Work began in 1871 on William Larnach’s grand vision now known as Larnach Castle. Sited majestically on the scenic Otago Peninsula, the 43-room mansion was built on the back of the gold rush. It was a bold statement of the prominent businessman and later politician’s material success. British and European artisans created the magnificent stone, wood and plasterwork. Work on the interior took many years, with the ballroom not completed until 1887.
But this castle’s story is no fairy tale. Alongside the grandeur came tragedy: Larnach built the mansion for his beloved first wife, Eliza, who died young. Rocked by family scandal, and his great fortune later turning to dust, he committed suicide in Parliament in 1898. The government bought the castle to house the overflow of patients from Seacliff Lunatic Asylum. From that point its fortunes ebbed and flowed as it passed through several hands. It fell into such disrepair that the ballroom was at one point used to shelter sheep.
In 1967 it was bought by the Barker family. In their care, Larnach Castle has now been lovingly restored and improved on, with the addition of a garden of international significance. Also notable is the adjacent farm, stone walls and path that surround the estate and provide fine pastoral walks.