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Hillsborough Castle refurbishment

Hillsborough Castle
Written by Roma Publications

Hillsborough Castle refurbishment

Leading British design studio Kinnersley Kent Design, has completed the interiors for the new Lower Courtyard Visitor Centre and the Stable Yard at the historic Hillsborough Castle and Gardens. These spaces include a visitor centre, retail spaces, restaurant, and café.

Hillsborough Castle and Gardens re-opened to the public at the end of April 2019 following a five-year £24 million transformation project led by independent charity Historic Royal Palaces, who took over the management of the estate back in 2014.

Located 20 minutes from Belfast and set in 100 acres of magnificent gardens, Hillsborough Castle is the official home of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland as well as the official residence for the Royal Family in Northern Ireland, and the historic mansion has played an important role in the Peace Process in Northern Ireland since the 1980s.

The scope of works undertaken by the UK and Dubai-based design practice included initial master planning, interior architecture and design and feasibility studies, working closely with lead architect Consarc, as well as retail and restaurant design, bespoke fixtures design and prototyping.

Kinnersley Kent Design said: “The range of welcoming spaces that we have created include inviting new dining and retail options – were created to appeal to locals and tourists alike, and with flexibility front of mind. This entailed a strong focus on considered spatial and customer journey planning to ensure that the various zones work effectively throughout the seasons and at different times of day, whether it’s quiet or very busy.”

The new, purpose-built Lower Courtyard Visitor Centre space includes a café, shop, visitor information, ticketing and meeting spaces for tourists, local people, schools, and groups arriving by car and coach. The 2,000 square foot Welcome and Information Area and shop exhibit a light, natural, and spacious feel. There is a classic understated elegance throughout, brought in through genuine materials, refined details and a high level of craftsmanship. The Welcome Area transitions into the retail space that features a timber vaulted ceiling reminiscent of a traditional outbuilding – an appropriate touch, given the Visitor Centre’s role as an ancillary space to the historic mansion. The new 3,600 square foot café and servery features a richer, bolder look and feel; premium yet accessible. “While the works were being carried out to create the new Lower Courtyard visitor centre, café and restaurant, a number of exciting discoveries were made, including the remains of the original eighteenth-century Hot House walls. The walls are thought to be from one of the earliest sets of large greenhouses constructed at a private residence in Ireland. We incorporated the exposed brickwork into the design, using it as a dividing wall between the servery and seating area to create a ‘walled garden,’” Kinnersley Kent Design said.

Built in the 1780s, the Stable Yard, located at the upper end of the estate was restored and adapted to create a tearoom, shop and further visitor facilities.

The design practice commented: “The Stable Yard posed some challenges as it is a Georgian building which has undergone extensive alterations over the centuries. A key challenge was transforming the narrow L-shaped building into a cohesive space that combines new retail and dining experiences.”

There is a new Core Learning Centre located on the first floor, for cross-community learning and engagement programmes, and the 600 square foot shop sells a selection of quality jewellery, Irish craft pieces, chinaware and books, displayed on a mixture of bespoke cabinets and mid-floor units. Traditional cabinets and tables are reimagined in a contemporary way to create bespoke displays, the store then transitions into a lounge dining area, connecting to a sophisticated café. The retail and dining spaces are treated in a continuous, seamless manner to allow boundaries between the two areas to flex as needed.

The 2,000 square foot café-restaurant serves afternoon tea and other refreshments in elegant surroundings, whilst the central café counter displaying cakes and other delicacies acts as an enticing focal point.

Kinnersley Kent Design finished: “It was exciting to be part of such a significant project at this nationally-important and historic location. It was a particularly interesting project as it involved a mix of practical and strategic thinking to define the new visitor journey, and unique design solutions to help bring the experience to life. Our team, therefore, carefully designed bespoke furniture and fittings that reflect the craftsmanship, heritage and beauty of Hillsborough Castle.

“It was a pleasure to work with our long-term client Historic Royal Palaces once again. Our other work with them has included retail, wayfinding and graphic design projects for Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London and, most recently, a redesign of the tea room pavilion at Kensington Palace in London.”


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