A Castle in Victoria – Craigdarroch Castle

Craidarroch Castle

If you look up, not too high, and peer across Victoria’s horizon, and if you have a keen eye you will notice something interesting and peculiar. Up high on a hill you will notice a grand building, nay, a castle with a sandstone facade and towering spires.

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This is one of Victoria BC’s best historical landmarks and attractions. From a coal barons dream to military hospital, Victoria College to now a national historic site, these doors are now open for you to explore a Victorian era castle restored to its original glory.


A brief history – Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant turned coal baron with many large business interests under his wings gave orders to build this castle for the family, especially his 3 unwed daughters (the castle would serve as a grand showcase to potential husbands) and also to serve as a monument to his success. The castle was built over a period from 1887 – 1890, unfortunately Robert did not get to see his dream fulfilled due to his death in 1889. His wife Joan, after an extended trip to Europe, lived in the Castle till her death in 1908.

The Original 28 acre estate with its entrance just off of Fort St. (the driveway now known as Joan Crescent), was sold by the daughters to a real estate developer and then subsequently subdivided. The new owner of the castle did not stay for long. Due to financial difficulties he had to give up the castle and thus started the landmark on its first non family use as a military hospital.

Victorian Desk

Victorian Desk stained glass

In 1919 the federal Department of Soldiers Civil Re-establishment opened a military hospital. Craigdarroch castle underwent extensive renovations to accommodate her new hosts. The military hospital was only there for a few years till it became Victoria College.

In 1921 Victoria College did more renovations to accommodate the students. Eventually the school became so overcrowded that they had to vacate the castle for a more suitable building. One of the school attendees was the famed Pierre Burton, amongst others.

By the 1970’s the Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum Society had taken over the building and began the arduous task of restoring the castle to its original glory. Over the years this Victoria castle has been painstakingly restored to much of its original glory. Period art, furniture and decor have been collected and reassembled to take you back in time to see the castle in its original state.

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Oak Staircase

The attraction – Upon entrance to Craigdarroch Castle you will enter the greeting area take a moment to stop and look up. Marvel at the oak staircase that seems to stretch into infinity. The entrance is also panelled in oak imported from Arkansas that gives this area a very warm glow. This is where you will start you self guided tour.

Craidarroch Entrance

Following the pamphlet that was given to you, take a stroll through the many different rooms decorated and restored to its original state. You will get a very unique glimpse of a Victorian era barons family domestic life. You will see their tastes reflected in the fine art, furniture, instruments and accoutrements.

Victorian Stained Glass

As you are walking through the castle you will see one of the worlds finest collections of Victorian stained glass, 33 original works. The walls are adorned with countless paintings and portraits that make this castle not only a museum, but an art gallery as well.

One of the bonuses of this attraction is the view you get of Victoria. From the top floor you get a stunning view of the Rockland and Fairfield areas of Victoria as well as the Olympic Mountain Range in Washington State. For a really interesting view, at the top of the oak staircase you can access the highest point of the castle in one of its spires. From here you can see downtown Victoria and also some interesting stained glass work that adorns the windows as well.

Castle Spire at night

The self guided tour will take you through many different rooms of the castle and you will get a genuine feel of what it was like to live as they lived.

You will see the various sitting rooms, studies, bedrooms dinning rooms, smoking room, servants quarters and a stellar game room on the top floor with a very large snooker table.

Here is a You Tube video of the inside of Craigdarroch Castle.

Snooker Table

The whole tour can take you an hour or more depending how long you stop to appreciate the artwork. There is a fantastic little gift shop at the exit that is well worth exploring. They have many unique and eclectic items to browse and purchase.

Old Record Player

For hours of operation and admission prices please refer to their website http://www.thecastle.ca/

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2 Responses to A Castle in Victoria – Craigdarroch Castle

  1. Elisabeth says:

    Please note that whoever posted this has out-dated information.

    Our admission prices, hours of operation and rental fees are all incorrect here. Please visit our website http://www.thecastle.ca for up-to-date information.

    -Elisabeth Hazell
    Manager of Operations and Development

  2. dmvictoria says:

    Apologies Elisabeth, This was a revamped article. I’ve gone ahead and removed the outdated info and just put a link through to your website.


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