Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dundurn Castle

Do you enjoy touring historic houses?  I have always loved going through them and fortunately my husband does too. For me there is nothing better than a well-cared for, tastefully-decorated home, that has been restored with historical accuracy, and being shown around by a costumed guide.

We went to Dundurn Castle in Hamilton, Ontario recently and it hit all the right notes.  Dundurn Castle was built for Sir Allan Napier MacNab in 1835.  MacNab fought in the War of 1812 and later became a prominent lawyer, businessman, and premier of Upper and Lower Canada in 1854-56.  The grand regency style house has been restored to the period 1855 when MacNab was at the height of his career.  MacNab was a progressive man and his home had gas lighting and running water and indoor access to his ice house.  The house is 18,000 square feet in size and over forty rooms are on display.

Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about the house and the time period and was able to answer all our questions and add interesting stories.

Our guide showing us the details of a painting of Hamilton, Ontario from the early 1800s

Sometimes the wallpaper or carpets or lights in historic homes can be a little ... well dated and gaudy, but for the most part I liked the ones in Dundurn Castle.  Although they were not what I would necessarily choose for my home, I thought they were pretty and suited the house.

Floor tiles and carpet runner in the entrance hall
Wallpaper in the Butler's room (lucky butler - love his wallpaper)
Wallpaper and rug in the children's nursery
Rug in a sitting room

Do you play "What's your favourite part" after visiting someplace?  We do.  It helps us remember what we have seen and reminds us of all the best things.

So the top five things I liked at Dundurn Castle were:

1.  The chandelier in the dining room.

Detail of the dining room chandelier showing the Jasperware medallions around the rim and the crystals 

2.  The nursery upstairs with the table set with a beautiful paisley tablecloth and ready for the children to do some painting.

3.  The transferware and pottery plates and platters and jugs around the house.

4.  The sweet painting in the living room of Sophia MacNab who is the great-great grandmother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, wife of Prince Charles.  She married the 7th Earl of Albemarle and moved to England where she lived for the rest of her life.

Sophia MacNab

5.  The many rooms in the basement where the servants worked and goods were stored.  I often like the basement tours more than the upstairs and that held true for Dundurn Castle as well.

And if I ever get sick and need to spend a long time in bed - I found the room I want to convalesce in.

And I really need to have that gorgeous wooden bedside table with tea served from that white and blue teapot.  I really feel all that loveliness would help me get better, don't you?

Tomorrow I'm posting about the kitchen garden and the things I learned - stay tuned.  It's riveting!

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p.s. Linked to Mosaic Monday at Little Red House


  1. That place is right up my alley! Love the butler's room. It reminds me of something you would do for wish Wednesday.

  2. Thanks for the tour! I love the canopy over the bed where you plan to convalesce! It's so interesting to see how people lived in a different era--and a different economic status! Does the property still belong to the family?

  3. I went to high school in Hamilton a long time ago and remember touring Dundurn Castle. It has become even lovelier, with acquisition, I'd guess. I wonder if the children were truly permitted to paint on that lovely paisley cloth?

  4. Oh those entrance floor tiles stop my heart! What a beautiful home! A-M xx

  5. Beautiful well cared for old home/castle. I am thinking that you would enjoy Locust Grove near me, it too is a lovely well cared for estate. the guides who dress in the garb from long ago, always make it so much more fun too. Have a lovely~

  6. I have had the pleasure of visiting Dundurn Castle several times and I always enjoy the tour. It is a lovely home. Valerie

  7. What a beautiful and grand home! My father in law is originally from Hamilton. I'm like you, I often enjoy seeing the servants quarters more than the more formal parts of these historic houses, and I think the room you chose is beautiful. That chandy isn't bad either...gorgeous!


  8. I would love to visit! I think it is great that the guides dress up, I always like the costumes very much. The bedside table would come in very useful!

  9. oh, I'm happy to "come along." I love that nursery.

    It's all so interesting. Great photos!

  10. Looks like you had a great time at this historic place. I'd love to go there to see it myself :) That chandelier is phenomenal...people back in the day definitely got some sweet taste in interior designing!

  11. I toured Dundurn in November when it was decked out in Christmas finery. A beautiful historic place to share.

  12. This is my first visit to your blog. I'm a New Brunswicker. I've never heard of this castle before. It is very well restored and very opulent inside. The grounds look a bit barren. I wonder why they aren't landscaped? Great and interesting post! Pamela

  13. It all looks so lovely. I know what you mean about preferring the basements. The kitchen is usually my favourite part of any house. I too love touring historic homes or castles although it always makes me feel a bit sad and nostalgic. I think I was born in the wrong century! Thanks for sharing your visit. x x