Hillsborough Castle project

It is the official residence of the Royal Family in Northern Ireland and has been the residence of the Secretary of State since the 1970s.

Historic Royal Palaces has been given an amazing and unique opportunity to take on the management of this beautiful Georgian mansion and open up a previously inaccessible and important royal site so that everyone can explore and discover its history, bringing the castle’s inhabitants and their stories to life in innovative and inspiring ways.

Hillsborough Castle's history

Built in the 1770s by Wills Hill, first Marquis of Downshire, the castle was the principal seat of the Marquis for over 200 years before passing into public ownership in 1922 when it became the sovereign’s official residence in Northern Ireland. Now the residence for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, it is a working building, serving as the venue for official royal and state functions.

Hillsborough Castle is set in 96 acres of ornamental grounds, much of which was developed from the 1760s onwards. 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.

Hillsborough Castle played a significant part in the series of talks from the 1980s onwards which led to the Peace Process in Northern Ireland and which will inspire our learning programme at the site.

Our plans

Hillsborough Castle, in its entire history, has not had to contend with the footfall which Historic Royal Palaces predicts (up to 200,000 visitors per annum by 2020) and as such there are many crucial modifications to be made to the site before Hillsborough Castle can become a heritage attraction consistent with the other, highly successful sites in Historic Royal Palaces’ estate.

Our aim

  • Re-present the castle introducing new interpretation which tells the story of the residents and history of this fascinating building.
  • Make the site fully accessible with new walkways, signage and a new car park.
  • Create a new visitor centre and learning spaces for education and community use.
  • Create a new shop and catering facilities

Sponsorship opportunity

Historic Royal Palaces aims to raise and invest £12 million as we take on the management and re-presentation of Hillsborough Castle, making it an integral part of our portfolio.
We invite you to join us as we step outside London, cross the water and embrace this exciting new chapter in the history of Historic Royal Palaces and Hillsborough Castle, helping us to uncover Hillsborough’s fascinating stories and providing the infrastructure to give it a sustainable future and attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.


Development department


020 3166 6321

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