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Kate Middleton's whistle-stop tour of Northern Ireland and Scotland - best photos

The Duchess of Cambridge discussed her early childhood survey

kate farm
Danielle Stacey
Danielle StaceyOnline Royal CorrespondentLondon
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kate northern ireland arrival© Photo: Getty Images

The Duchess of Cambridge made surprise visits to Northern Ireland and Scotland on Wednesday, in support of her early childhood survey. For her first stop, Kate, 38, visited The Ark Open Farm in Newtownards, Northern Ireland to speak to local parents and grandparents about their experiences of raising young children and their thoughts on the early years.

Kate then travelled to Aberdeen in Scotland to visit Social Bite, where she spoke to staff and customers at the cafe, which provides jobs to people who have been homeless, about the long-lasting impact of childhood experiences.

The Duchess launched a landmark online survey last month, '5 Big Questions on the Under Fives,' which aims to spark a UK-wide conversation on raising the next generation and will run until 21 February. Kate has already visited Birmingham, Cardiff, Woking and London to carry out engagements in connection with the launch.

The mum-of-three has been focusing on the importance of the early years since marrying into the royal family in 2011 and convened a steering group of experts in 2018 to aid her work.

READ: The secret meaning behind Kate Middleton's Alexander McQueen suit

kate farm staff© Photo: PA

The Duchess shook hands with staff as she arrived at the Ark Open Farm in Newtownards. The Ark Open Farm opened in 1990 as one of the first open farms in Northern Ireland. Having initially specialised in rare breeds of farm animals, the farm has now developed a number of play areas and activities for children. 

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kate alpaca

Kate was given a tour of the farm and she seemed quite taken with this alpaca! 

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kate children farm© Photo: Getty Images

The Duchess met a number of children and families during her visit to the farm. She crouched down to speak to one little girl. 

MORE: Kate Middleton makes farm clothes look chic on royal visit to Northern Ireland

kate lamb

In another cute moment, the Duchess met children from local nurseries and helped them to feed a lamb. 

MORE: Why Duchess Kate apologised to kids on farm visit in Northern Ireland

kate guinea pig© Photo: Getty Images

Kate also got to meet a guinea pig. The Duchess once revealed that her childhood nickname - "Squeak" - was inspired by her class guinea pig. 

kate earrings© Photo: Getty Images

Kate sported new gold banana leaf style earrings for her visit to Northern Ireland. She wrapped up in a pale blue roll-neck and her Barbour jacket. 

kate outfit© Photo: Getty Images

The royal mum donned smart casual-wear, teaming her Barbour jacket with black skinny jeans and her trusty Penelope Chilvers boots. Her hair was styled in her signature blow-dried waves. 

kate snake© Photo: Getty Images

Owner Stewart Donaldson, who runs the farm, joked to The Belfast Telegraph that he had been warned beforehand that there was one particular Ark Farm resident the royal wasn't keen on meeting - a snake! But Kate showed no fear as she handled Sophie the corn snake. 

kate tortoise© Photo: Getty Images

The children and their royal visitor also got to pet a tortoise. 

kate parents© Photo: Getty Images

The Duchess sat down with parents and grandparents to discuss their experiences of raising children, in support her early years survey. 

kate farm plaque© Photo: Getty Images

Before departing, Kate unveiled a plaque to mark her visit to the farm. 

kate social bite© Photo: PA

The Duchess then travelled to Scotland to visit the Social Bite cafe in Aberdeen. Social Bite runs social enterprise cafés across Scotland and distributes food and hot drinks to people experiencing homelessness. The organisation also employs staff who have experienced homelessness themselves. 

kate food cafe© Photo: Getty Images

The Duchess helped to prepare meals in the kitchen at the cafe, during her visit. It marked the final day of Kate's nationwide tour, as the number of responses to her survey reached 200,000, making it the biggest ever survey of its kind conducted in the UK. The online survey on early childhood closes on 21 February. 

kate group photo scotland© Photo: Getty Images

Kate, who is known as the Countess of Strathearn in Scotland, posed for a group photo with staff at the Social Bite cafe.

The Duchess said: "Over the last eight years I've had the privilege of meeting people from all walks of life, facing all sorts of challenges. What has struck me most is that so often the challenges people face in later life, whether mental health, homelessness or family breakdown – can so often be traced back to experiences in their earliest years. 

"It prompted me to delve deeper into the early years landscape and learn more from the experts, the scientists and the amazing people providing services on the ground. But now is the time to get the views from everyone in society. 

"I wanted to hear directly from people across the UK and it's great to have been able to talk to people in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and across England about their experiences. I want to thank the 200,000 people who have filled it out because each and every response will help show us what society really thinks about raising the next generation. I am excited to hear from even more people before it closes on 21st February."

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