£5m lottery cash to turn Hillsborough Castle into tourist site
Hillsborough Castle is getting a boost of nearly £5m to open the building and historic gardens to the public.
The National Lottery award of £4.8m will transform the visitor experience at the site, ready to welcome as many as 200,000 people a year by 2019.
Hillsborough Castle lies on a 100-acre Co Down estate made up of historic buildings, gardens and parklands.
The project, led by independent charity Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), will make the most of the site's unique heritage, increase accessibility with new visitor facilities and provide a range of opportunities for learning and skills development.
Anna Carragher, UK trustee and chair of HLF in Northern Ireland, said: "Thanks to National Lottery players the important natural, cultural and built heritage of Hillsborough Castle will be conserved and opened up for many more people to enjoy.
"This unique heritage attraction will become a must-see attraction, allowing visitors to learn more about its fascinating history, enjoy a leisurely stroll through the beautiful gardens or tour the historic state rooms."
Outside works will be carried out to conserve the historic features of the Walled Garden, including its original quadrant layout and central pool, and enhance its original planting.
The Lost Garden, which had become overgrown, will be reinstated and new paths, bridges and trails installed to allow visitors to fully explore the extensive grounds.
New visitor facilities and a retail space will be created, and the stable yard used to house a dedicated learning centre for families, schools as well as youth and community groups.
Inside the castle, visitors will be able to tour the state rooms, including the newly-conserved and re-presented throne room, drawing room and staircase hall - and learn more about their use as a venue for royal visits, political discussions and entertaining.
The tour will also give visitors an insight into life for those living and working in the 'back-of-house' areas. An ambitious volunteer programme will provide opportunities for learning and development, with the gardens becoming a hub for horticulture and heritage skills.
Patricia Corbett, head of Hillsborough Castle, said: "We are absolutely delighted th at the Heritage Lottery Fund has chosen to support our exciting plans for Hillsborough Castle. This major project will enable us to open up this fascinating and beautiful historic site to the widest possible audience."