The future of Britain’s built heritage could be endangered by the threat to traditional building skills, the Prince of Wales has said.
He celebrated the Georgian-period Hillsborough Castle near Belfast as a “special place” with an inspiring future.
His Prince’s Foundation contributed to a £24 million refurbishment by independent charity Historic Royal Palaces.
The official residence of the royal family will open to the public later this month.
Charles said: “It is my hope that this programme and the wonderful building produced can serve as a means of engendering support and enthusiasm for traditional building craft skills in Northern Ireland.
“These are vital skills that are at risk of being lost, in turn endangering the future of our built heritage, let alone the much-needed design and construction of our future heritage through the maintenance of a living tradition.”
He met trainees from his foundation’s traditional building skills programme who built a summer house on the property.
The organisation concentrates on the restoration of historic buildings and the construction of new sustainable developments. It also offers innovative skills-based courses.
The prince and the Duchess of Cornwall strolled through the castle’s estate, which includes ornamental gardens, woodland, waterways and glens.
They toured the newly conserved State Dining Room and Throne Room, which were resplendent with a new art collection, and met the craftsmen and women responsible for the refurbishment.
Charles also unveiled a new portrait of himself, and met the artist, local man Gareth Reid, who was commissioned by Historic Royal Palaces.
Charles said: “For me, Hillsborough has always been a special place. A place whose many stories reflect the complex history of this island.
“Thanks to the fine restoration we are marking today, future generations will have the chance to hear and experience these stories for themselves in restored and re-presented surroundings.
“It is my particular hope that as they do so they will come to a renewed understanding of our past and a renewed resolve for our future.”
The restoration work began in 2017 but including planning it has taken five years.
A total of 700 contractors from 71 companies took part.
Charles added: “As we look to the future I hope Hillsborough Castle and Gardens can now well and truly be placed on the map… as both a destination and indeed an inspiration for all on the island of Ireland to enjoy.”
Camilla also visited a new learning centre in the castle’s stable yard.
The royal couple have visited Northern Ireland several times in the past, focusing on issues including reconciliation, heritage and indigenous business.