Hillsborough Castle

Hillsborough, Northern Ireland | C.1780

Photo Credit: Scott Ball

Hillsborough Castle is technically not a castle at all. The 18th century estate is an Anglo-Irish Big House, owned by the Hill family until it was sold to the the British government in 1922. Since its sale, Hillsborough Castle has served many purposes, including as the official Northern Ireland residence of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Castle derives its name from a common practice during the 18th century. Wealthy, upper-class families often referred to their country houses as castles to reinforce the antiquity and legacy of their names.

Despite its longtime legacy within the Hill family, the Castle went on to serve a greater purpose on the international stage. When Northern Ireland became its own entity via the “Government of Ireland act 1920,” a new local office of government had been established in the region: the Governor of Northern Ireland. In need of a residence, the office selected Hillsborough Castle because of its proximity to Belfast, the largest city in the region. By 1973, the posts of Governor and Prime Minister had been removed. The office of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was created in their place. This transfer of power occurred during a tumultuous time in Ireland known as “The Troubles.”

These days, Hillsborough Castle is open for tours where guests can visit the richly decorated rooms, including the Throne Room pictured above, and learn the history of this royal residence. Staff share stories that connect visitors with the past, ensuring the legacy of the Castle lives on.

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