I will be the first to admit I had no idea Victoria had a castle. Apparently the name is a little tongue-in-cheek as the residence is more of a Victorian mansion and wasn’t intended to be a castle.
I’m not sure visitors are intended to find it either! We looked over the maps before we set out on foot for the 40-minute walk, but once we arrived at the turning point, there were no signs. We ended up meandering through a beautiful neighborhood before glimpsing its turrets over some trees and then finding a way to wind around to steps that led up to the back of the grounds. We were a little tired by the time we arrived– guess we should have taken the bus!
Craigdarroch was built by coal barron Robert Dunsmuir in the late 1800s, but he died before its completion so everything was left to his wife. She lived there until her death in the early 1900s, and thereafter it served as a hospital, school and now as a historical site where people can visit or host special events.
We opted for a self-guided tour which takes you up through the family’s rooms and then down through the servant’s quarters.
It was interesting to read how things were changed to accommodate the needs of the hospital and then the school. There were remnants of each use that have been left in place for historical purposes such as the rows of hospital bathroom stalls and the school boy names that were carved into the woodwork of some of the rooms.
Of course my favorite room was the library (swoon!), which had beautiful built-in bookshelves, an incredible fireplace and impressive collections of books.
After we finished our castle tour we made our way back to the inn to relax. It was approaching midday and while the weather was beautiful, the sun was too hot to wander around outside at high noon. Brian had asked me earlier about my plans for the day, which only included seeing the castle, and he said he had a surprise from my parents– they had booked us Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel for my birthday!
I was so excited– I had looked into the Afternoon Tea since it’s probably the number one tourist stop in Victoria, but I wasn’t willing to pay for the experience. What a perfect birthday present!
We got dressed up and walked over just in time for our 1:15 p.m. reservation. We had a table for two right along the front windows overlooking the covered porch, lawn and harbor– it was perfect! I tried the Earl Gray tea, and we had an incredible time tasting all of the sandwiches, scones and desserts. I couldn’t believe all of the food– we ended up taking some of the desserts with us for later.
It is an expensive stop but completely worth it– if you have even the slightest interest in tea or delicious food or Victorian dining rooms or hour-long relaxing conversations, I recommend you check it out!
I was more than ready for a siesta after the morning castle and afternoon tea so we headed back to the inn for a few hours of reprieve. I’ll leave you with a few photos from our beautiful James Bay Area neighborhood.