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Free Schools Programme

Hillsborough Castle announces free education programme and travel bursaries for schools across NI

  • Free Schools Programme extended and available to all schools in NI, ROI and GB
  • Ambitions to more than double the number of children visiting Hillsborough Castle and Gardens in the next five years.

Historic Royal Palaces, the charity which runs Hillsborough Castle and Gardens has announced it will now offer free facilitated sessions to all primary and secondary schools across the island of Ireland, alongside travel bursaries for NI schools to support the cost of school trips.  The charity hopes to increase the number of pupils visiting Hillsborough Castle from 1,600 per year to 8,000 per year, so that many more young people can experience Northern Ireland’s shared history, in a space where it continues to unfold.

The schools programme includes sessions exploring the castle’s role as a place of political retreat, discussion and negotiation, from the 18th century to the present day.  Free sessions are already available to book, and applications are now open for travel bursary funding between June and December 2024.

Laura McCorry, Head of Hillsborough Castle, explains; “Hillsborough Castle and Gardens provides an educational opportunity for schoolchildren across the whole of the island of Ireland, and GB, which is engaging, inspiring and expansive.

“We are thrilled to be able to extend our programmes free of charge to every school in Northern Ireland, ROI and GB.  We know the impact that cost pressures can have on children and young people and want to contribute where we can by providing this access to a space where young people can explore our shared history together.

Throughout history, Hillsborough Castle has been a place where worlds and minds meet to find common ground.  We’ve welcomed Presidents, Prime Ministers, Princes and Princesses, but young people are our most important guests.  We’re looking forward to sharing the story of this remarkable place and the people who made history here with more schools than ever before in 2024.

Maria Magill, Learning Producer, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens explains; “Hillsborough Castle and Gardens has a long-term ambition to increase access to our education programmes and facilities.

“The sessions we run support the local curriculum and explore Hillsborough Castle’s role in the political realm throughout history, from the 18th to the 21st centuries.  They cover Key Stage 2 with ‘Power and Politics’, Key Stage 3 with ‘The Origins of Northern Ireland’, Key Stage 4 and 5 with ‘Politics, Power and the Path to Peace’, plus Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) sessions on ‘A Working Home’.  There are also sessions on exploring life as a servant in an Anglo-Irish 'big house' and getting ready for a Victorian wedding!’

We know how beneficial spending time outdoors is to the health and wellbeing of young people, and that’s why we’re also delighted to be offering more schools free access to our gardens and estate.”

Hillsborough Castle’s free curriculum linked sessions can be booked via and can be made by any primary or secondary or SEND school.

Historic Royal Palaces would liketo thank all donors who generously support the schools programme at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, including Devon and Yvonne Bruce, The Drapers' Company, Enkalon Foundation, Herbert Kozlov and Sir John and Lady Emma Parker.



Notes to editors

Media Contact: Jane Williams, JComms: [email protected] / 07545206590


Historic Royal Palaces is a team of people who love and look after six of the most wonderful palaces in the world. We create space for spirits to stir and be stirred. We want everyone to feel welcome and accepted. We tell stories about the monarchs you know and the lives you don’t. We let people explore and we set minds racing. We are a charity and your support gives the palaces a future, for everyone.  Registered charity number 1068852. For more information visit