Norcombe Barker was born the year after his parents bought Larnach Castle and is now the estate's managing director. It's safe to say as far as insider's guides go, you won't find better.
I think a visit to Larnach Castle encompasses multiple experiences, beginning with the spectacular drive to the Otago Peninsula, which is both beautiful and dramatic. People are often surprised New Zealand has a castle and most visitors believe it's owned by the New Zealand Government whereas it is a privately-owned restoration project.
The castle itself is the obvious drawcard: magnificent Colonial Neo-Gothic architecture and exceptional internal timber work. The icing on the cake is the location and the garden, but what I really enjoy the most are the stories.
The tale goes that William Larnach was out horse riding with his two sons when he came across the spot that he thought would make a suitable location for his dream home. Apparently, he sent one of his sons up a tree to check out the 360-degree view.
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This year, we are celebrating 150 years of the building but it's not just the bricks and mortar we are honouring, it's the fact it's been a location where hundreds of people have celebrated significant life events. As part of our 150th celebrations, we have just commissioned an exhibition called Behind the Walls to tell the untold stories of the years between 1900-1967.
To get the most out of your visit, allow lots of time as there is much to see and explore, not only in the castle but also in the grounds. I'd highly recommend walking up the 100 steps to the top of the tower; using the garden map to explore all of the garden and not just what you can see from the front of the castle, and reading the interpretation panels in the history room. Visitors commonly rave about the building itself and there really is something that appeals to everyone: examples of craftsmanship that are no longer seen, stories that are sometimes scandalous, and children can't get enough of the dungeon.
If you are organised, pre-book a high tea, we are renowned for these but they are highly popular and book up quickly.
Similarly, if you have the time to stay overnight, our three accommodation choices are a must. When the day visitors leave, you will have the garden to yourself. There is also the opportunity to dine in one of the historic dining rooms followed by a breakfast in the stables the next morning. I'd say that takes some beating.
Larnach Castle is part of Tohu Whenua, a New Zealand visitor programme that connects Kiwis with our heritage and sense of national identity via significant historical and cultural sites.
Check alert level restrictions and Ministry of Health advice before travel. covid19.govt.nz