Hillsborough Castle has stood nestled at the heart of Hillsborough village since the 1770s. Built by Wills Hill, the first Marquess of Downshire, the Georgian mansion has been a family home as well as a political and royal residence, having been home to the Secretary of State since the 1970s. Now managed by the Historic Royal Palaces the doors have been opened to this remarkable house and it’s 98 acres of gardens for all to explore and hear the stories of it’s past, present and future.
Having received a delightful invitation to the Secretary of State Garden Party in June I was keen to revisit Hillsborough to learn more about the historic house and discover more of the gardens. Guided tours of the castle are available at weekends in spring and autumn and daily over the summer, so I booked myself and the family in to spend a Sunday afternoon in the beautiful surroundings.
The tour begins entering the doorway through which all visitors enter the house – including the Queen, we were invited to sit down on all but one chair made from bog wood and heard about Wills Hill’s legacy. Leaving the entrance hall and into the red informal dining room we’re told about the broken grandfather clock and how it baffled all those who tried to repair it until someone applied the “Big Ben”method of using a 2p piece and restored it to it’s former working glory.
We were then taken into the formal dining room which honours the heritage of Irish linen and silver with it’s table settings and flax flower rug.
The regal Throne Room was up next with the two Chairs of State. Many events are held in this room throughout the year such as choral performances, afternoon tea, children’s storytelling and crafts.
The tour concludes through the Drawing Room where you can admire the various portraits and photos of Royal visits and Lady Grey’s Sitting Room both overlooking the manicured Jubilee Garden.
You are free to continue exploring the estate with a meander through the gardens after the tour. There’s lots of interesting features to discover on the various walks through the formal gardens, enchanting ferny valley and around the lake.
We all enjoyed the fragrant roses in the Granville Garden and took in the sight of Lady Alice’s temple across the pond at the bottom of the Yew Tree Walk.
It was a really pleasant way to spend a Sunday with the family and with the various projects HRP have planned for the walled garden, stables and house I look forward to a return visit. Prices are from £5.50 for both the tour and access to the gardens, the house is open March to September and the gardens are open all year.
Although tours of the house have finished for the year Hillsborough Castle have some special Christmas events scheduled for the month of December including an authentic Georgian Family Christmas.
Go to www.hrp.org.uk for all the info.