Dundern Castle

Stuck on a rainy day and want a little smattering of indoor history somewhere other than Toronto?
One of a couple of interesting “Stately Homes” lies in Hamilton about 40 mins north-west of Toronto.Dundurn Castle, located on a height of land known as Burlington Heights. During the War of 1812, the British Army established a military post at the site. The owner, Sir Allan MacNab – who was the then the equivalent of the Premier of what was in those days the Dominion of Canada – later incorporated elements of the post into the construction of Dundurn Castle during the 1830’s and the building now forms part of Dundurn National Historic Site.
Not your usual romantic idea of a castle this but a neoclassical mansion on York Boulevard in Hamilton. The 18,000-square-foot (1,700 m2) house took three years and $175,000.00 to build, and was completed in 1835. The seventy-two room castle featured the latest conveniences of gas lighting and running water. In other words a very grand, very comfortable mid 19th century home, restored to it’s 1855 glory, a year when MacNab was at the height of his career as a lawyer, landowner, railway magnate and Premier of the United Canadas (1854-56).
The rooms on show are furnished to reflect and contrast the “upstairs downstairs” style of a high society family and their servants and as such this was one of the most extensive tours of “downstairs” I’ve ever done – and that’s saying something as a one if my favourite things to do in the UK was to visit some of Britain’s finest National Trust owned Stately Homes.
Well informed knowledgeable costumed guides spend about an hour showing small groups around this house with its excellent period exhibits and “staged” working rooms. Much of the historical and family anecdotes can be attributed to the daughter Sophia MacNab who kept an extensive diary recording even her Mother’s medications (she died of Consumption).Great for kids too, as they are able to touch many of the items in the Servants quarters plus try the flavours of the period food samples served up in the kitchens – sugared marrow (with lemon and maple syrup) delicious!!
Brilliant value for money as the ticket price also in included entry to the Military Museum and gardens.
The Duchess of Cornwall Camilla Parker-Bowles is distantly related to the MacNabs and is currently the Royal Patron of Dundurn Castle, but don’t let that deter you from visiting.
Location: 610 York Blvd. (map)
Hamilton, Ontario
Phone: 905-546-2872

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