Plans to turn Hillsborough Castle into big visitor draw a step closer
Plans to transform Hillsborough Castle and its gardens into a major new visitor attraction are one step closer thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The project by Historic Royal Palaces to open up the famous site to 200,000 visitors a year by 2019 has been awarded development funding of £151,000.
And it has been given the go-ahead to proceed to the next stage of the application process to secure the full £5m grant.
Hillsborough Castle - home to countless political negotiations and deals - is part of a 100-acre estate made up of historic buildings, gardens and parklands in Co Down. The ambitious £16m project will see the site transformed and made more accessible with new visitor facilities including car parking, a learning centre and shop.
The Walled Garden will be restored and a section of the grounds known as the Lost Garden, which had become overgrown, will also be returned to its former glory.
Inside the castle itself visitors will be able to explore the State Rooms, which will be newly presented, opened up and interpreted to provide an insight into their use as both a royal residence and as a venue for entertaining and political discussion.
Head of HLF Northern Ireland Paul Mullan said: "We are delighted to support this project which will deliver real benefits for people through improved access, facilities and interpretation and create opportunities for skills development, training and volunteering."
Michael Day, chief executive of Historic Royal Palaces, said: "We are thrilled that the Heritage Lottery Fund is supporting our plans to transform Hillsborough Castle into an engaging and inspirational visitor destination and place for learning.
"The castle holds a unique place in the history of Northern Ireland and we are looking forward to sharing its stories with the widest possible audience."