Mount Stewart estate land bought by National Trust
The National Trust has bought 900 acres of land surrounding the historic Mount Stewart house and gardens in County Down at a cost of £4m.
The deal, which follows years of negotiations with the estate of the late Lady Mairi Bury, will increase the size of the attraction ten-fold.
It will lead to the opening up of 20 miles of walking trails, as well as the restoration of Georgian buildings.
It comes as a £7.5m project to restore the stately home nears completion.
The trust hopes the renovation, together with the land purchase, will boost annual visitor numbers from 160,000 to 250,000.
The charity has acquired rolling parkland and woodland which make up the historic demesne of the famous house and gardens near the shore of Strangford Lough.
The purchase reunites the house with its demesne, decades after the gardens and house were gifted to the National Trust.
Lady Bury, who died in 2009, was the youngest daughter of the 7th Marquess of Londonderry. The family had owned Mount Stewart since 1740.
Jon Kerr, the trust manager at Mount Stewart, said: "In time, visitors will be able to explore extensive woodland, previously unseen walled gardens, farmland and a range of historic monuments and buildings."
The trust said if it had not bought the land, there was the prospect of development activity.
"At a number of points, we were not sure we were going to be successful," said Mr Kerr.
"We just could not miss the opportunity to secure it for the people of Northern Ireland."