Craigdarroch Castle is where Scotland meets Canada, stately home meets scandal, Victorian architecture meets fairytale feels, and where you’ll get a grasp on Victoria’s mega-rich past. As one of the city’s most famed landmarks, a quick wander round it is a must – but be warned, ‘quick’ may not be the most fitting word when it comes to admiring the opulent beauty of this castle’s 39 rooms.
Oozing elegance since its conception in 1887, this turreted mansion is guaranteed to take you on a very privileged walk back in time. When there, you’ll uncover the history of Robert Dunsmuir and the tumultuous history of his family. An influential Scottish immigrant, Dunsmuir was an industrialist who made his money from Vancouver Island’s coal. Craigdarroch Castle was his vision, the perfect place from which to marry off his remaining daughters and the ultimate way to signal his success. But, things were not meant to be and sadly Robert died in 1889, a year before his dream home was even completed. From there ensued years of family drama, namely revolving around inheritance indiscretions and general household politics, until Craigdarroch Castle was finally lost by the Dunsmuirs in the early part of the 20th century when Joan, Robert’s wife, died herself.
Since then the castle has filled a whole host of roles from a military hospital to a music academy, until finally being turned into the museum that it is today. Here, you’ll find all the restored refinement of a bygone era encased in one of Canada’s finest examples of a public stately home. And when it comes to decor, gold embellishments are the done thing as far as this castle is concerned, so expect things to get lavish.
Set upon a hilltop, looking out over the city, this castle not only offers up some incredible views, but it also is an incredible view for passers-by to admire. Inspired by the age-old, fairytale-like castles that pepper Europe’s ancient towns, there’s no doubt that Craigdarroch is a beauty from the outside, but step inside and you’ll uncover the true magic of this attraction – there’s simply no better way of getting an insight into Victoria’s rich history than exploring the castle’s four floors.
Think intricately designed stained glass windows, rich woodwork and the plush Victorian furnishings, offset by a whole lot of gilding. Then there are the grand chandeliers, ornately painted ceilings and romanesque pillars. And it’s all brought to life by the museums collection of original artefacts. But restoring this castle to its original splendour which was no mean feat. In fact, the restoration is still ongoing.
Stately homes may be two a penny back in blighty, but for a dash of interesting Canadian history, Craigdarroch Castle really is a must.
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A leisurely walk from Victoria’s bustling Inner Harbour, on Joan Crescent off of Fort Street – don’t worry, you’d be hard pushed to miss its grand facade.
During the summer months (June-September) the castle is open daily from 9am-7pm, whilst the rest of the year you’ll find its doors open 10am-4.30pm.
Whatever takes your fancy. Of course you could emulate a royal and actually dress fancy.
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