Friday, 10 June 2016

The house on the hill

It started life as a family seat before being transformed into a home fit for the Queen – welcome to the fascinating world of Hillsborough Castle

Written by Hillsborough Castle
From its humble beginnings as a modest country house, Hillsborough Castle has evolved into one of Britain’s finest buildings and now stands as the official royal residence in Northern Ireland.

house-590-2An official bugler


With a history as detailed and varied as its stunning interiors and gardens, the building has played host to some of Northern Ireland’s most significant events: from the global politics of the Georgian era through to the dark days of ‘The Troubles’ and the initial stages of the Peace Process in the 1990s. But it was as a family home that Hillsborough Castle was conceived.

house-590-3The Throne Room, where citizenship ceremonies are held


Set in the heart of the village of Hillsborough in County Down, it was built by Wills Hill, First Marquis of Downshire and Secretary of the American Colonies during the 1770s – at their height, the Hill family were the largest landowners in Ireland.

house-590-4The State Dining Room has welcomed many of the world’s dignitaries


Its original construction followed the popular Georgian style of the time, with its architecture derived from classical ideas of symmetry and proportion. An expansion process was later carried out in the 19th century, during which a great library was added, along with estate offices, a billiards room, a muniments room (storage for official records) and better servants’ areas.

house-590-5The State Drawing Room


After more than a century as a domestic abode, Hillsborough was purchased in 1924 by the Imperial Office of the British Government and its life as an official residence began. The State Rooms were improved and apartments built for the new governor.

house-590-6The domed neoclassical Lady Alice Temple, built by Colonel Hill in honour of his sister, is set among the conifers.


On the governor’s retirement, Earl Granville, whose wife, Lady Rose Bowes-Lyon, was sister to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, took over the post and consequently, the Royal Family spent many holidays there.

house-590-7The Candlestick Hall


The royals have continued to use Hillsborough as their ceremonial and personal base in Northern Ireland and it was the site of the first meeting between the Queen and Mary McAleese, President of Ireland in 2009. Following this, in 2011, the Queen led the first state visit to the Republic of Ireland.

Hillsborough Castle,The Square, Hillsborough: 0044-289 268 1300, www.hrp.org.uk/hillsborough-castle



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