Hillsborough Castle Project

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

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

About the project

We're re-opening the doors of Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland for everyone to explore the stories of this extraordinary place, and take part in its inspiring new future.

Historic Royal Palaces are investing over £16m into an ambitious programme of capital projects and associated activities that will open the site to the widest possible audience; conserve and re-present the heritage; explore its stories and engage communities and learners.

The project has received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and significant support from Mark Pigott KBE, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Clore Duffield Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation and other generous benefactors.

The project is due to complete in April 2019.

Visit our blog to keep up to date on the progress of the project, or sign up to our newsletter to receive updates on exciting events and products.

A high angle view of Yew Tree Walk (Taxus Baccata ‘Fastigiata'), looking east across the pond.

Improvements to site facilities

Sketch of people in a courtyard at Hillsborough Castle.

Lower Courtyard

The courtyard area at the lower end of the estate is being redeveloped into a multi-functioning space with café, shop, visitor information, ticketing and meeting spaces for visitors, schools and groups arriving by car and coach.

A number of exciting discoveries have been made in this area, including the remains of early eighteenth century Pineapple Houses and original Hot House walls. These are thought to be from one of the earliest sets of large greenhouses constructed at a private residence in Ireland. We will preserve the remains of these historic structures and bring to life the stories they have to tell.

Sketch of stable yard surrounded by people

The Stable Yard

The Stable Yard, built in the 1780s and located at the upper end of the estate, is being restored and adapted to create a café, shop and facilities for visitors and local residents arriving to the Castle from the town.

The new Clore Learning Centre will be located on the first floor of the Stable Yard and will become a centre for cross-community learning and engagement programmes.

Sketch of proposed Clore Learning Centre at Hillsborough Castle.

Clore Learning Centre

The first floor of the Stable Yard is being developed into an inspiring learning space providing 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 appealing to people of all ages and backgrounds.

Coach and car park

Now in the final stages of completion, a new car park with direct access from the A1 dual carriageway will ensure that access to Hillsborough Castle and Gardens is as easy as possible for visitors.

The car park has been designed to be in-keeping with and an enhancement to the existing landscape and environment. We’ve uncovered the ruins of what we believe to be an old agricultural building, which we’ve preserved and incorporated into the layout of the car park.

With well over 300 car spaces, including disabled parking along with 12 coach parking spaces and 600 overflow spaces and drop-off zone, this new facility will transform the possibilities of the estate and, for the first time, enable thousands of visitors to enjoy the site each day.

For our visitors who require mobility assistance or for those who are time restricted, a three-carriage people-mover with hydraulic wheelchair access will ensure visitors can travel quickly and easily between the upper and lower end of the estate, with a journey time of approximately five minutes. The castle itself is fully wheelchair accessible.

The main visitor car park under construction. Showing a wide area of tarmac with an empty bedding area for plants in the foreground. A construction worker stands in the middle of the new car park area and construction vehicles can just be seen in the background, behind an area newly planted with trees.

Work on the castle and gardens

To reach our goals of opening up the site to the widest possible audience, improving the visitor experience and increasing access, we are making a number of improvements to the infrastructure of the estate. This includes improving estate paths and visitor routes, and developing ‘back of house’ facilities to support our on-site staff. Through continued research and survey work we are also working to improve the management of the site and the biodiversity of the estate.

The South Terrace, looking north-east. The terrace flagstones are in the foreground. The Greek Temple can just be seen in the background on the right of the image.

The castle

We've already re-presented the State Entrance Hall, Ante Room and Red Room with new decorative schemes, furniture and paintings that reflect the history of the Castle and the town of Hillsborough.

Now, we've turned our attention to the restoration and re-presentation of the Throne Room, State Drawing Room, State Dining Room, Lady Grey's Study and Stair Hall. We're now displaying these rooms to create a more coherent narrative whilst retaining elements that capture the history of events that have taken place in the castle. We've even restored some original elements that existed prior to a fire that tore through the castle in 1934, such as four beautiful interior columns in the State Drawing Room.

Alongside the re-presentation, we're unlocking 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. Visitors will be able to take part in our new guided tours, family events and visitor programmes, and share the 'backstage' work of our conservators and curators.

The castle and gardens will re-open to the public on 1 July 2018, when the transformation of the elegant State Rooms will be revealed.

In the meantime, our work to re-present and restore this impressive site, including the 18th Century Walled Garden, shop, café and car park continues until April 2019.

The Walled Garden

The gardens at Hillsborough Castle cover nearly 100 acres and our dedicated team of gardeners and volunteers are continuously working to restore the significance and beauty of these wonderful grounds, bringing them to life for visitors to explore and enjoy. The Walled Garden is our most grand and ambitious project to-date.

The Walled Garden dates back to the 18th Century and is a large, four-acre site historically used to produce fruit, vegetables and flowers for the house.

As part of the Hillsborough Castle Project, we're restoring and re-presenting the site to create a beautiful working and productive garden, complete with dipping pond, crop rotations, seasonal produce, potting sheds, herbaceous borders and an apple orchard.

Produce from the Walled Garden will also be used in the nearby cafe, so our visitors can enjoy locally grown, seasonal produce from the gardens all-year-round.

A range of activities are being developed in the Walled Garden aimed at engaging a wider audience and supporting charitable organisations, schools and partner activities. These include developing skills through training in horticulture, traditional craft/heritage skills, learning about food and the environment, teamwork and confidence building activities.

Meet Adam Ferguson, Hillsborough Castle's new Keeper of the Walled Garden, in this short film.

Adam and his team are bringing the garden to life with a new re-imagination of the garden ready for opening in spring 2019.

Stream passes over mossy rocks with a gentle waterfall in the Lost Garden in the grounds of Hillsborough Castle.

The Lost Garden

The Lost Garden is a picturesque ferny valley situated south-west of the castle. Remnants of an ornamental, exotic planting scheme can still be be seen, but much of the garden had been overgrown and difficult to access.

Now we're restoring this magical hidden gem with the aim of firing imaginations and curiosity through a range of interpretation and learning programmes that bring stories to life through activities, trails and carefully-integrated natural play features.

New paths, bridges and trails are being installed to allow visitors to fully explore the extensive grounds which will incorporate three main areas: southern hemisphere planting with a restored island and bridges, wetlands and walkways, and a Chinese glade.

As we restore the garden, new opportunities will be created for people to develop skills in traditional crafts such as stonework and carpentry.

This is a phased project, with the first of these areas due to be unveiled in April 2019.

Find out more about the project

The State Entrance, looking west. Flower beds of summer planting stand on either side of a stone pathway in the foreground.

Visit our blog for the latest updates

See what's going on at Hillsborough Castle and hear from our teams working on the ground as we transform Hillsborough Castle and Gardens.

Visit the blog

Our sponsors

Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Logo
Garfield Weston Foundation Logo
Clore Duffield Foundation Logo
Foyle Foundation Logo
The Wolfson Foundation Logo

With many thanks to Mark Pigott KBE.

Throne Room with silk green damask walls, wooden floor and large rug. Two red and gold Chairs of State, or 'thrones' are situated at the far end of the room. Gold-framed paintings of landscapes adorn the walls and three large chandeliers hang above.
Tours and talks Things to see

Discover elegant State Rooms still used by the royal family on a guided tour of Hillsborough Castle.

Daily

Hillsborough Castle

The South Terrace, looking south-east across the terrace flagstones towards the small topiary trees and summer shrubs. The Greek Temple is just seen through the castle portico in the background on the left of the image.
Things to see

Discover the ornamental lawns, meandering waterways, peaceful woodlands and picturesque glens that surround Hillsborough Castle.

Open daily

Hillsborough Castle

A gardener attends to the Great Vine under its green branches at Hampton Court Palace
Things to see

Listed in 2005 as the world's longest grape vine, the Great Vine at Hampton Court Palace is a fantastic spectacle.

Open daily

Hampton Court Palace

White background. Main image is of a bronze finished garden ornament of a miniature dachshund which is sold in the shops and online.

Dachshund bronze finish garden ornament

This playful bronze effect dachshund will charm any new owner. This fun decorative garden ornament features a miniature dachshund dog standing on its hind legs and is inspired by the history of royal dogs.

£19.99

Designed exclusively for Historic Royal Palaces as part of the Enlightened Princesses exhibition at Kensington Palace. This luxury butterfly paper folding fan is based on an original fan in the Royal Ceremonial Dress collection at Historic Royal Palaces.

Luxury cream butterfly folding hand fan

This luxury butterfly paper folding fan is based on an original fan in the Royal Ceremonial Dress collection at Historic Royal Palaces dated c. 1870-1890.

£14.99

Luxury Rabbit Doorstop

Rabbit doorstop

The sitting rabbit doorstop is a handsome fellow made out of luxurious beige fabric with silk trim - he is definitely more than a doorstop as his appealing looks are sure to guarantee him the best room in the house!

£29.99