Hillsborough Castle, the Northern Ireland residence of HM The Queen, has been restored, reimagined and is ready to re-open to the public.

The magnificent Hillsborough Castle and Gardens in County Down, which have witnessed pivotal moments in history for over 300 years, are set to welcome the world when they re-open on 18 April 2019.

Following an ambitious restoration project, carried out by an army of skilled craftspeople, many of the original features of the elegant Georgian house and its extensive gardens have been reimagined and re-presented.

The castle’s stories of celebration, diplomacy and negotiation, once confined within its walls, are now the subject of a fascinating guided tour of its stunningly restored State Rooms. The tour includes guided access to the grand Throne Room, State Drawing Room, Lady Grey’s Study, State Dining Room, Red Room and Stair Hall.

Undoubtedly the grandest room in the house, the Throne Room has wall coverings of green, silk damask fabric forming a rich backdrop to paintings from the Royal Collection. The ruby red ‘thrones’ are actually Chairs of State, which represent the monarch in absence.

The splendid Red Room, which also displays a collection of art, has been the setting for important political meetings since the 1970s, including an historic meeting between HM The Queen and President of Ireland Mary McAleese.

Hillsborough Castle, which is more accurately an Irish ‘Big House’, was the grand family home of the Hills for hundreds of years before it was sold to the British Government in 1925. The family also built the impressive courthouse and terraces in the pretty village of Hillsborough nearby, which is named after them.

Surrounding the castle are 100 acres of exquisite gardens, including ornamental lawns, the newly restored Walled Garden, the previously unseen Lost Garden, meandering waterways and picturesque glens.

The Walled Garden dates back to the 18th century and is a four-acre site historically used to produce fruit, vegetables and flowers for the castle. Produce from the garden is now used in the café within the new visitor centre.

A garden explorer map reveals the garden’s unique features, including the Yew Tree Walk, Moss Walk, Ice House, Pinetum and the Quaker Burial Ground, enriching the delights of a stroll through the grounds.

A trip to Hillsborough Castle is a chance to follow in the footsteps of dignitaries including the Crown Prince of Japan, Princess Diana, Hilary Clinton, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Dalai Lama, and to discover Northern Ireland’s royal heritage.