Sunday, 22 May 2016

Exploring Castles and Cider in Victoria, B.C.

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Craigdarroch Castle is an impressive building
    We spent the May long weekend in Victoria and decided to visit some places we hadn’t seen before. Our first stop was Craigdarroch Castle which is a real “castle” near downtown Victoria. Built of locally sourced sandstone this castle was built by Robert Dunsmuir between 1887-1890. Dunsmuir, who was born in Scotland, made his fortune from Vancouver Island coal.   Craigdarroch means “rocky, oak place” in Gaelic and ironically Dunsmuir died just before his “castle” was finished. However his wife, Joan did live in the mansion until her death in 1908. The house has 4 floors, an amazing 17 fireplaces and many impressive stained glass windows. The interior paneling features white oak which was fabricated in Chicago and was shipped in 5 boxcars in the summer in 1890! 

Heather admiring one of the many oak paneled staircases
    After Joan’s death in 1908, Craigdarroch had a wide range of uses and had many different owners. For instance, from 1919-1921it was a military hospital, treating the injured from World War 1. It then became Victoria College from 1921-1946. More recently, it housed the Victoria School Board (1946-1968) followed by the Victoria Conservatory of Music (1969-1979). Since then it has become an historic house museum and has been designated a National Historic Site. When you enter the Castle you are given an informative guide to what is on each level and from the 4th floor you get impressive views of Victoria. Also be sure watch the short film which gives a good overview not only of the Castle and the Dunsmuir family but also of the early life of Victoria. We recommend a visit here and for more information see:

Sarah gave us a great tour at Sea Cider Farm
   Later on Saturday, May 21 we visited Sea Cider Farm and Cider House which is located in Sannich just north of Victoria.  We had our son Michael and daughter Kristie and her boyfriend Eric in tow since they were keen to taste a variety of ciders. Sea Cider Farms sits on a 10 acre property with views of the ocean and some offshore islands.  Be sure to do a tour to find out how their various organic ciders are made in part from some of the 1300 heritage apple trees on the property.
We enjoyed sampling the ciders from the large deck
  We sampled a small and long flight (the long flight featured 9 different ciders) and enjoyed the view from their spacious deck. Their ciders range from very dry to very sweet and their most popular is the Pippins which is right in the middle in terms of sweetness. Our favourite was the Rumrunner which got its roots by being aged in Newfoundland screech barrels. Who knew you could make cider from rum barrels? Many of their ciders have won various awards and a visit here makes for an enjoyable afternoon. For more information check out:


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