Wednesday, 5 April 2017

High on a Hill- Larnach Castle


After visiting Tunnel Beach we made our way back over the hill and down past St Clair Beach...

...stopping for a brief stroll along the promenade to the salt water pool and back again.

Then it was onto Highcliff Road, a white-knuckle road that runs along the top of the Otago Peninsula. Actually it's only white-knuckle if you let the views drag your eyes from the road and/or you meet nervous drivers coming the other way. 

The views up and down the harbour are spectacular. That's Dunedin city to the left, you can see the white roof over the Forsyth Barr Stadium, Mt Cargill is top centre, a small tip behind the tree covered hills at the front. Taiaroa Head is to the right, way back behind the small peninsula that sticks out into the harbour . Port Chalmers is across the water from that peninsula, just behind the small island (click photo to enlarge).

It was getting late in the day but I wanted to visit Larnach Castle while we were in the area, we may not be back this way again. It was $33 to visit the garden and take a tour through the castle or $18 to take a self-guided walk around the gardens. The castle part of the tour was due to close shortly after we arrived (4:30pm) while the gardens were open until 7pm.

This worked out well because I didn't really need a look inside, I was happy to just view the gardens. But what I really wanted was a shot of Larnach Castle without any people. Fat chance. People and tour buses! Why they needed to park their buses right at the front door I have no idea.

Foiled at the first attempt I thought I'd start my wander through the gardens. The Laburnum Pergola would look spectacular flowering in the spring and even better when it matures in a few years time.

I've seen the Laburnum Arch flowering at Bodnant Gardens in North Wales, it's a magnificent sight. Click on this link to see the Larnach Pergola flowering, it still looks beautiful.

Bodnant Gardens, North Wales
Beautiful 'goblet like' colchicum, aka autumn crocus are flowering under the laburnum and in the naturalized 'Field' next door. They bring back memories of our secret find at Cambrian near St Bathans in Central Otago.

The pergola leads to the 'Green Room' and 'Reflection Pool' which is also looking a little 'green'.

I head back to see if the people have moved on. No chance. At least the bus has gone.

I carry on towards the back of the Castle passing the Petanque court & creamery and finding myself on the 'Wishing Well Lawn' and 'Alice in Wonderland Garden'.

Next is a walk through the 'Perennial Border' garden where I manage to capture (as in photograph not catch) one of New Zealand's endemic butterflies, the Red Admiral.

On past the 'Cupola'- from the sailing ship 'Zealandia'- it was installed at the Castle in 1927...

...and back to the Castle where it looks like no one is in a hurry to move.

I check out the Ballroom Cafe where there are just a few people finishing their afternoon tea...

...and with nobody sitting outside, I have my fingers crossed that the buses have carted them away. 

Things are looking good as I make my way across the lawn in front of the 'Tapestry Garden' and cafe...

...and back to the Raised Lawn in front of the Castle. Darn! There are no people just the Castle's mini van!

So I do another lap, heading down to the 'South Seas Garden' and the magnificent views from the Belvedere (an architectural structure sited to take advantage of a fine or scenic view). Three tourists have hogged the view and can not stop raving about the scenery to each other (and anyone else within earshot). 

Here's a classic New Zealand scene; blue skies and blue seas framed by our native Christmas Tree, the Pohutukawa and in the centre another native, a young rimu tree.

The visitors are still extolling the virtues of the views from the Belvedere... I carry on around to the back of the Castle once again, past Larnach Lodge and the old stables (both available for accommodation) and stop to check out the remains of the privy building where, along with horse manure collected from the nearby stables, methane gas was piped to the 'big house' and mixed with acetylene gas to power the Castle's chandeliers.

I head back to the front lawn, only to find one lone guy standing there staring in contemplation at the Castle.

I wait patiently and then finally everyone is gone and I can capture Larnach Castle in all its splendid glory....except when I look closely now at the photo, I can see the lone guy disappearing through the door!

In 1870 William Larnach chose this site to build his magnificent mansion. He was an Australian banker who came to Dunedin lured by the gold rush wealth. William lived in the Castle with three successive wives until 1898 when he took his own life in New Zealand's House of Parliament. Larnach's children (five from his first marriage) sold the property which then changed hands several times and was twice abandoned.

The current owners took over the derelict Castle and 14 hectares of wilderness in 1967 and have worked tirelessly since restoring the castle, and rediscovering and developing the gardens & grounds.

David leaving for work...


  1. I'm of the same mind as you Shellie, when it comes to strangers in my photos! I've been known to wait and wait, sidle around the other way, and hope they get the message and leave me a clear view of what I want to photograph. Robin, on the other hand, thinks people bring perspective to photos, but sometimes you just want to see/show the object in uncluttered glory.
    Robin and Jenny, Romany Rambler

    1. Exactly Jenny! There's a time and place for people in a shot and sometimes you just don't want them in there ;) I've been known to cough loudly when others take up positions just in front of me as I'm lining up a shot. Mostly they are just totally unaware of what they're doing.

  2. Wow the laburnum has grown so much! I compare our photos taken in November 2013 with the one from your link, the difference is very obvious, especially at the top of the pergola. But at that time we thought it's spectacular enough. No wonder Mark Twain said 'comparison is the death of joy' :). Surprise to see the pohutukawa still flowering, I thought all the flowers would have been gone by now. We didn't go inside the castle as well. We thoroughly enjoyed the garden and the views and this place remains our favourite.


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