Hillsborough Castle, located in the up market town of Hillsborough in County Down is a beautiful 18th century Georgian mansion and the residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It is also used by the Royal family when they visit Northern Ireland.


The castle was begun by Lord Hillsborough, Marquis of County Down, sometime before 1770 and originally it was a simple rectangular construction. The castle was completed by R. F. Brettingham in 1797. Extensions have since been added (in the 1830’s and 40’s) and the castle was damaged in a fire in 1934, but the current building still exemplifies the French-derived style of Brettingham. In 1922 the owners sold the house to the British government who still own it.


Hillsborough Castle is open to the public on certain days in the spring and summer and there is an entrance fee that currently stands at £5 for adults with concessions for families, children and more. If you plan a visit you are advised to pre-book. The castle is also used for special government functions.

I had the chance to visit to attend an official government ceremony. The throne room where formal ceremonies take place is beautifully decorated with the queen’s coat of arms. Adjacent is a function room where tea and refreshments are served. You can also take a short tour of some of the other rooms with original furniture and works of art from the time when the castle was still the residence of the Marquis.

The Garden and Grounds

Perhaps more spectacular than the castle itself are the grounds. I had a chance to walk through them of a misty autumn morning and the interplay of green, orange and yellow leaves against the autumn grey of the sky made for splendid views and an ultimately peaceful environment. If you are not in a hurry follow the path down the hill towards the small lake and then wonder aimlessly through the many paths and next to the abundant waters. Stop and have a look at the old ice house where goods were stored for preservation during the warmer summer months.

Proms in the Park

The castle is still used for public events. One such is the famous Proms in the Park which will be held on September 12, 2009. The Prom will feature the Ulster Orchestra. Entrance to the event is free but you need to pre-book.

Castle Contact Information

If you plan to visit the castle you can arrange your visit by contacting them on:

(+44) 28 92681309, fax 028 92683368, or e-mail hillsborough.castle@nio.x.gsi.gov.uk.

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