The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visit Hillsborough Castle and Gardens in Northern Ireland ahead of public opening

9 April 2019

9 April 2019

Today, Tuesday 09 April 2019, Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visited Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, in Northern Ireland, ahead of its official public re-opening on 18 April 2019. The Castle, which is the official residence for the Royal Family when in Northern Ireland, will be opening its doors following a five-year £24million transformation project by independent charity, Historic Royal Palaces, to refurbish the castle, reimagine the gardens, and open the building and its estate to wider audiences and communities.

During the visit Their Royal Highnesses toured the new Lower Visitor Centre and met with representatives from Historic Royal Palaces along with craftspeople and builders involved in the project. The Prince and The Duchess then joined a small reception on the terrace where His Royal Highness said a few words, after which Their Royal Highnesses jointly unveiled a commemorative plaque.

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall then walked through the newly revived Walled Garden, which would have once served as the Castle’s Kitchen Garden, and met with the Castle’s expert gardening team and local agricultural college CAFRE, volunteers from Lisburn based charity Stepping Stones and pupils from Beechlawn Special School in Hillsborough, who were planting vegetable seedlings in the new beds. Produce from the garden will be used in the Castle’s new restaurant and tea room. Their Royal Highnesses also viewed The Prince’s Foundation Summer House and met with trainees from the Foundation’s Traditional Building Skills programme who completed the building, in addition to mentors from the Historic Environment Division.

The Prince of Wales continued his visit with a walk through the Castle’s estate, which includes ornamental gardens, woodland, waterways and glens, until he reached the Castle, where he then undertook a tour of the newly conserved interiors of the State Dining Room, Red Room and Throne Room, all of which have undergone a complete transformation including a new art hang. During the Castle tour The Prince met with the team responsible for the refurbishment of the interiors including the Castle’s curatorial and interpretation teams as well as the many skilled craftspeople responsible for undertaking the work.

Meanwhile, The Duchess visited the new Clore Learning Centre in the Castle’s Stableyard, where local school children from Downshire Primary School, Hillsborough, and older people from Lillie Court residential home in Lisburn were undertaking craft activities.

Their Royal Highnesses, then both met with local portrait artist, Gareth Reid, in the Drawing Room where a portrait, commissioned by Historic Royal Palaces, of The Prince of Wales was unveiled for the first time before the visit concluded.


Notes to Editors

Hillsborough Castle and Gardens will re-open on 18 April 2019. Tickets for 18-28 April 2019 must be booked online in advance. For further information please visit

The Hillsborough Castle project has received almost £5million from The National Lottery Heritage 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.

For further information, images, factsheets and interviews please contact the Historic Royal Palaces Press Office [email protected] or 020 3166 6166. We also have a suite of content for online and social use including video and images.


Hillsborough Castle

Built in the mid-18th century by Wills Hill, second Earl of Hillsborough, Hillsborough Castle is one of the most beautiful and interesting historic buildings in Northern Ireland. In 1925, Hillsborough Castle was acquired by the Government as the residence for the Governor of Northern Ireland and, de facto, the official residence of The Royal Family. Today it still serves as both the official Royal residence for the Royal Family when in Northern Ireland and is also the residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Hillsborough Castle has been the setting for a number of historically important events, including the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985 and the first ever meeting of the heads of state of the UK and Ireland in 2005, when Her Majesty The Queen met Irish President Mary McAleese in the Red Room.

The Hillsborough Castle Project

When Historic Royal Palaces took over the care of the building they announced plans for a £24m programme to refurbish Hillsborough Castle, revive its estate and open it up to many more people than had previously been possible whilst improving and maintaining its service as a working Royal Palace. Our approach would be cross-community and cross-border.

Historic Royal Palaces assembled a design team to develop our plans that included architects Bronagh Lynch and Dawson Stelfox of Consarc, landscape designer Catherine Fitzgerald and Alec Cobbe to direct the presentation of the interiors, alongside dedicated skilled staff already on site.

Work commenced on site in April 2017 and the project has:    

  • Established the infrastructure required to welcome many more visitors than ever before, including a new carpark, welcome centre and other amenities
  • Created two new restaurants serving locally-sourced, seasonal and wholesome produce prepared by our catering partner, Lisburn-based The Yellow Door.
  • Revived the Walled Garden to be a spectacular productive garden that provides fruit and vegetables for the estate, inspired by the 18th-century layout and the Georgian kitchen garden
  • Restored the Yew Tree Walk, Moss Walk and other elements of the estate
  • Created a new Clore learning centre in the Stable Yard complex
  • Refurbished the State Apartments, complete with an entirely new hang of works from the Royal Collection Trust complemented by other loans
  • Conserved the exterior of the Courthouse, including returning to use the clock whose chimes had been silent for 30 years

Completing this project has required the skill and labour of some 700 contractors from 71 companies. Whenever possible, we have employed excellent local craftspeople and suppliers, with 20 working on the State Rooms alone. Throughout the works we have benefited from the excellence of a number of local crafts people and suppliers.

Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle and Gardens.  We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We raise all our own funds and depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, sponsors and volunteers. With the exception of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, these palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Historic Royal Palaces cares for Hillsborough Castle under a separate contract with the Northern Ireland Office. Registered charity number 1068852. For more information visit