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Who would visit a Garden Park slap bang in the middle of winter? Yours truly, of course. The benefits, however, are obvious – no other people to get in your shots! Because there are few things I hate more than awkwardly waiting around for people to pass. I just can’t bear the constant stream of polite apologies – seriously people, it’s nobody’s fault.

I’d have visited Hillsborough Castle too but it’s closed during this time of the year. I’ll probably give it a visit at some point, maybe in summer. Though truth be told, I get far more excited about outdoorsy stuff anyway.

I  knew I’d be in for a treat when I got handed a map of the grounds. Does anyone else get excited by reading maps or is it just me? Perhaps I was a pirate in a previous life? #completelyobsessedwithtreasure

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There is actually quite a bit to explore even if you, like me, pick a time when there’s not much flora to observe. The route around the park takes you past the Ice House, a lake with bona fide swans and a variety of hidden gardens and paths to explore, at your leisure. You can easily lose a few hours which, at £3.50 per ticket, makes for a decent day out. Bonus: the ticket is good all day so you can pop out for coffee or lunch!

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I even managed to spot a squirrel just as I was moaning about there being none around. Apparently I don’t give much thought to the fact that, while not in hibernation, squirrels like being warm and toasty. Much like people really – probably kicking back with a cuppa.

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This is a working royal residence, by-the-by, so I’m imagining the Queen walking the corgi around these meandering paths. If I was queen, I’d probably elect to be carried around on a palanquin and fed Golden Eggs.

But that’s just me.

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The golden ticket for me was, without a doubt, The Lady Alice Temple.

Considering I’ve always found the Emerald Isle quite magical (Arthurian legends, anyone?), it should come as no surprise that some of the best places to visit in Northern Ireland are, for me, the ones with a little bit of magic about them. This temple, with the lime trees flanked path, could feel right at home in any fairytale.

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I miscalculated how long the walk would take, in the end. A couple of hours later and my hands, nose and ears were frozen. I was also peckish (read: in desperate need of sugar) and ready for a hot beverage. In hindsight, we should have really split that walk in half, with a coffee break in the middle! A little something to consider for next time.

 

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