Hillsborough Castle

Opening doors, exploring stories, inspiring the future – for everyone

Historic Royal Palaces is embarking on an exciting project - we’re opening the doors of Hillsborough Castle for everyone to explore the stories of this extraordinary place, and take part in its inspiring new future.

Our ambitions will be realised over the next five years through a programme of capital projects and associated activities that will welcome visitors; explore the stories; conserve and re-present the site; engage communities and learners and make a social contribution.

Use the map to explore the projects.

Visitor Facilities

One of our first projects will be to create the access, welcome and visitor facilities that will ensure a great day out at the Castle and Gardens.

The Lower Courtyard

This project will see the Lower Courtyard being redeveloped into a multi-functioning space with café, toilets, visitor information, ticketing and meeting spaces for visitors, schools and groups arriving by car.

A number of exciting discoveries have already been made in this area, including early eighteenth century Pineapple Houses and Hot Houses, thought to be one of the earliest sets of large greenhouses constructed at a private residence in Ireland. This new use will conserve these historic structures and bring to life the stories they have to tell.

The Stable Yard

The Stable Yard, built in the 1780s, and located at the upper end of the estate will be developed into visitor facilities adjacent to the Castle and will create a secondary entrance from Hillsborough town. The Stable Yard buildings will be restored and we will adapt the ground floor to create a café, shop and facilities for local communities. The Clore Learning Centre will be on the first floor.

Clore Learning Centre

The first floor of the Stable Yard will be developed into an inspiring learning space. This will provide facilities for learning and engagement activities with schools, families, youth and community groups, as well as talks and workshops for adults.

Historic Royal Palaces’ learning and engagement strategy places audiences and their learning experiences at the heart of the organisation. The Clore Learning Centre will be supported by a rich programme of learning, participation and public programmes to appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds.

We are grateful to the Clore Duffield Foundation for supporting us with funding for this project and look forward to developing programmes with a range of schools and community groups in Northern Ireland.

The Gardens

The gardens at Hillsborough Castle cover nearly 100 acres. Over time the significance and beauty of these wonderful gardens will be restored and brought back to life for visitors to explore and enjoy.

We have already created a new South Terrace and Jubilee Garden and will restore the Yew Tree walk in 2016.

Read more

The Castle

We have already re-presented the State Entrance and adjacent Candlestick Hall with new decorative schemes, furniture and paintings that reflect the history of the Castle and town of Hillsborough.

Our main project focusses on the restoration and re-presentation of the Throne Room, Drawing Room and Staircase Hall. Little remains of the original features in these rooms due to a fire that tore through the Castle in 1934. We will re-present these rooms to create a more coherent narrative and interpretation while retaining elements that capture the history of events that have taken place in the Castle.

Alongside the representation we will unlock the rich tapestry of stories that Hillsborough Castle has to tell, using techniques that are the hallmark of Historic Royal Palaces’ interpretive approach, offering a choice of adventures to everyone, from first time visitors to local experts. There will be opportunities for visitors to share the ‘backstage’ work of our conservators and curators and to take part in a range of family events and visitor programmes.

Site improvements

Hillsborough Castle currently hosts visitors in a variety of ways, from big events such as the Antiques Road Show and BBC Proms in the Park to citizenship ceremonies, garden parties, visitors to the Castle and Gardens, weddings and private events.

To reach our goals of opening up the site to the widest possible audience, improving the visitor experience and increasing our opening hours we need to make a number of improvements to the infrastructure of the estate.

This project will improve the estate paths, fencing and visitor routes, and will develop our ‘back of house’ facilities to support our on-site staff. A range of site surveys will also enable us to improve our management of the site and the biodiversity of the estate.

Volunteer Programme

Historic Royal Palaces’ volunteer programme is well established and very much integral to our organisation. Volunteers offer support in every department across all six of our palaces.

Our volunteer roles offer a variety of opportunities, from making new friends through to developing new skills and learning about careers in heritage. Many of our volunteers have progressed to paid roles either within our organisation or elsewhere in the heritage sector.

We will be creating over 40 new volunteering opportunities at Hillsborough Castle in a variety of roles from welcoming and assisting visitors with orientation and information to supporting guided tours, working with our gardeners and conservators and facilitating activities and programmes across the site.