Meet Hillsborough Castle's new 'Palace host' as Linda takes role after 30 years in Civil Service

Linda Harley is now enjoying the flexibility offered by her new role at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens
-Credit: (Image: Submitted)

After a 30-year career as an accountant in the civil service, when Linda Harley retired she knew the quiet life wasn’t for her and soon set about getting another job.

Keen to keep herself busy and leading an active social life, Linda quickly realised that although she has a love of numbers, she enjoyed nothing more than knowing she had made someone’s day.

Following a long and successful career in the civil service, she is now enjoying the flexibility offered by her new role as a Palace Host at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens.

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Linda said: “I really enjoyed my time in the civil service. I loved my role as an accountant but when I sat down and really thought about why, I realised it was the knowledge that I was helping people right across Northern Ireland that was the most fulfilling aspect of the job.

“At first, I found a temporary part-time job with the charity Disability Action Northern Ireland. It was three days a week and I really enjoyed it. So, when that role came to an end I knew I wanted to look for another job.

“When I saw the role of Palace Host at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens advertised, it sounded really interesting and I thought I’d take the chance and apply for it – what did I have to lose?”

Hillsborough Castle is an 18th century townhouse in the Co Down village and Northern Ireland’s official royal residence.

Its storied history has seen it play a pivotal role as the backdrop to political discussions and, it was from this location that TRH King Charles III and Queen Camilla responded to official messages of condolence from the people of Northern Ireland following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

Hillsborough Castle is Northern Ireland’s official royal residence
The South Terrace, looking north. -Credit:© Historic Royal Palaces

Working three days a week at Hillsborough Castle, Linda shows small groups of people around the royal residence and explains its history and wider significance.

With an active social life outside of work that sees her heavily involved in a Scottish country dancing group, and even teach people how to cèilidh, Linda is full of praise for the flexibility her role at Hillsborough Castle affords her.

“Hillsborough Castle has been very good to me. This role has a lot of flexibility, I lead an active social life and, if I am involved in anything in particular, they are very flexible and really great about making sure I have the opportunity to do it,” she said.

“I am surrounded by great colleagues. We are all very supportive of each other and no two days are ever the same in this job.

“You get to meet people from all over the world. I love the different questions everyone has and how the experience can be tailored for different groups and their interests.

“Americans, for example, love to find out that Benjamin Franklin and Bill and Hilary Clinton have visited the palace.

“Ultimately – you get great satisfaction from knowing you’ve really helped make their trip that little bit better. Making someone’s day is a fantastic feeling and it's just a very enjoyable job that is great fun to do.”

Linda Harley giving a tour of Hillsborough Castle
Linda Harley giving a tour of Hillsborough Castle -Credit:Submitted

Urging anyone interested in a career in tourism and hospitality to “seize the opportunity to do it”, Linda admits she had no prior knowledge of the industry before she applied for this job.

“I would encourage anyone who finds themselves in a similar position to myself and is curious about getting involved in the tourism industry to do so – you have nothing to lose and so much to gain,” she says.

“Don’t be afraid to throw yourself into something that you think you would like to do. I didn’t know anything about being a tour guide and I’ve only been here a month but the team are a great support and have been really helpful.

“I feel like I have learnt so much already and working here has been exactly what I was after at this stage in my life.”

While Linda and her colleagues are enjoying the flexibility and freedom a career in Northern Ireland’s burgeoning tourism and hospitality industry allows, Tourism NI are actively seeking more people to join the industry.

If you are considering switching careers and want to learn more about working in the tourism and hospitality industry, visit for further information.

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