Duchess of Cambridge meets children during visit to Co Down farm

The Duchess of Cambridge is meeting young children during a visit to an open farm in Co. Down.

In a one-stop solo visit to Northern Ireland on Wednesday, Kate received a guided tour of the Ark Open Farm in Newtownards, meeting the owners and staff at the family-run attraction.

She was greeted on arrival by the Lord Lieutenant of Co. Down, David Lindsay, the Sheriff of Co. Down, Austin Baird, and the Mayor of Ards and North Down, Bill Keery.

Kate is receiving a guided tour of the Ark Open Farm in Newtownards, meeting the owners and staff at the family-run attraction. Credit: PressEye

The Duchess was guided around the facility, meeting a range of animals from lambs, goats and alpacas, by the farm owners Stewart and Lorraine Donaldson.

Kate turned snake charmer as she handled a corn snake on the surprise day trip.

The Duchess was left amazed as she held the pale yellow reptile named Sophie, confessing it was the first time she had picked one up.

Kate turned snake charmer as she handled a corn snake on the surprise day trip. Credit: PressEye

Holding out her arms, the Duchess remarked: "Are you sure it's OK? Oh my goodness. No way," before adding: "Is there a way to hold her? Wow, look at that."

She asked a youngster next to her: "Do you want to touch the snake?"

Kate added: "She's got the most amazing skin. This is the first time I've ever held a snake like that. How cool is that?"

It comes as the mother of three has turned the spotlight on Early Years, which is aimed at improving children's life chances by supporting expectant parents, parents and carers of children up to five years old, young children and their families.

Kate received a guided tour of the Ark Open Farm in Newtownards. Credit: PressEye
Kate received a guided tour of the Ark Open Farm in Newtownards. Credit: PressEye

Last month Kate launched a landmark national survey on the early years development of children.

The poll, conducted by Ipsos Mori on behalf of the Royal Foundation, is thought to be the biggest survey of its kind and will ask "five big questions on the under-fives".

The Duchess had made the issue of the "future health and happiness" of children a pillar of her public activities and hopes the results of the survey will spark a conversation on early childhood and guide the focus of her work.

During her visit on Wednesday she met with local representatives of Early Years and families who have benefited from the work of the charity.