In 1890 Scottish coal baron Robert Dunsmuir built Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, British Columbia, to showcase his inordinate wealth. This 39-room hilltop mansion is rich with opulent details, including multiple turrets and chimneys, a red slate roof, stained-glass windows, wood carvings, antique furnishings, and gold-framed paintings.
A National Historic Site, Craigdarroch Castle is one of the most prominent—and certainly the most eye-catching—of Victoria’s historic houses. Experiencing the castle provides insight into the history of Victoria and the life of turn-of-the-century wealthy industrials in Canada.
You can see the castle during walking, biking, pedicab, and driving tours of the city, which typically include Victoria’s other most well-known attractions, such as Butchart Gardens, Beacon Hill Park, and the Emily Carr House. Some sightseeing tours even include admission to the castle. Once inside, you take a self-guided tour around the property.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Allow at least one hour to properly explore.
- Volunteers are stationed throughout the castle and can answer questions regarding its history.
- Wear comfortable shoes, as there are lots of stairs to navigate.
- Craigdarroch Castle is not accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
Craigdarroch Castle is east of the inner harbor, just off Fort Street in the suburbs of Rockland. Take bus line 11, 14, 15, or 22 from downtown Victoria and get off at the Eastbound Fort at Fernwood stop, which is just a block from the castle.
When to Get There
The castle is open year-round. If visiting during the peak period of mid-June to early September, arrive soon after opening (9am) or an hour or two before closing (5pm to 6pm) to beat the crowds.
Trials and Tribulations of the Dunsmuirs
Exhibits in the house reveal more about the tempestuous Dunsmuir family dynamics. Though it was Robert Dunsmuir who ordered Craigdarroch to be built, he himself never got that chance to live in the mansion, as he passed away several months before the building was completed. His family took up residence here in 1890, though Robert’s death—or more specifically, his will—sparked conflict within the family regarding the distribution of his estate. Robert’s first son, Alex, passed away in 1900, and his death ignited yet more tension regarding the distribution of assets and wealth, with Robert’s second son, James, instigating legal action against his own mother, Joan Dunsmuir.