Craigdarroch Castle


We woke fairly early and headed to the motel diner for some delicious greasy breakfast before venturing to the museum located in Victoria’s gorgeous ‘Rockland‘ neighbourhood.

Craigdarroch (pronounced Craig – Derrick) has been a favourite stop of mine since I first discovered it in 1993. The castle is a Victorian era Scottish baronial mansion and a National Historic Site in Canada.


Much like Casa Loma in Toronto, the castle has quite a history. Both were built never to be seen finished by their original constructors.

Finished in 1890, Robert Dunsmuir would die in 1889 – a year before its completion. The original architect also died before construction finished up.

Looking Up Craigdarroch Castle

Roberts wife, Joan, would live in the castle for a time with her daughters after her husbands death.

In the early 1900’s, after Joan’s death, the 20,000 square foot mansion was auctioned off at a raffle (crazy!!) and its land divided and sold.

Unfortunately the raffle winner was unable to afford the castle and it quickly fell into the hands of the Bank of Montreal.

Ornate Castle Windows

The castle served as a military hospital during the first world war, and then as Victoria College from the 1920’s to the mid 1940’s.

It was the school board office from the mid 1940’s until the late 1960’s and finally, for a decade (the 70’s), Craigdarroch served as the Victoria Conservatory of Music before being re-designated a national historic site, and being used as a museum.

Breakfast Room Craigdarroch

The main room (pictured above), spent nearly a decade having its ceiling and walls re-conditioned. During the hospital era, all of the gorgeous frescoes and incredible detail were painted over.

It was worked on for years by anthropology students from U Vic to remove the thick yellowing white paint, exposing gorgeous ornate ceiling murals and incredible wall detail.

Lavender Bedroom Craigdarroch

The stained glass of Craigdarroch has been documented by the ‘Institute for Stained Glass in Canada’. Somehow the many remarkable pieces survived the years of abuse and neglect that the manor home endured.

Castle Lamp

The interior is decorated with authentic pieces from the correct era, and as much as possible, the rooms are re-created from photographs to resemble their original state.

There are still rooms waiting to be refurbished in the 39 room estate, and with the high quality of re-construction, one could imagine it might be quite some time before they are complete.

Original Dance Cards Ballroom Craigdarroch

My favourite place in Craigdarroch is the ballroom. Located on the top floor, it is easy for me to imagine the expansive room filled with elaborately adorned ladies and coy gentlemen, filling out dance cards and waiting their turns for a chance at romance.

Ballroom Craigdarroch

Some of the original dance cards left over from the 1800’s, are mounted behind glass in one of the wings of the enormous ballroom – my favourite part of the castle.

Front Lawn Craigdarroch

Surely Craigdarroch will be maintained for generations to come. I look forward to seeing it entirely restored – perhaps in another two decades!

Many more photos of Craigdarroch Castle and Vancouver Island at the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.

Additional photos in the slideshow.

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Follow this trip by heading to the ‘Vancouver Island‘ section. Many more photos of Victoria at the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.


6 responses to “Craigdarroch Castle

  1. It seems that so many of the owners / builders of mansions / castles like these die before or just after completion. In addition to this one, I think of the Biltmore in Asheville NC ( and the Ringling Mansion in Sarasota, Florida ( So sad for the owners … thankfully, these buildings are being preserved and restored. I loved reading about the history and restoration of Craigdarroch and hope to visit sometime!


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