As soon as we said we were going to Victoria, everyone who had ever been there told us we had to go to Butchart Gardens, but we did not. The reason for this was that I found so many things I wanted to do in Victoria itself that I did not want to devote a day to the Butchart Gardens. Maybe on a future visit.
The first stop on my full day itinerary was Craigdarroch Castle. We could have walked here, but as we had several sights to see that day we bought a day pass and took the bus. You can get there on bus 11, 14, 22 or 28 from Douglas Street.
Each bus journey in Victoria costs $2.50 and a day pass costs $5, so you only need to do two journeys to break even.
We asked the driver to tell us when to get off which he did and a passenger getting off at the same stop pointed us in the right direction. When we reached the castle, the first thing I noticed was it was surrounded by trucks and looked a right mess. This turned out to be because there was a film crew in the castle to make a psychological thriller called "The Boy". Of course, that meant we could not go into the castle or even into the grounds, so we just had to make do with taking a photo from the street. Guess we'll have to watch the movie to see inside the castle.
Craigdarroch Castle was built by wealthy Scottish coal barron Robert Dunsmuir in the late 1800s. It was intended as a family home for him, his wife Joan, their two sons and eight daughters. Unfortunately, Robert Dunsmuir died in April 1889, 17 months before the castle was completed.
After Robert Dunsmuir's death, a feud broke out between his widow Joan and her two sons over his will. He had verbally promised his businesses to his sons but actually left them to his wife.
James Dunsmuir was on bad terms with his mother right up to her death. When she died, he unexpectedly turned up at her funeral and broke down with grief.
James Dunsmuir later built Victoria's second and even bigger castle - Hatley Castle which we did not have time to visit.
Craigdarroch Castle has thirty-nine rooms. It is famous for its intricate woodwork and beautiful stained glass. Of course, it is haunted!!!!
Admission costs $13.95. It is open from 10AM to 4.30PM daily.
Plutocrat's mansion, smack dab in the center of the residential district of Victoria. 20,000 square feet, with 39 rooms. Built for Sir Robert Dunsmuir, a rail and coal magnate.
The mansion was one of the first on the Pacific Coast to be constructed in the Scottish Baronial style. The oak staircase was actually pre-fabricated in Chicago, and then shipped out west to Victoria.
Construction of the Craigdarroch Castle started with the Duinsmuir, who was an early railway baron on Vancouver Island. He never lived to see his home completed, and his family eventually lost the house to developers that converted the estate into the huge residential area you see surrounding the place today. It has served as a college, a hospital, and a musical instruction center (it is still possible to see the holes made in the floor from cello feet.
Today, efforts are being made to attempt to restore Craigdarroch Castle to as close as possible to its original state. Some of the articles originally owned by the Dunsmuir family have been found and are part of what has been put on display in the house.
The self guided tour includes a room by room guide all the way up the spiral staircase to the fourth floor, and then all the way back down through the "servants" part of the house. Before entering, they will make you clean your shoes on an electric shoe brush machine.
The half of the house that has been restored is quite impressive in its decorations, and many details have been looked after. One of the stained glass windows is a reproduction of what was once there, but almost all of them are original. In this era, it was thought that being surrounded by artistic beauty and literature would lead to a better development of the personality of the family. Unfortunately wealth was probably too excessive for the personality of some in the family: the eldest son essentially drunk himself to death. One of the talented artistic daughters eventually required housing in an institution due to mental problems. Others in the family turned out well, but it just shows that having all the money in the world can perhaps lead to problems as well as opportunities.
Efforts continue to search out and restore artifacts belonging to the house to their home, and to restore some of the rooms, though many of them are very well restored as it is.
The upper floors, and particularly the upper tower (approximately floor 4 1/2) feature some great views of Victoria from the top of the hill.
Craigdarroch Castle is impressive in its own right but the man behind it and his somewhat eccentric family made it far more interesting than we had anticipated. The Victorian-era Châteauesque mansion is massive at over 20,000 square feet and 39 rooms that incorporates much Richardsonian-Romanesque characteristics popular of the time.
Wealthy coal baron Robert Dunsmuir commissioned the castle in 1887 but the project was so ambitious that it took three years for its completion. Sadly, Mr. Dunsmuir died a year before its doors were open. Though rich beyond most people's dreams, Robert Dunsmuir was a self-made man, having left his home in Scotland for the vast unknown of Canada. He lucked out in getting one of only two coal prospecting rights and after a year of searching came across the biggest stake of coal ever discovered on Vancouver Island. His children having grown up with everything they ever wanted did not fare so well when at his death his will left everything to his wife.
The castle went through many incarnations after the Dunsmuir's sold it, from Military Hospital and Victoria College to Music Conservatory before becoming a museum in 1979 when it was extensively restored.
Tours of the house are self-guided and cost a very reasonable C$ 12. An informative pamphlet guides you through floor after floor of rooms furnished beautifully of the Victorian period. Though it is self-guided, volunteers are in various rooms and are open to questions. We had quite a knowledgeable one when we were there who filled us in on all kinds of tidbits of drug addiction, alcoholism, and other assorted sordid details of the Dunsmuir family. I guess money isn't everything but to live in a house like this, it couldn't have been too bad!
I loved this castle. Owned by Robert Dunsmuir, an employee of Hudson's Bay Company whom was the wealthiest and most influential man in BC. This castle has been used as: Craighdaroch Military Hospital, Victoria College, offices for the Victoria School Bread, Victoria Conservatory of Music and finally the Craighdaroch Castle Historic Museum.
No expense was spared: the best marble, granite and sandsone were imported from aborad. The house is an extravagance of stained glass, paintings, sculptures and carpets all over its 39 rooms. At the lobby you are offered a guide in your own language which makes easy for non english speakers to understand the description of each room. Craighdarroch means " a rocky oak place" in Gaelic. Don't you miss it!!
Short side trip away from Victoria's main streets.
Checking out the castle was interesting and at the same time educational on history of Victoria, British Columbia and big shots at that time. The castle has it's own sad and at the same time happy history.
Craigdarroch Castle was built between 1887 and 1890 for the family of Robert Dunsmuir, a wealthy citizen who had made his fortune in coal. Dunsmuir himself died before the mansion was completed but his widow, Joan, moved in and took over the family business. At the time of his death in 1889, Dunsmuir's estate was valued at US$15-20 million.
There are 39 rooms in this 4-floor Victorian mansion, most of which are open to the public and furnished with Victorian-style furniture that did not, for the most part, belong to the Dunsmuir family. After the family moved out, Craigdarroch Castle served as a hospital for war veterans, a college (students' graffitis can still be seen in the billiard room), a school board office and a conservatory of music before becoming a museum in 1979.
The tours are self-guided, though volunteers are usually around to give you some information. There are 87 steps to climb and the house is not wheelchair accessible. Admission rate is $11.75.
First things first - if you're expecting a real medieval castle, you're on the wrong continent. But if you like architecture, old world mansions, interesting stories about the generations of a Scottish coal baron and railway tycoon who lived in Victoria at a time when Victorians identified themselves as British (and not Canadian, despite being a part of Canada)... then the Craigdarroch Castle may just be for you.
This four and a half story mansion was built in the late 1800's for Victoria's first millionaire - Robert Dunsmuir and his family. Throughout the decades different families and companies used this historical building for many reasons. At one point the castle was home to Victoria College! Each room is lavishly decorated with immaculate furnature and ornaments from the 19th century. The Canadian history in this castle's outstanding... I had no idea how much was in there until I got there. Lots of little tidbits of information, anecdotal stories, family histories, old family photographs. Even one of the elderly volunteers who used to go to Victoria College when she was younger, was full of stories about what used to go on in the very room we were standing in.
This is not an attraction for people who like to show up, take a picture, and then leave. But if you appreciate the little details of historic sites (ie: you can invest the time it takes to read all the little histories on display throughout the mansion), then the Craigdarroch Castle makes a very interesting attraction, offering some insight into the kinds of people that ran Victoria back when it was indeed "more British than Britain"!
The castle was completed in 1890, and it was the highest place a person could stand in the city of Victoria. It was built by the wealthiest man of BC, Robert Dinsmuir.
R. Dinsmuir was born in Scotland in 1825. In 1851 he arrived in Nanaimo, Canada, to work for Hudson's Bay Company. 18 years later he discovered coal at Wellington near Nanaimo and he made a fortune.
I was there for a special event, the reception dedicated to the Castle’s illustrators' exhibition.
It was quite fascinating to see the art works of well known artists of Greater Victoria area.
Though anyone can come to see the inside of the castle. I advise to visit!
Craigdarroch Castle is actually a giant mansion which was constructed in the 1890s as a residence for the family of wealthy coal baron Robert Dunsmuir. The 4 1/2 story, 39-room Highland-style castle is topped with stone turrets and chimneys. The rooms are decorated with detailed woodwork, Persian carpets, beautiful stained-glass windows, paintings, and sculptures. It is a self guided tour but there are docents who are easily accessible to provide further information. Finally, climb up the 87 stairs to go to the Tower for a panoramic view of Victoria, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the snow capped Olympic Mountains.
Admission is $10 with opening hours of 10 - 4:30. The hours are extended until 7pm in the summer.
Maybe it's just a typical little girl's fantasy to visit a castle, but I really liked the Craig Darroch Castle! It isn't that big, but it's very interesting to see. There was a piano in it and you could try it if you actually could play. Have you ever played piano in a castle? It's definitely something to do!
Other than that there are a lot of stairs so if your legs aren't in good shape, you might wanna skip that. If not, then it's definitely worth seeing. Don't miss it!