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NI Science Festival

Celebrating 10 years of inspiring the future

Celebrating 10 years of inspiring the future

Immerse yourself in an interstellar world of scientific exploration at this year's NI Science Festival, as this popular festival celebrates its 10 year anniversary!

Discover how you, the universe and everything in between behaves. Enjoy a wide range of talks, tours and workshops, from the science of compost to behind-the-scenes conservation and so much more at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens. Don't miss out on these special, one-of-a-kind events. 


15-24 February 2024

Ticketing information

Separate ticket (advance booking required)

Buy tickets
A photograph of a cocktail, decorated with a slice of orange and flowers, placed on a ornate copper plate. A person out of frame holds the straw in the cocktail.

An Evening of Drink and Drugs at Hillsborough Castle

For thousands of years people have partaken of a variety of mind altering substances from tobacco to alcohol, through to laudanum and cocaine. Join us for a fun evening of discussion and expert insight into legal highs through the ages with live music and complimentary drinks.

The format of this event is a little different to our regular talks programme at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens. On arrival, you will be welcomed with a drink in our State Entrance. Take your seat in the Throne Room, and watch Kyron Bourke and Linley Hamilton perform a selection of drink and drugs themed jazz and pop/rock standards.

Be informed and entertained by our three expert guest speakers and, after the final speaker, enjoy a final round of drinks as Kyron plays the evening out.

Guest speakers

Professor Sharon Haughey (QUB) - This interactive session will concentrate on alcohol and opium consumption (including laudanum), which was widespread in the mid-19th century. Learn how people consumed these drugs in the past and how they acted upon the body.

Trevor Dawson – Trevor will discuss the process of making mead and the history behind possibly the world’s oldest alcoholic drink still in use in modern times, including Metheglin (Mulled Mead) made with honey and spices, which was very popular with Queen Elizabeth I. You can also enjoy a selection of mead to sample.

Dr Kathryn Harkup - What is your poison? And how might it be served? A tongue-in-cheek look at how to plot the perfect poisoning. Taking inspiration from real-life cases and the fictional world of the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie, we will find out how the after-dinner cigar could kill, or how the cocaine in the cocktail might bring about someone's untimely end.

Date: Friday 16 February 2024

Times: 19:00-22:00

Duration: 3 hours (approximately)

Price: Adult £32.00 / Concession £30.00 / Members £30.00

Capacity: 90

Ages: 18+

Make & Take: Optical Toys Workshop - Wonder Turner

In this fun workshop for families, find out about early Victorian optical illusions by making your own thaumatrope, or ‘wonder turner’ to take home and amaze your friends!

Date: Saturday 17 February 2024

Times: 10:30–11:15, 11:30 –12:15, 13:15–14:00, 14:15–15:00. Last entry 14:15.

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: Free with a gardens ticket (members go free). No booking required. Spaces are allocated on a first-come first-serve basis. 

Ages: Suitable for families with children aged 5+

Photograph of a gardener potting seeds

A beginner’s guide to the science of compost

Get to know the miracle that is compost! This workshop is unmissable for any beginner gardener interested in composting, as well as keeping your soil healthy, understanding the pH, and creating texture and structure.

Hillsborough Castle’s expert gardeners will show you how they make compost, and how to get the carbon and nitrogen ratio just right. Learn what can be composted and how to tell when it is ready to use. As well as a guided walk through the Walled Garden, you will also visit behind-the-scenes areas such as the compost yard and the gardeners' operating base.

This an outdoor event so please come dressed appropriately. If wet we will relocate to a polytunnel. Be prepared to get your hands dirty and stuck into soil and compost.

Date: 15 and 22 February 2024

Times: 11:00 and 13:30

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: Adult £17.00 / Concession £13.00 (price includes admission to Hillsborough Castle's gardens). Members go free tickets: 15 February.

Capacity: 20

Age: 18+

Behind the Scenes Conservation Tour of Hillsborough Castle

Discover how we painstakingly conserve and preserve furniture, paintings, silverware and clocks for display in the impressive State Rooms of Hillsborough Castle. Led by expert Castle and Collections Manager David Orr, you will see the techniques used to care for our historic collections, visit behind-the-scenes rooms not on the regular tours, and meet one of our highly skilled specialists.

Date: Wednesday 21 February and Thursday 22 February 2024

Times: 14:30

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: Adult £17.00 / Concession £13.60 (price includes admission to Hillsborough Castle's gardens).

Capacity: 20

Age: 10+

The State Drawing Room, showing David Orr (Castle and Collections Manager) standing on scaffolding (teletower) and using a vacuum and small brush to clean an Ormolu chandelier. (Action shot.) The chandelier is suspended on gilt-metal chains, the base is cast as a central vase with candle branches. The electric candles on the chandelier are lit up.


  • Events
  • Things to see
  • Families
  • Easter

Spring Spectacular

Witness half a million bulbs in bloom in 100 acres of stunning gardens.

  • 09 March – 06 May 2024
  • In line with gardens opening hours
  • Hillsborough Castle
  • Included in gardens admission (members go free)
Learn more
  • Families

St. Patrick’s Day Music & Storytelling Sessions

This St. Patrick’s Day, listen to traditional Irish tales and music with renowned storyteller Eamonn Keenan and musician Aodan MacSeafriadh.

  • 16 March 2024
  • Hillsborough Castle
  • Included in gardens admission (members go free)
Learn more
  • Things to see

The Gardens

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

  • Wednesday - Sunday
  • 10:00-16:00 (last entry 15:00)
  • Hillsborough Castle
  • Included in all admission tickets (members go free)
Learn more


The story of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens

‘The Grandest House in County Down’

Art at Hillsborough Castle

Hillsborough Castle has become a place in which to see amazing art