Hillsborough Castle & Gardens
Hillsborough Castle is one of the most beautiful, and interesting historic properties in Northern Ireland. Hillsborough is the official residence of the Royal Family when they are in Northern Ireland, and has also been used as the residence for the Secretary of State since the 1970s. The House is a large two-storey late Georgian mansion, and the State Rooms on the ground floor are open to the public. The House looks out over the beautiful gardens, formal and informal, which are filled with exotic plants, mature specimens and modern commemorative trees.
The Castle is a ‘working’ building, serving as the venue for official royal and state functions. It is set in 96 acres of ornamental grounds, much of which was developed from the 1760s onwards. The different styles and eras of development are still distinguishable and the grounds offer significant contrasts of woodland, waterways, and formal and informal gardens with trimmed lawns and meadows as well as specimen trees and rare plants.
Tour of the house
A tour of the House will take you through the State Rooms. The State Entrance is a grand hall, where all visiting dignitaries are formally welcomed to the Castle. Next door to it is the Candlestick Hall which is where candles were collected before retiring for the night in the 18th century. Today this is where members of the Royal family and visiting dignitaries sign the visitors’ book.
There are two dining rooms. The Red Dining Room looks out onto the Granville garden and the largest rhododendron in Europe. The State Dining Room is much larger: the dining table can seat 32 when fully extended, and this is where State dinners are served.
You will also visit the Throne Room, where citizenship ceremonies are held; the State Drawing Room, which overlooks the Jubilee garden; and Lady Grey’s Sitting Room. In Lady Grey’s Sitting Room you will see a mahogany secretaire with a bookcase top which is said to have been made for the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic. Britannic went to sea as a hospital ship during the First World War, and sank in 1915.
Entry to the Castle includes unguided access to the grounds. There are a number of things to look out for, including a statue of Ossian just outside the main entrance, the Lady Alice Temple, the Quaker Burial ground, and an Ice House.
If you’re feeling energetic, you can get quite a good walk in – make sure you include Yew Tree Walk and Lime Tree Walk, as well as going through the glen and right around the lake. Keep an eye out for the Castle’s chickens, as well as the water birds that live on and around the lake.
The formal gardens include the Jubilee Garden (formerly the ‘Sundial Garden’) which was re-designed to celebrate Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, and the Granville Garden, which was replanted by Lady Granville in the 1940s and 50s.
Open for public tours:
- Weekends in April, May June and September including Bank Holidays
- Open daily from 19 March - 3 April inclusive and from 2 July - 4 September
- Tour times: On the hour every hour from 11am - 4pm
March - October 9.30am - 6pm
November - February 9.30am - 4pm
Entry prices (weekend entry)
Guided tour of the house and access to gardens:
- Adults: £7.50
- Concessions (children 5-16, over 60s and students): £5.50
- Family (2 adults and up to 4 children): £20
- Adults: £3.50
- Concessions (children 5-16, over 60s and students): £3.50
- Family (2 adults and up to 4 children): £10
- Children under five: Free
- Group bookings must be a minimum of 20 people or a minimum payment of £100
- Please note tours must be booked in advance
To buy tickets visit the Hillsborough Castle Booking Office,
Directions to Hillsborough Castle & Gardens
From Belfast, take the M1 to Sprucefield, then the A1 (signposted to the South). At the Hillsborough roundabout, veer left onto Lisburn Road, continue on Main Street and Hillsborough Castle is at the top of the hill on your right.