FAQs

FAQs

Answers to your most frequently asked questions about Hillsborough Castle

What is it?

The late Georgian mansion was built in the 1770s by Wills Hill, first Marquess of Downshire and was later remodelled in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, it is a working royal palace functioning as the official residence of the Royal Family when in Northern Ireland, and has been the home of the Secretary of State since the 1970s. A tour of the castle will guide you through the elegant State Rooms, still in use today, including the majestic Throne Room and graceful Drawing Room.

Wander through 96 acres of beautiful gardens, developed from the 1760s onwards, offering a contrast of ornamental grounds, peaceful woodland, meandering waterways, and trimmed lawns. Look out for the statue of Ossian outside the main entrance, the Lady Alice Temple, the Quaker Burial ground and the Ice House.

What is HRP doing?

On 1 April 2014, Historic Royal Palaces took over responsibility for the management of Hillsborough Castle. Historic Royal Palace’s aim is to develop and re-present the site; to help everyone explore the important historical role it has played, making the castle and its gardens widely accessible for future generations to share and enjoy.

What does my admission ticket cover?

Hillsborough Castle offers two different ticketing options:

  • Castle tour with gardens access – This includes a guided tour of the castle with one of our excellent explainers as well as self-guided access to the gardens.
  • Gardens access – This allows self-guided access to our 96 acres of gardens. Trails and maps are available to help you plan your visit.

Do you do guided tours?

A visit to the interior of the castle is always as a guided tour. With prior arrangement, a guided tour of the gardens is also available.

How do I get to you?

Car Just off the A1 and easy access from the MI.
Bus Regular bus service from Lisburn and Belfast City Centre. For further information please visit www.translink.co.uk.

Where can I park?

Hillsborough Castle does not have its own car park at the moment however we are currently in the initial stages of creating one.

There is a public car park in the village just off Main Street beside the Church. Parking charges are currently £1 for 5 hours.

How can I check if Hillsborough Castle is open?

Please call 028 9268 1300.

I’ve lost something, do you have a lost property office?

Yes, lost items are stored securely so if you have misplaced something, please contact the wardens at the gatehouse.

Can I take photographs?

Photography is permitted in all areas of the castle and grounds for personal, non-commercial use.

Within the castle, photography of individual items is not allowed due to loan arrangements.

The use of tripods inside the building is not permitted unless arrangements have been made in advance with our conservation team to protect the floors from being damaged by the tripod base.

The frequent use of flash is discouraged as it disrupts the enjoyment of the palace for other visitors.

Tripods may be used in external areas (i.e. courtyards and gardens) as long as access for other visitors is not compromised.

Wedding parties cannot take any bridal photography in the palace or gardens unless the ceremony and/or reception are held onsite.

Is there anywhere I can leave my heavy/bulky bag?

The wardens at the gatehouse can store larger items for you.

Can I bring my dog with me?

Assistance dogs only are permitted on site and are allowed inside the castle.

I would like to find out about the collections on display at Hillsborough Castle – who do I contact?

Email curators@hrp.org.uk or call 0203 166 6400.

Can I purchase audio guides/guide books?

Hillsborough Castle does not offer an audio guide as all visits are taken with a fully trained tour guide.

At Hillsborough Castle we do not yet have a gift shop; we are currently in the initial stages of creating one. To purchase HRP merchandise please visit our online shop website

Hillsborough Village benefits from a range of shops including:

  • Candy Plum – An award winning women’s fashion boutique.
  • Hillsborough Visitor Information Centre – located in the Courthouse, the shop offers a range of local crafts. 
  • Trio & Cheshire Cat – offers a variety of crafts, jewellery, home accessories and children’s toys.

Can I stay overnight in the palace?

Unfortunately not, no. There is accommodation nearby which includes Dunhill Cottage and Dunhill Farm House, Coach House (self catering) and Premier Inn Lisburn.

Can we have a picnic at the palace?

Yes, you may picnic in the gardens at Hillsborough Castle, but please be aware the lighting of barbeques is not permitted. Please note food and drink are not permitted within the Castle.

Where can I leave my pushchair?

Pushchairs may be left in cloakroom at the State Entrance.

Is there anywhere to change my baby?

There are baby changing facilities at our toilets at the State Entrance and our public restrooms in the gardens.

Do you offer a Garden Season Tickets?

Yes, garden season tickets are sold at Hillsborough Castle, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

Is the palace accessible to visitors with mobility issues?

The guided tour of the State Rooms is all on the ground floor and therefore very accessible to all. Unfortunately, due to conservation and preservation of our flooring, mobility scooters may not be used inside the castle.

Visitors are asked to note that due to the natural terrain of the gardens, only some of the paths are accessible to wheelchair users and those with restricted mobility.

Are there wheelchairs available?

We do have a limited number of wheelchairs available. Please book prior to your visit to avoid disappointment; to do so, contact Cate on 028 9268 1376.

How to I offer feedback/complain?

Visitors are encouraged to leave feedback. We have short questionnaires and guest books on site, alternatively please email our team at Hillsboroughcastle@hrp.org.uk

How do I book for Afternoon Tea?

Contact Cate on 028 9268 1376.

What do you offer for groups?

Visit the Groups pages on our website or contact Cate on 028 9268 1376 who will talk you through the options.

What is the best time of day for me to visit?

The least busy times of day are the 12 noon and 1pm tours.

How long will it take to visit Hillsborough Castle and gardens?

We recommend 2.5-3 hours. Guided tours of the Castle are approximately 45 minutes, and exploring our varied gardens spread over 96 acres takes around 1.5-2 hours.

Who lives in the palace now?

Hillsborough Castle is the official Royal Residence in Northern Ireland therefore the Royal Family use it on visits to Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State also has an apartment in the castle.

Is there food and drink available to buy at Hillsborough Castle?

Hillsborough Castle does not have its own restaurant at the moment however we are currently in the initial stages of creating one.

Within the local area there are the following restaurants:

  • Humble Pie – Traditional cooking. Pride themselves on homemade desserts and extensive tea/coffee menu. 
  • Café Deelite – Home cooking café open 7 days a week. 
  • Azora – a cosy, gluten free café serving organic coffee and Suki teas. 
  • The Hillside – Pub food and serving a fine selection of gins, whiskeys and draft ales.
  • The Parson’s Nose – Gastro pub in an 18th Century Georgian Town House. 
  • The Plough Inn – 2 restaurants, seafood specialities and a bar.
  • Royal China – Cantonese, Thai and Peking cuisine

Would I need permission to sketch inside the palace?

Sketching in the grounds is welcomed and no permission is required. Access inside the castle is by guided tour only, so sketching is not possible.

Would I be able to use my mobile phone inside the palace?

No, we request that guests refrain from using mobile telephones during guided tours of the castle.

Can I use a drone near the palace?

Drones are not allowed in the vicinity of Hillsborough Castle or any of the other palaces in the care of Historic Royal Palaces.

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