Today, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall attended the re-opening of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens.
Hillsborough Castle has been the setting for a number of historically important events, including the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985 and the first ever meeting of the heads of state of the UK and Ireland in 2005. Their Royal Highnesses’ visit comes following a five-year transformation of the Castle and Gardens by Historic Royal Palaces, which was carried out to refurbish the castle, revive its estate, and open up the building and its gardens to many more people than previously possible.
Historic Royal Palaces started working on plans to transform the Castle and its grounds in April 2014 and the project, which is due to open to the public on 18 April 2019, was completed through the work of people across Northern Ireland, including suppliers, contractors and local craftspeople.
Upon arrival at the Castle, Their Royal Highnesses toured the new Lower Visitor Centre and met with representatives from Historic Royal Palaces along with project managers and builders involved in the project, and members of the catering and retail teams. The Prince and The Duchess then joined a small reception on the terrace where His Royal Highness said a few words, before unveiling a plaque.
The Prince said:
For me, Hillsborough has always been a special place: a place whose many stories reflect the complex history of this island. Thanks to the fine restoration work that we are marking today, future generations will have the chance to hear and experience these stories for themselves in restored and re-presented surroundings. It is my particular hope that, as they do so, they will come to a renewed understanding of our past and a renewed resolve for our future.
The Prince and The Duchess then visited the Walled Garden, which would have once served as the Castle’s Kitchen Garden, and met members of the gardening team and local volunteers and school groups, who were planting vegetable seedlings in the new beds. Produce from the garden is to be used in the Castle’s new restaurant and tea room.
Their Royal Highnesses also viewed The Prince’s Foundation Summer House, one of the Foundation’s ‘7 for 70’ high-impact community regeneration projects undertaken throughout the United Kingdom in celebration of His Royal Highness’s 70th Birthday. The Prince and The Duchess met with trainees from the Foundation’s Traditional Building Skills programme who completed the building, in addition to mentors from the Historic Environment Division.
Following this, The Prince of Wales walked through the gardens of Hillsborough Castle to the House, where His Royal Highness undertook a tour. During the tour, The Prince was introduced to the curator of the Castle and viewed the finished refurbishment of the Red Room, State Dining Room and Throne Room.
Meanwhile, The Duchess of Cornwall visited the Clore Learning Centre and met John Kindness, who designed a new piece of artwork for the Centre, and Rob Ryan, who worked with Historic Royal Palaces to create signage for the Centre. The Duchess also met schoolchildren from Downshire Primary School, who were working on paper crafts with residents from Lillie Court, a local residential care facility.
Ahead of departure, Their Royal Highnesses joined a reception with members of the Hillsborough Advisory Group and others involved with the transformation of the House’s interior spaces. After meeting portrait artist Gareth Reid, Their Royal Highness unveiled a new portrait of The Prince of Wales, which was commissioned by Historic Royal Palaces and will be hung at the Castle.