A Day in the Life… Laura McCorry, head of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
I was appointed head of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens in November 2018 by Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity that looks after this elegant estate. I am responsible for overseeing the final stages of the £20m project to transform the castle, which will officially open to the public on April 10.
Visitors will soon be able to enjoy our ornamental gardens, peaceful woodland, meandering waterways and picturesque glens. They will also be able to relax in our newly-built Castle Café and Stable Yard Tea Room.
Alongside our partner, Yellow Door, we are finalising our food offer that will have a strong emphasis on quality local and seasonal produce with a menu inspired by the history of the estate.
Alongside preparing to open this grand estate, my role also includes ensuring that the Castle continues to fulfil its role as the official residence for Her Majesty The Queen in Northern Ireland and residence for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
I have had the privilege to work in a variety of unique and challenging positions. I spent almost nine years working at Tourism NI, initially as director of Corporate Development and then as director of Product Development. During my time at Tourism NI, I acquired a wealth of knowledge on the domestic and international tourism market. Using this knowledge and insight, I worked with a portfolio of tourism clients, including local authorities, to ensure market-focused, commercially-driven, high-quality tourism experiences were on offer for visitors to enjoy across Northern Ireland. Most recently, I was public engagement director at National Museums Northern Ireland.
WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB?
Ultimately, the best part of the job is working alongside an incredibly passionate and supportive team as we turn the page on an exciting new chapter in the Castle’s history. Working on such an ambitious and far-reaching project to open Hillsborough Castle and Gardens up to the widest possible audience is a massive commitment and requires a huge emotional investment, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT THE SECTOR?
You can never stand still in this sector and staying on top of all the latest industry trends is a demanding, yet necessary part of the job. At Hillsborough Castle, I am always looking ahead at how we can raise the bar for our visitors, whether that’s offering the perfect setting for a fairytale wedding and elegant drinks reception to hosting intimate business meetings and conferences.
OUTLINE A TYPICAL DAY
Transforming Hillsborough Castle and Gardens into a major visitor destination is an evolving and fast-paced project so there is no such thing as a typical day at the office. Alongside the demands of the construction project, we continue to welcome visitors on daily tours and host wedding events, royal and ministerial visits as well as state functions all of which present interesting and unique challenges.
PROUDEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE
Over the course of my career, I have always tried to make the most of every opportunity. Being appointed head of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens fills me with an enormous amount of pride and I am excited by the challenges and responsibilities that come with this unique position.
BEST THING ABOUT BEING INVOLVED IN THE SECTOR
I recently attended an event organised by Tourism NI at which they premiered a short film, We’ve Come A Long Way and this is certainly true of the tourism sector. The film reminded us all we have much to be proud of for such a small place. I am really excited to play my part in ensuring that the potential of Hillsborough Castle is unlocked in a way that benefits the wider culture and heritage tourism sector.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO UNWIND AWAY FROM WORK?
As a busy working mother, I love to spend time my downtime with my family outdoors, walking, climbing and exploring. When it is just me, a good book is always a treat and I am currently making my way through Michelle Obama’s memoir, Belonging.
TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF NOT MANY PEOPLE MAY KNOW
I have visited 32 of the 50 American states and my ambition is to visit all 50 by the time I am 50. I also play the flute but for small audiences only as I don’t get much practice these days!