Twelve Days of Christmas

Christmas has arrived at Hillsborough Castle with a full programme of festive entertainment for everyone to enjoy.


Arriving to delicious mulled drinks and canapes from The Yellow Door team we were treated to a stately taster of the castle’s Christmas tours.  Running until 5 January visitors can experience the tour of the state rooms with a celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas song along the way.  On the tour you’ll discover the history of the Hill family – in particular Wills Hill who built the house and also the recent history of the house since it’s acquisition by the British government in 1925.  The house is replete with artefacts and paintings, both local and on long term loan from Buckingham Palace.  In the entrance hall you’ll find treasures from the local bog including a huge Irish elk skull antlers and an intricately carved bog wood box.  Into the original drawing room of the house known as the Red Room you’ll find the delightful Bone Miniatures – 40 copper plated portraits of the English sovereigns.  Here you’ll also find the seventh day Christmas gift, Seven Swans-a-Swimming created by paper-mache artist Sue Cathcart complete with Irish linen neckerchiefs and crowns as a nod to the Children of Lir.


Amidst the magnificent green silk damask of the Throne Room you’ll find the Christmas gifts of the Colly Birds (Calling Birds) by Guy Holder, six Geese-a-Laying and five Gold Rings interpreted as the five gold coronets worn by Hillsborough residents over the years.  Just a small example of how the team at Hillsborough Castle bring the relevance of Northern Ireland, it’s landscape, it’s history and it’s people into each and every thing they do.


As well as the Twelve Days of Christmas younger visitors can enjoy an enhanced tour with live music, historic characters and Father Christmas who will have a little treat for little ones.  These will run each weekend until 5 January.  Festive storytelling with traditional tales from the master that is Liz Weir and Georgian dancing and drumming workshops will entertain the whole the family.  The Yellow Door, who grow and use the produce from the castle’s walled garden will be serving up afternoon teas and Christmas dinners in the Garden Room.

I’m particularly delighted to see the return of Ian McElhinney on January 3rd with a candlelit reading of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol and other stories.  The event last year of Victorian ghost stories held in the grandeur of the Throne Room was the most wonderful atmospheric Christmas event I’ve attended.  Highly recommend it.  Link to book here.

All of these carefully curated events are the perfect gift to help celebrate the season of yule.  But the fun doesn’t stop on the Twelfth Day.  Next year’s programme is full of fantastic events to fill up your 2020 calendar.  The NI Science Festival will be collaborating with Historic Royal Palaces in February for a “pharmaceutical” themed event, the Easter bunny will be popping in, a special programme of talks and events will run throughout the year to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Hillsborough Agreement and a summer outdoor show will be hosted in the gardens.  Find out what’s on here.

Given how much I’ve visited Hillsborough Castle in 2019 I think I’ll be considering membership for 2020!


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