it's not every day that you get to explore a castle. when I started researching things to see in Dunedin, during our stop there on our New Zealand road trip, Larnach Castle was one of the first things I found. I promptly fell in love and knew I had to visit. both the grounds and the castle were completely lovely.
our visit to Larnach Castle was also special because I got to share it with Amanda [from Living in Another Language.] she's a long-term American expat currently living in Dunedin. if you have any interest in reading more about [and seeing some gorgeous photos of] New Zealand I would recommend checking out her blog!
but back to the castle.
Larnach Castle has an interesting and somewhat dark history. William Larnach constructed the castle in the late 1800s, nicknamed it "The Camp" and moved in with his wife Eliza and their children, and his sister-in-law Mary. His first wife died of a stroke a few years after giving birth to their sixth child. so William married his wife's sister. Mary died 5 years later [also at the age of 38 - the same as Eliza] and William married for a third time, to a woman much younger than he was. William's favorite daughter Kate then died, and his investments started taking a turn for the worse. the final blow happened when William received a letter informing him that his young wife Catherine and his son Douglas were carrying on an affair. he shot himself in the NZ parliament building and left his family with a mess of inheritance issues to sort through.
the castle fell into disrepair for several decades. the property changed hands a number of times, and at one point was being used as a government mental institution. lucky for me [and anyone else who visits] Larnach Castle was purchased again in the late 1960s and both the grounds and castle were restored and opened to the public.
due to its history of tragic occurrences, the castle is rumored to be haunted. some say by William, his first wife Eliza, his daughter Kate, or sometimes all three. we didn't see anything supernatural on our visit, but we did encounter something scary: three busloads of tourists, fresh off a cruise ship.
we were trapped in several rooms of the castle as tour groups made their way around. I'm not joking. literally not a single person would let us exit the room they were all trying to file into. but maybe the scariest part was the conversation I overheard in the gift shop. one man was trying to buy a postcard and became extremely irate because "what do you mean, you don't take American express?"
regardless of tourists and ghost stories, I really loved wandering through Larnach Castle. perhaps my favorite part was seeing the view from the tower - I can see why they decided to build here.
special thanks for this afternoon go to Husband, for putting up with not one but TWO crazy blogger/photographers while trying to explore the castle and grounds. [at least he could commiserate with Amanda's husband over dinner. #marriedtoabloggerproblems ]
the restoration they've done is truly amazing. I love all the small touches - the tilework, the watercolor done by a former resident, the family crest [a grumpy-looking cat whose motto says "without fear"]
the castle grounds also boast an impressive garden - which you'll have to wait a few more posts to see. I may have gone a little bit crazy with the photos here. heaven help me if/when I travel to Europe, because I think I have castle fever. but with all these gorgeous details, can you really blame me?
if you are interesting in touring Larnach Castle or learning more about it's history, you can visit their official website for information.