Porter House B&B
Victoria, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island holds many historic attractions throughout the downtown and surrounding areas. One of the most popular is by far Craigdarroch Castle located just a short drive or a leisurely walk from the city’s picturesque downtown harbour. Now one of Canada’s National Historic Sites, Craigdarroch was originally built for the Scottish immigrant, Robert Dunsmuir between the years 1887 and 1890.
Robert Dunsmuir wanted everyone in Western Canada to know of his immense wealth and importance by building Craigdarroch on a hill with an expansive view of Victoria below. Every detail on each of the four and a half floors of this magnificent castle speaks of the great Dunsmuir fortune from the stained glass windows to the elaborately detailed woodwork and the specially selected Victorian era furnishings. Joan Dunsmuir inherited her husband’s estate after his death in 1889 and continued to live in the Castle until her death in 1908.
Visitors can take a self-guided tour of 39 unique rooms covering about 20,00 square feet, most of which are extravagantly furnished reflecting the tastes of the 1890’s to the 1900’s. Visitors will be impressed by the many leaded and stained glass windows which are known for being one of North America’s finest collections. The Dunsmuir’s were avid collectors of art with paintings of American landscapes by Frederick Schafer decorating the walls of their home. It’s easy to imagine yourself as one of the Dunsmuir’s surrounded by lavish furnishings, fixtures and paintings while you make your way slowly up the 87 steps to the tower. From here one can take in panoramic views of the Straight of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains while viewing some of the impressive gardens of Craigdarroch Castle.
Both the Castle and the gardens are slowly being restored to show how they were originally built for Robert Dunsmuir on his 28 acre estate. The Craigdarroch gardens were once surrounded by a massive stone wall that measured 20 feet. In those days, Robert and Joan Dunsmuir frequented their beautifully sculpted gardens along the many paths, streams, ponds and meadows of their estate. The large south lawn can still be enjoyed today where visitors can take leisurely strolls along the Castle grounds, which today sits on 1.75 acres.
In 1979 Craigdarroch Castle was finally able to function exclusively as a historic museum with work commencing to restore the Castle to what it once was, when Joan Dunsmuir originally took up residence there. In 1994 Craigdarroch was sold by the City of Victoria to The Society, now known as the Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum Society who is responsible for its maintenance and restoration.
Whether you are a history buff or simply want to immerse yourself in the luxury and opulence of the 1890’s, Craigdarroch Castle and the south lawn gardens are a must see for all visitors to Victoria on Vancouver Island.