Hillsborough Castle and Gardens is now closed for major project works - re-opening in July 2018.

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.

Site improvements

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

Sketch of people in a courtyard at Hillsborough Castle.

The Lower Courtyard

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

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 arriving to the Castle from the town and for local residents and community groups to enjoy. The new Clore Learning Centre will be located on the first floor.

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.

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.

A view of Lady Alice's Temple, a domed garden folly, viewed from the gardens at Hillsborough Castle. The gardens surrounding the folly are filled with yellow daffodils

The Gardens

The gardens at Hillsborough Castle cover nearly 100 acres. We are working to restore the significance and beauty of these wonderful gardens, bringing them to life for visitors to explore and enjoy. We began by creating a new South Terrace and Jubilee Garden and the Walled Garden is also taking shape.

The Walled Garden is a large four-acre site historically used to produce fruit, vegetables and flowers for the house. We are restoring the site to create a beautiful working, productive garden complete with dipping pond, crop rotations, seasonal produce, potting sheds, herbaceous borders and an apple orchard.

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.

An exterior photo of the South facade of Hillsborough Castle on a sunny September day. Framed by greenery.

The Castle

We have 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.

This project focuses on the restoration of the Throne Room, State 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 are displaying these rooms to create a more coherent narrative while retaining elements that capture the history of events that have taken place in the Castle.

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.

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 be seen but much of the garden is overgrown and difficult to access.

We are restoring this ‘magical hidden garden’ 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. 

In addition, new paths, bridges and trails have been installed to allow visitors to fully explore the extensive grounds.

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

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 curators on the HRP 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.

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The Sunken Garden looking south west across the pond to the East Front of the palace.

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