want to find out. )

  2. Gee, so many beautiful and interesting places on this island.

    You’re writing quite the guidebook, Shanna (among other things…).

    Hmnn. A dream house… A house with a central courtyard that held a garden. The house itself would be without windows — oh maybe one or two strategically placed on the courtyard side — but would have a roof constructed of continuous skylight, in other words: just glass. I’d watch the clouds move all day. And every day the sky would be perfect because I — and my wallet — said so. 😉

  3. Ooh, Ella, I like that. Both the amount of glass, and the opportunity to control the weather 🙂

    And, can you imagine someone trying to follow this ‘guidebook’? Hehe. They’d have a hell of a time!

  4. I’m managing quite nicely (and vicariously) with said guidebook! You could offer a tie-in product: a Word-of-the-Day calendar. Really, this blog is inspiring and rich on many levels!

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