Hillsborough Castle and Forest Park Circular Walk

Difficulty
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Easy
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
1-1.5h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
5.0 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
128 m
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Directions to Trailhead
Hillsborough Castle and Forest Park Circular Walk

Walking the Hillsborough Castle and Forest Park Circular is a fantastic adventure that will showcase a beautiful woodland setting and historical buildings. While out on the trail, you will pass by Hillsborough Castle - the residence of the British royal family when they visit Northern Ireland - before meandering through a charming forest that features a lake. This is an amazing family-friendly route that will certainly keep everyone entertained for a few hours.

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Route Description for Hillsborough Castle and Forest Park Circular Walk

Although access to the Hillsborough Forest Park is free, walkers will need to pay a fee in order to access Hillsborough Castle and Gardens. Additionally, you will likely want to wear some comfortable walking shoes in order to better traverse the forest pathways. Lastly, dogs are permitted to walk the trail provided that they are on a leash; however, only service dogs are permitted at the castle and gardens.

Walking the Hillsborough Castle and Forest Park Circular Trail is a great experience that the entire family will be able to enjoy, thanks to the laid back terrain and pleasant forest park views. The chance to explore the grounds of Hillsborough also adds another fun element to this walk, making it a great excursion to kill a few hours on the weekend.

Setting out from the trailhead at Hillsborough Castle, you will take in some impressive views of the 18th Century building that serves as the official residence of the Secretary of State of Northern Ireland, before continuing south on Dromore Road. After a short distance, you will turn left along Park Street in order to make your way into the tranquil woodlands of the Hillsborough Forest Park and pass by the lake on your left.

Once you have reached the end of the street in 1.1 km, you will take the path on the left in order to continue around the edge of the forest park, following the path until you arrive at the southwest corner of the route near Ballynahinch Road. From here, you will turn to the northwest and continue on through the tranquil woodland atmosphere, enjoying the views of mature trees and wildlife until you meet up with Ballynahinch Road. Turning left along the road, you will follow it as it turns to the southwest and passes through the village of Hillsborough on the way back to the castle where you began your walk.

Trail Highlights

Hillsborough Castle

Constructed in the 18th Century, Hillsborough Castle is a Gregorian country house that was previously owned by the Hill family - the Marquesses of Downshire - and sold to the British government in 1922. From 1924-1973, the castle was the official residence of the Governor of Northern Ireland, and now serves the same purpose for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. In addition to this use, Hillsborough Castle is also the official residence of the royal family of Britain when they visit the country.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who lives in Hillsborough Castle?

When visiting Northern Ireland, the Queen and British royal family live in Hillsborough Castle. It is also the residence of the Secretary of State of Northern ireland.

When did Queen Elizabeth last visit Hillsborough Castle?

Queen Elizabeth last visited Hillsborough Castle in 2016.

Insider Hints for Hillsborough Castle and Forest Park Circular Walk

  • Wear comfortable walking shoes for this adventure.
  • Toilet facilities can be found throughout the walk, specifically near Hillsborough Fort and Cromlyn Fold.
  • Several pubs and cafes can be found right next to Hillsborough Castle.
  • If you wish to explore the castle grounds and gardens, you will need to pay an admission fee.

Getting to the Hillsborough Castle and Forest Park Circular Walk Trailhead

The trailhead for the Hillsborough Castle and Forest Park can be found at Hillsborough Castle itself, located in the village of Hillsborough just southwest of Lisburn.

Route Information

  • Backcountry Campground

    No

  • When to do

    Year-Round

  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Family friendly

    Yes

  • Route Signage

    Average

  • Crowd Levels

    High

  • Route Type

    Lollipop

Hillsborough Castle and Forest Park Circular Walk Elevation Graph

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