Hillsborough Castle and Gardens

Hillsborough Castle, County Down

A hidden gem at the heart of Northern Ireland, Hillsborough Castle provides both historical and natural wonders in abundance

For more than 300 years, Hillsborough Castle has played host to some of Ireland’s most important visitors and has become a vital part of the island of Ireland's history. From Benjamin Franklin to the Dalai Lama, countless figures who helped to build the modern world have passed through the doors at Hillsborough Castle, enjoying the acres of astonishing gardens that complement the majesty of the royal residence.

Hillsborough Castle serves as the official residence of Her Majesty The Queen in Northern Ireland and, as such, it is impossible not to feel the hand of history.

The Big House with a big history

Technically not a castle but a traditional Irish Georgian house, Hillsborough provides elegance and grace from the start. Boasting facilities fit for the royal family, several State Rooms provide visitors with not just a history of the house itself but of Northern Ireland. The walls of the Throne Room are lined with green, silk damask fabric, while the Red Room takes its name from the red fabric which covers its walls.

Today’s grand entrance to the house contains objects that predate Northern Irish politics and religion, yet are integral to its past.

Financial Times

On a tour of the current Royal Residence, you'll hear expert household staff sharing personal stories of entertainment, diplomacy and celebration that vividly connect the past to the present. From the State Drawing Room to the Stair Hall, a wander through each room of the Big House provides its own unique charms, but it's in Lady Grey's peaceful Study that you may wish to stop awhile and daydream about the past lives lived in this historic place.

Hillsborough Gardens

Bursting with colour, everyone will enjoy the breathtaking grounds surrounding Hillsborough Castle, with its delightful mix of woodlands, wild meadows and the more formal, landscaped gardens.

Our advice? Upon arrival, make your way to the stunning Walled Garden, a historical horticultural space where fruit, vegetables and flowers have been grown for the Castle since the 18th century. Get inspiration for your own garden or simply marvel at the Espalier fruit trees, which have been bearing apples and pears on the walls for more than 50 years.

It's one of the finest gardens you've never seen – but is something of a hidden gem

Belfast Telegraph

The stunning Yew Tree Walk takes its name from the trees that mirror each other along a path, which once served as a major road for the surrounding town. The Moss Walk is exactly as you’d expect: a deep, soft carpet of moss growing beneath a canopy of lime trees.

Recent work has unveiled forgotten wonders such as the Lost Garden, and no walk through the grounds would be complete without a visit to Lady Alice’s Temple – the perfect lakeside place to stop, relax and just listen to the sounds of nature.   

Best places to eat, drink and stay

With the centre of Belfast city just 12 miles away and Dublin an hour and a half down the A1, Hillsborough Castle is tailor-made for a relaxing stop between the two cities. 

If your walk through the Gardens has made you curious, you can try the local produce grown on site at either the Hillsborough Castle Café in the Weston Pavillon or the The Stable Yard Tea Room. For the full food experience, though, the Hillsborough Castle and Gardens Food Festival takes place in July each year.

And when you've finished wandering through history at Hillsborough, head to the town outside the Castle grounds for a taste of local life in pubs such as The Plough Inn, The Hillside and The Parson’s Nose which serve food as well as drinks.

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