My first castle stay was at Bolebroke Castle in England. I was living in the UK at the time and had been to a few castles so thought I knew what a castle looked like. I was surprised when we pulled in to Bolebroke Castle – it looked like a big house, if there was a tower it was easily mistaken for a chimney. One of Bolebrook Castle’s claims to fame is that it was reputedly used as a hunting lodge by Henry VIII when he courted Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn lived in nearby Hever Castle, she definitely had the better digs. Bolebroke Castle was an unusual place to stay, however for this Kiwi it will always be remembered as more country house than castle stay.
Stable Stay at Larnach Castle
Unlike Bolebroke Castle, it’s not possible to stay in Larnach Castle, accommodation options are on the Castle grounds. One of those options is the Stable, the Stable once housed horses and carriages that transported the Larnach family from Otago Peninsula to Dunedin. The Stables have been converted to guest accommodation upstairs and a dining room downstairs. There are six guest rooms and each have a small flat screen TV, and tea and coffee making facilities. All rooms share showers and toilets located outside on the landing. Comfortable is how the Stable Stay is described and we agree.
Breakfast (cooked to order), or continental if you prefer, is included in the tariff and is served in the downstairs dining room. Also downstairs is a small guest lounge with a TV.
Other accommodation options are Larnach Lodge and Camp Estate. If you’re happy to share a bathroom the Stable Stay is good value – $160 for two includes breakfast and access to Larnach Castle (during opening hours), and the gardens. If you’re a couple looking for budget accommodation in Dunedin and intend to visit the Castle ($34pp admission), it’s an especially good value package.
As a guest it’s a bonus to be able to walk around the gardens once visitors have left for the day, and to see the Castle lit up in the evening. The views over Otago Peninsula are impressive too, and are one of the highlights for guests who stay in Larnach Lodge.
Visiting Larnach Castle
Day visitors can take a self guided or guided tour of the Castle from $34. Photos aren’t allowed but you can see a preview here. When Larnach Castle (named “The Camp” by William Larnach) was completed in 1876 the Otago Daily Times described it as “….the most elegant residence in New Zealand.” William Larnach imported craftsman for his elaborate build, the Castle ceiling alone took three carvers over six and a half years to complete.
William Larnach’s fortune may have been able to build a castle but it could not buy happiness. The sad Larnach family history is well documented, William Larnach took his own life in 1898. The Castle could have come to a sad end as well, it was neglected for many years before being bought by the Barker family in 1967. They have restored and preserved a piece of New Zealand history that definitely feels more castle than country house to me.