Thursday February 23 – Friday February 24th | Dunedin 🏰🍫🚂🐧 | 195km 🚙 + 116km 🚂
My final days in Dunedin! Bittersweet. I obviously want to go home to see Mike but I have LOVED my time in this beautiful country.
On Thursday morning we went out to New Zealand’s only castle: Larnach Castle. If you’re expecting a grandiose Scottish-style castle you will be disappointed but it is one of the few buildings of this scale in New Zealand and is stunning in its own right. The story of the Larnach family is very interesting and also extremely sad.
William Larnach purchased the land in 1870 and construction of the castle began the following year. He and his wife Eliza moved in to their home a few years later. They had six children before Eliza died at the age of 38.
Larnach then married his deceased wife’s half-sister Mary Alleyne. The children didn’t approve of this – they thought Mary was a drunk, which apparently was true. It looked like his business was going to fail so William put the family property into Mary’s name. They were only married for 5 years before she also passed away. Her will gave everything to the children so William was left with nothing. He then made his kids sign papers giving him “his” property back (they didn’t know what they were signing). William’s favourite daughter, Kate, also died which caused him great heartache.
William then married Constance de Bathe Brandon who was much younger than him. The children never accepted her. It was rumoured that his son, Douglas, was having an affair with Constance. That, coupled with more financial strain, was the undoing of William. He purchased a pistol and shot himself in parliament on October 12th 1898.
William Larnach sounds like a very colourful character who never really stood a chance. The Larnach family sold the castle in 1906. It passed through many hands before the Barkers purchases it, derelict and in need of much TLC, in 1967. They worked hard to restore the castle to it’s original glory and have purchased or borrowed much of the furniture and artifacts you can find inside. Some of the castle is kept private as the Barker family still resides there but you can visit a lot of the rooms as well as enjoy a bite to eat in the ballroom. I enjoyed a scone with whipped cream and jam. How posh.
After the castle we went to Cadbury World where we participated in a guided tour of the factory. Along the way we were given different chocolate bars to take home with us. They may never get eaten though as I still don’t understand why kiwis love to eat chocolate covered marshmallow so much! (The Jaffas they gave me are long gone 🙊). There’s a “tasting train” where you’re given an empty plastic shot glass to fill with melted chocolate (white, milk or dark) and can add toppings of your choice. You then eat it with a cardboard spoon – kind of like those old school ice cream treats you got as kids. So much chocolate. So much fun. I kind of felt like the kids in Willy Wonkas Chocolate Factory – specifically the girl who eats all the blueberries and turns into one.
Our afternoon was spent on a train! We found a really good deal on Book Me (a discount/deal website) for the Taiere Gorge Railway Journey (it was around 50% off). The train winds its way slowly to Pukerangi where the engine switches ends and returns you to Dunedin. We were seated in an old fashioned, heritage, wooden carriage with sliding windows and netted baggage storage above us: it felt almost like something out of Harry Potter. The scenery on the trip is spectacular and you can also purchase food and drinks from the dining car.
The evening activity was penguin watching! The Otago Peninsula is home to the Royal Albatross Centre and is the only mainland breeding colony of the massive birds. It is also where you will find the worlds smallest penguin: the little blue penguin. Around 9pm we all walked down to the viewing platform and fifteen minutes later the first raft came ashore. (Raft is the term given to a group of penguins). It was really cool to see and definitely worth your time.