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Deck the Halls at Hillsborough Castle

Hillsborough Castle in Co. Down is transforming into a Winter wonderland this December.

The historical landmark will play host to a range of events, designed to put attendees in the seasonal spirit. Boasting fun for the whole family, live music, festive food and a visit from Father Christmas himself throughout the month, it really is the most wonderful time to see Hillsborough.

From December 2, 2019 to January 5, 2020, one can explore the castle’s stunning state rooms and discover 12 special installations decorated according to the traditional song ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’. Each has been designed by local craftspeople to re-imagine the verses of this time honoured classic and its connection with the Hill family, the people who gave the residence its name.

Guided by expert explainers discover another side to this elegant Georgian home in this 45-minute tour.  Attendees can also explore the 100 acres of the castle’s beautiful gardens, which are included in the ticket price. Adults pay £11.40, while children aged 5 – 15 can enter for £5.70. The concession price is £9.10

From December 14, guests can discover the castle adorned with festive cheer as the state rooms come to life with live music, historic characters and an extra-special visit from Father Christmas. Children will also receive a sugar mouse, a Christmas treat in the 19th century.

This enhanced Christmas tour is available on weekends and the following dates during the holidays – December 14 – 15, December 21 – 23 and December 27 – January 5. Christmas tours are included in a combined castle and gardens ticket.

Enjoy some festive and traditional tales of the season at Hillsborough Castle with renowned Northern Irish storyteller Liz Weir. She will be spinning yarns on December 15, 22 and 29, as well as on January 5 at times 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm, 2.00pm and 3.00pm. Places are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis, with the event included in admissions to gardens.

From December 27 – 31, visitors can attend a Georgian dance workshop. See ladies dancing and lords a’ leaping and prepare for your own Twelfth Night ball by practicing some old school steps with an expert tutor. Happening every day at 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm, 2.00pm, 3.00pm on the dates listed, aside from December 29, places are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis with the classes included in admissions to gardens.

There’s also a Christmas wreath making tutorial taking place in the castle on December 13 – 14. Under the expert guidance of resident florist Lorna Brownlee, one can create their own handmade festive ornament.

Located in the Clore Learning Centre on the castle grounds, this workshop will include a mince pie and hot beverage upon arrival. Early booking is advised to secure a place for this popular tutorial, scheduled both days for 11:00am – 1.00pm and 2:30pm – 4:30pm. Adults can attend for £45. The concession price is £40.

Another workshop happening at Hillsborough this Winter is focused on drumming. On January 1 – 2, join the 12 drummers drumming and participate in this fun family event run by drum circle facilitator Joe Loughlin.

No drumming experience is necessary. It takes place both days at 11am, 11.45am, 12.30pm 1.30pm and 2.15pm. Places are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis, with the event included in admissions to gardens.

On December 14, meanwhile, jazz percussionist David Lyttle and his band will perform new music inspired by the carol ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ alongside his renowned Dickens-inspired seasonal suite.

This event will take place in the Throne Room, with a complimentary festive drink on offer upon arrival at 7pm. Adult tickets cost £15. The concession price is £13.50.

Newly opened to the public from last year, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens has been completely transformed by independent charity Historic Royal Palaces. This was after five years and a £24 million investment, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and other donors. Greeting guests upon arrival is a new visitor centre complete with a café and shop.

Booking is recommended for all activities mentioned with limited spaces available. For more information on dates and times and to book tickets visit hrp.org.uk/hillsboroughcastle.

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