You can see the stately Hatley Castle when you drive along the Esquimalt Lagoon. Perched at the top of a great lawn, it seems imposing, but also somehow inviting. With its peaked roofs and crenellated center block, the Tudor Revival style building seems less like the castles of England and Europe, and more like a cross between a castle and a manor home. Completed in 1908, Hatley castle was designed by the Victorian architect Samuel MacLure, for James and Laura Dunsmuir. The sandstone used to build the structure was sourced locally, from Valdez and Saturna Islands, and the impressive exterior of Hatley Castle is matched by its luxurious interior.
Highlights of Hatley Castle
- Historic site
- Popular movie setting
- Guided tours available
- Open Monday- Friday for tours
- Spectacular special events venue
When you step through the heavy wood doors, it’s as though a hush falls over you. When the doors close behind you, you almost want to whisper, as though you are in a library or a cathedral. This is not a place for loud voices, though there are no rules to say so. Whether it’s out of respect for the people still working there, or for the history and grandness of the place and what it means to Victoria, the effect remains the same. Quietness is necessary, so that you can fully absorb the atmosphere of the building and the intense feeling of calm that seems to come with it.
Peace at Hatley Castle
When those doors close behind you, and that hush falls over you, take a moment to just breathe. Breathe in the calmness, the scent of old wood and history. There is a slightly musty smell alongside the floor-to-ceiling oak and rosewood panelling and woven into the carpeting, that seems to be present in all old buildings. Over top of it is the delicate scent of wood polish. It’s soothing, somehow. Part of the overall atmosphere, you could say. There is the slight smell of soot, too, that comes with wood-burning fireplaces. Even when they haven’t been used in a long time, the bricks or cinder blocks in them seem to retain the scent. Hatley Castle has impressive fireplaces in most of the downstairs rooms, and in the front hall as well. For the most part, they aren’t used, but their size and décor helps to give the impression that money wasn’t an object for James Dunsmuir when he commissioned the castle to be built.
Throughout the castle, you’ll see teak floors, lush carpeting and original lighting fixtures that were custom made for the Dunsmuirs. With the exception of being converted from candle lighting to electric, those owning the building since the time of the Dunsmuirs have taken great care to preserve the fixtures in their original state. Since its completion in 1908, Hatley Castle has served as a family home, Royal Roads Military College, and finally as the Royal Roads campus of the University of Victoria. In spite of changing hands several times, it is obvious from the state of the building that great care has been taken to preserve it as a piece of Victoria’s history.