Some say that whatever happens, we will all be children at heart. We will always have that little piece of us that wanted to be the princess of a wonderful kingdom. Somehow, it’s that little piece that struggles to come out at the mention of legendary castles. It’s also the piece that runs wild when you finally set foot on one.
That was how I felt as I stepped into Greater Victoria’s Hatley Castle. It is located in the midst of Hatley Park National Historic Site. Completed in 1908, the Castle has been serving as a training ground for cadets since 1940. Since 1995, it has served as a full-fledged university granting degrees in multiple disciplines. Throughout its rich and active history, the 40-room mansion stood as a majestic example of Scottish baronial-architecture.
Visitors could make their way into the Castle at any day of the week. However, there are times when a “Closed” sign hangs on the entrance. At these times, one can still enter if he is a part of a scheduled tour. Guided tours are scheduled at the following hours on weekdays:
- 10:30 AM
- 11:45 AM
- 1:30 PM
- 2:45 PM
On weekends and holidays, there are still guided tours every 11:45 AM and 2:45 PM. At 11:45 AM and 1:30 PM, walking tours are given at other parts of the estate.
For a lavish castle, the admission rates are fairly affordable. Adults pay $18.50 while senior citizens pay $16.00. Students can get in at a large discount, at $10.90 each. If you are touring as a family (two adults at most), the $52.00 family rate is a steal. Children 5 and below can come in for free.
Upon entering, I felt the grand scale of the castle sending out a warm greeting. The rooms were rosewood and oak, and the floors were teak. I felt main hall was a teeny bit overpowering in its heavy use of wood, but it transported me to a time long gone. It was a time of grandeur and elegance. There was no money spared, no corners cut anywhere. The entire 200-feet length of the building was surrounded by a wall hewn from local stones. An 82-feet high turret towered from the garden side.
The tour guide led us to all of the room in the first floor, explaining what each was for. It also turned out that the area was an Indian burial site in the old times. Relics from this time all the way to the Castle’s present history are enshrined at the Museum. This is located at the basement of Hatley Castle.
Aside from the picturesque grandeur of the Castle itself, another thing I loved were the gardens. There were three — the Rose Garden, the Italian Garden, and the Japanese Garden.
The Rose Garden was originally designed in 1913, reflecting the influence of the Edwardian Era. I felt like I was transported to the time of the great poets. This felt like the place where Romeo and Juliet would have met in secret, or where Heathcliff pined for Catherine in Wuthering Heights. The variety of roses bloomed almost in secret against the gray and brown stone walls. It was a magical place.
For those who prefer a more “formal” and manicured place, there is the Italian Garden. It features seasonal plants, along with statues that represent the four seasons — Hebe, Flora, Ceres, and Pomona. We were told that in May, a large tree bloomed with beautiful yellow flowers near the lawn. The elegant garden was completed in the 1930s. In summertime, weddings are held here daily. You can inquire from them in case you want to say your “I do”s here.
I also found the Japanese Garden to be very striking, and very different from the other two. It was a place I could go to and spend a quiet afternoon in, at any time of the year. It was designed by Isaburo Kishida in 1910. Kishida was a renowned landscape gardener from Japan. There is a tortoise shaped islet in the middle of the pond, believed to mean 10,000 years of life. There are two more statues, this time of cranes. They represent another 1,000 years. If these symbols were true, I could stay here and live for a long, long time! The peace and zen in this garden seems to make all time stop.
The Hatley Castle (and the Estate itself) is a must-visit for anyone traveling to Victoria. It’s a picturesque place, proven by its appearance in many films and TV shows. Smallville, Arrow, X-Men — these are just a few big-budget names who took advantage of the Castle’s stately beauty. Despite never being the residence of a full-blooded royalty, this is an estate fit for any King or Queen. It takes one back to a beautiful time.