Hillsborough Castle and Gardens Food Festival 2019

If top chefs, fantastic food and live cookery demos get your taste buds going, you’re in for a treat at the first ever Hillsborough Castle and Gardens Food Festival. Add Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain to the mix, plus a fabulous soundtrack of live music, set against the backdrop of this stunning historic venue, and you’ve got the perfect ingredients for a celebration of all things culinary.

The festival takes place from July 5th to 7th (just a week before The Open championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club), and follows the recent multimillion-pound improvements to Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, in the charming village of Hillsborough, County Down.

Held in partnership with BBC Good Food, the event provides a great opportunity to experience the best of Northern Ireland’s flourishing food scene, as well as a chance to explore this historic royal residence and its 100 acres of beautifully kept grounds.

Chefs and experts

Joining Nadiya Hussain on the star line-up for the event will be a broad range of brilliant chefs and food experts. Chris Bavin, presenter of the BBC show Eat Well For Less and former flower trader, will be on hand to share his insights in The Kitchen, where you’ll find live cookery on stage and plenty of food for thought.

The Kitchen will also play host to Dr Rupy Aujla, an NHS GP who set up The Doctor’s Kitchen website, podcast and recipe book to inspire people about the good effects of healthy eating and ‘culinary medicine’.

In addition, the jam-packed schedule boasts Michelin-starred chef Danni Barry, award-winning chef and keen forager Paul Cunningham, Yellow Door’s James Devine, and BBC Good Food’s Barney Desmazery.

And you won’t want to miss This Morning star and self-taught chef Marcus Bean, or BBC Radio Ulster regular and leading Northern Irish chef Paula McIntyre.

Fantastic food and drink

There will be an abundance of food and drink on offer at the festival, with something to suit all the family’s tastes. Options include Pig in the Middle artisan sausage rolls, Rooney Fish for the freshest of catch, The Hatch gourmet burgers, and Street Dogs street food.

For the sweet-toothed, the choices range from gelato and tray bakes at the Fancy Fox, to traditional crepes. Thirsty festival-goers will be well catered for too, with exhibitors including Champagne PIAFF, Longbridge Drinks and Thompson’s Teas.

Tantalise your tastebuds

Northern Ireland is home to some incredibly innovative food and drink producers, and is now regarded as one of the most exciting culinary hotspots in the world.  In fact, the region was named the world’s best food destination at the 2018 International Travel and Tourism Awards.  This will be reflected at the Hillsborough Castle and Gardens Food Festival in the Discover Northern Ireland Tasting Theatre, where host Paula McIntyre will be joined by a great line-up of local producers. They will be sharing the stories of their products, not to mention giving the audience a chance to sample their delicious wares. 

Mouth-watering music

If you want to dance off all those delicious treats, or just fancy some excellent entertainment, head to the Bandstand. Acts include the Swingtime Starlets, a harmony trio who perform a retro repertoire including songs from the ‘40s and Hollywood’s Golden Age, acoustic duo The Reckoners, and Stepbrothers, who will bring their blend of modern hits and Motown floor-fillers.  There will also be face painters to help make the event all the more colourful.

Exploring the castle and gardens


During your visit to the food festival, it’s well worth exploring the fascinating castle and gardens.  On a 45-minute tour of Hillsborough Castle, you’ll learn all about its history and get the chance to see the plush State Rooms, including the Throne Room, State Drawing Room, Lady Grey’s Study and Stair Hall. The State Rooms have been updated with new decorative schemes, furniture and artworks as part of a £20 million, five-year investment in the property and its gardens.

Make sure to include some exploration of the stunning gardens, too, which are included in the castle tour ticket and date back to the 1760s. There, you’ll see ornate formal gardens, tranquil woodland, and a four-acre Walled Garden with heritage plants and produce.

Beyond the castle walls

Hillsborough is a delightful village to while away some time, with lovely cafes and places of interest including Hillsborough Courthouse, a Georgian market house built before 1765, and Hillsborough Fort, a striking 17th century artillery fort. For help planning some sightseeing, the Hillsborough Visitor Information Centre is located in the Courthouse House at the top of Main Street.

So, this July 5th to 7th, why not come to Hillsborough with an empty stomach and a sense of adventure, and prepare to enjoy a feast for the senses.

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