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The Duchess of Cambridge meets Sophie the snake on day trip to Northern Ireland

The Duchess of Cambridge handles a snake during a visit to The Ark Open Farm, at Newtownards, near Belfast. Credit: PA

The Duchess of Cambridge handled a snake during her surprise day trip to Northern Ireland.

Kate held the snake, called Sophie, at the Ark Open Farm in Newtonards as she met with children.

Holding the snake, the Duchess said: "She’s got the most amazing skin. This is the first time I’ve ever held a snake like that. How cool is that?”

The snake’s handler Sophie Wrigglesworth, 26, from Co Down said they had not originally planned to bring the snake out to the duchess as they had been advised she had a fear of them.

But Ms Wrigglesworth said the Duchess insisted on holding the animal.

Kate talks to children as she holds the snake. Credit: PA

She said: "It was good fun meeting the Duchess, quite nerve wracking initially but she was so calm and collected, and she was good at approaching people and making sure everyone felt comfortable."

During her one-stop visit, Kate was given a guided tour of the farm, meeting the owners and staff at the family-run attraction.

She chatted and laughed as she made her way round the farm, pointing out different animals on her tour.

The Duchess of Cambridge helps children feed a lamb some milk during a visit to The Ark Open Farm, at Newtownards. Credit: PA

The Duchess and the children saw a large bull and a brown alpaca, before going on to see some of the smaller animals, where she petted a rabbit and fed a lamb.

The visit comes as the mother of three focused on early childhood development, aimed at improving life chances by supporting expectant parents and young families.

Kate waves to one of the youngsters at the centre. Credit: PA

The visit came to an end with the duchess unveiling a plaque to mark the 30th birthday of the Ark.

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