A Canadian Castle

I adore castles. They are the stuff of fairy tales. (Even when the real stories behind them are not terribly romantic.) So earlier this summer, when I was taking my daughter to Washington state for a summer internship, we decided to take a couple extra days and explore Victoria, British Columbia. And the first thing I looked for . . . castles!

Craigdarroch Castle was built between 1887-1890 for Robert Dunsmuir who made his fortune from Vancouver Island coal. The castle has one of North America’s finest collections of Victorian residential stained glass windows.

I took far too many pictures to share them all, so I tried to grab a sampling. They have done a fabulous job of restoring the castle rooms with period antiques and mannequins dressed in Victorian clothing, so my history-loving soul was lapping it up.ย 

It was impossible to get a picture of the entire exterior from the small parking lot surrounding it, so I opted for a corner view that showed off the turret tower.

Here we are looking up the stairwell from the entry way. The paneling was gorgeous!

This one of my favorite Victorian artifacts in the house. This was in the library on the main floor. A book stand with a candle. How easily I pictured myself back in those times working a piece of embroidery while reading a novel. Loved it!

Here is part of the long drawing room. I loved the columns and the gilt work on them. Half was set up as a music room while the other half was more of a place to sit and have tea. (My daughter is obviously thrilled to be in yet another of Mom’s photos. Ha!)

This is one of the Dunsmuir daughters’ bedrooms. I loved the details in the washstand and the moveable stand that would allow her to take tea in bed or work on some correspondence. You can also see some of the stained glass that adorned windows in nearly every room of the family’s portion of the residence. Every set of leaded glass windows sported a unique design.

Here is one of the landings in the stairwell with lovely stained glass.

We finally made it all the way up into the tower and found this intricate mosaic floor. The view was spectacular as well. I can only imagine how much better it would have been when it was surrounded by rolling hills and countryside instead of city buildings.

In contrast to the daughter’s bedroom, this room was reserved for the mistress’s top servant. Notice the sewing machine and silver to polish. She would never sit idle.

This next photo is a bit clever writing that tickled my funny bone. In 1919, the federal government leased the castle and used it as a military hospital for WWI veterans. In 1921, the castle was used as a school – Victoria College. In 1968, it was taken over by the Victoria Conservatory of Music who remained there until 1979. At that point, The Castle Society was allowed to begin work in transforming Craigdarroch into a museum. However, during the 1970’s, while the conservatory was in full swing, the castle played host to many concerts. This tongue-in-cheek article describes one such evening of entertainment. As a writer, I fully enjoyed the clever repartee.ย 

I hope you enjoy the pictures!

Have you ever visited a caste? If so, which one?

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Karen Witemeyer
For those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She is an avid cross-stitcher, and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at: www.karenwitemeyer.com.

41 Comments

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  1. Karen, I love your pictures. That mosaic floor is beautiful. Unfortunately, I have only visited one castle and that was Cinderella’s at Disney World. lol

    1. That totally counts, Carol! I love Disney and seeing the Cinderella’s Castle (or Sleeping Beauty’s – depending on which park you go to) is always a highlight.

  2. Iโ€™ve never visited a castle but would love too. What Amazes me is all the beautiful architecture and details incorporated and to think it was all done by hand centuries ago. Way before all the modern machinery of today! I hope youโ€™re have a great Simmer thanks for sharing your adventures with us!

    1. I agree, Tonya. The details in the architecture always amaze me. They were true craftsmen back then without all the mass-production of today. Of course, that’s why only the wealthy could afford such luxury.

  3. Avatar

    I’d would love to tour castles but I haven’t as of yet but thanks for reminding me that there are more than a dozen here in Texas. I have driven by many over the years but I have never toured one. My daughter’s I think would love to see them! I loved your pictures and your blog! I would also loved to visit Canada!

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      I’ve yet to read one of your books ans would love the opportunity! A giveaway is an awesome way to find a new author to add to my go-to authors list!

      1. Be sure to enter our Big Summer Giveaway, Stephanie. All the fillies are giving away books. Also, my latest book is on sale for only $1.99 – a great chance to try a new author for less than the cost of a greeting card. ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. I grew up in California, only about an hour and a half away from Hearst Castle. I only toured it 2-3 times but I was always amazed. William Randolph Hurst collection ceilings from Europe and had them brought in for his castle to give it that old world European feel. They were gorgeous!

  4. I love castles and there is one within 50 miles of me but have never been to it.I should make it a point to go one day.

    1. I hope you do, Quilt Lady. I love getting swept up in the history and romance of those buildings!

  5. I have never even seen a castle. This one looks very interesting.

    1. It was beautiful to walk through, Janine. I hope you get a chance to see one some day.

  6. Nice pictures. I have never even seen a castle.

    1. Thanks, Estella. I hope you get a chance to see one some day. You might even research your home state. There might be some American “castles” nearby.

  7. I love castles. I always visit them when I am touring.

    1. You are a woman after my own heart, Debra!

  8. I have visited castle’s in Ireland, the most famous one Blarney Castle. Also in Scotland, Edinburgh Castle. We have a famous one in Toronto called Casa Loma to which I have been many, many times. I’m so glad you enjoyed your visit to BC.

    1. We spent 2 days in Victoria, and I loved every minute of it. We went to Buchart Gardens, too, which were fabulous! I would love to visit castes in Ireland and Scotland. Maybe I’ll get there one day. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Wow, what a beautiful castle! I have never visited a castle , but looking at the photos you shared I would Love to visit one or more! Thank you so very much for sharing this informations and photos, i truly enjoyed it! God Bless you my friend. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks, Alicia. It’s fun to share photos with fellow history nerds and those who love getting swept up in a little romance. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Awesome pictures, Karen! I would’ve enjoyed the castle, too–but I kept thinking of how much work it would’ve been to polish all that wood work!!

    But I guess, if I could afford to live in a castle, I could afford a staff to clean it all for me, right? Ha!

    Lovely post!

    1. I thought the same thing, Pam. Especially on the ceiling. How did that even work? They must have had long handled dusters. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Actually, the one and only castle I have been to is Craigdarroch–my aunt and uncle lived in Victoria until my cousins graduated, and we toured the castle when on a visit. The whole city is gorgeous.

    1. I loved my time in Victoria! So much of it was like stepping back in time. I definitely want to go back someday.

      When we were at the castle, one of the guides recommended a little tea shop down the road in the re-purposed stables of Government House. Bethany and I walked down there and had wonderful tea and scones for a beautiful low price and found a costume museum while were there. It made for a perfect morning!

  12. Gorgeous photos and good point that while castles are the stuff of fairy tales the actual history isn’t always that romantic. We visited many castles while in Spain when my husband was stationed there with the Air Force. Beautiful but cold. No wonder they did so much work from bed, had to be under the covers and by the roaring fire.

    1. So true, Sally. All that stone is beautiful but chilly. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Welcome Karen. Oh thank you for sharing some of this castle. I love castles also. But I have never actually been in one. I think I need to rectify this. Hope your daughter has a fabulous time.

    1. Thanks, Lori. She’s really been enjoying her internship so far. She’s about at the halfway point. She’ll come home in mid-August.

  14. I adore castles! I have visited many in Scotland, but my very first one was in Canada. I want to visit more from there!

    1. I would love to see the castles in Scotland, Susan! I bet they are wonderful.

  15. Karen, Thank you for sharing the spectacular photos. I’ve visited Glen Eyrie Castle in Colorado Springs.

    1. Many years ago my husband and I attended a retreat there. We didn’t stay in the castle itself, but we got to roam around the bottom floors during the sessions. I think I still have a sweatshirt somewhere with their logo. ๐Ÿ™‚ Gorgeous place, especially in the mountains.

  16. I have never visited a castle but would love to.

    1. They really stir the imagination, Vicki!

  17. I’ve never toured a castle but I have toured mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. They are very close to being castles and from the same time period as Craigdarroch Castle. Very beautiful!

    1. I agree. Those old manor homes were basically castles. I bet they were wonderful to tour!

  18. My son lived in Grey Towers, the castle at Arcadia University, just outside of Philadelphia. Only one small suite on the top floor, women on one side and boys on the other. Gorgeous inside the castle which had a lot of its original architecture intact. Because of some restoration and remodeling, the building finally had an elevator installed during my son’s first year. Unfortunately, it came a little late for his broken foot. He traversed the three flights of stair on crutches–by choice. Not ordinary stairs–sweeping center staircase, landings to the side, a gallery to the next set on the opposite side, more landings, another gallery, landings, till one finally reaches the top. And, the laundry was in the basement of the castle. I do have photos.

    https://www.arcadia.edu/story/story-grey-towers-castle

    1. Wow, Denise! I’m so tempted to go back to school just so I can stay there. What a gorgeous campus! Craigdarroch Castle was used as a school for several years as well. I guess when the families can no longer afford to keep up the property, turning all that space into a school just makes sense.

      1. I forgot to mention, my son’s room was half in the turret. There were five guys in the room, and three of the beds were in the turret round. It was a decent size room for a dorm. No a/c in those residence halls.

        It was a lottery system to be one of the few to live there, and he lucked out. One of his former roommates will be a groomsman and one of the girls from the girls’s side will be a bridesmaid.

        There are a few other universities with castle buildings in the US.

        The former armory in our town resembles a castle–not uncommon for armories in the late 1800s-early 1900s. I think it was in the last decade or so when it became a town building. My youngest received a flu shot there one year, and he would point at it and say it was the castle where he got shot.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bel_Air_Armory

        1. If I had to get a shot, I would totally want to do it in a castle. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. What a coincidence, we visited Craigdarroch Castle this past June. We loved Victoria, BC but only had a short day there. We definitely need to go back and spend some time. We have visited the Biltmore in Asheville, NC and it comes the closest to being a castle of any other place we have been. The mansions in Newport are spectacular and reflect the lifestyle we often associate with royalty. Each is a work of art. It is distressing to know how many were just bull dozed down.

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