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Dundurn Castle in Hamilton, Ontario: A Step Back in Time

Updated: Feb 7

Dundurn Castle in Hamilton, Ontario, is not a castle in the medieval sense but a grand 19th-century villa that once belonged to Sir Allan Napier MacNab, a prominent lawyer, politician, and Premier of the United Canadas from 1854 to 1856. Today, it stands as a magnificent example of the neoclassical architecture that dominated the era and offers visitors a glimpse into the lives of the Canadian elite during the Victorian period. Join me on a detailed journey through the history and halls of this fascinating historical site.

Location: 610 York Blvd, Hamilton, ON L8R 3E7

Dundurn Castle at Dundurn Park, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Dundurn Castle at Dundurn Park, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Introduction to Dundurn Castle

Nestled on the shores of Lake Ontario, Dundurn Castle offers a panoramic view that captivates visitors even before they step inside. Completed in 1835, the castle features over 40 rooms across its 18,000-square-foot floor plan and has been meticulously restored to reflect the opulence of the period.

Historical Significance

The castle not only served as MacNab's family home but also as a social center of the region, hosting dignitaries such as Sir John A. Macdonald and King Edward VII. The site has been recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada, ensuring its preservation and continued educational role.

Preparing for the Tour

Before you embark on your tour, it's recommended to check the Dundurn Castle website for any seasonal hours, ticket prices, or special event information. It's also advisable to wear comfortable shoes as you'll be exploring multiple floors of the estate.

Arrival and Amenities

Upon arrival at Dundurn Castle, you'll find ample parking. The coach house nearby serves as a visitor center where you can purchase tickets and explore the small gift shop. Restrooms are available here, so it's best to use them before starting your tour.

Dundurn Castle (back, facing Burlington Bay)
Dundurn Castle (back, facing Burlington Bay)

The Tour Experience

The guided tour of Dundurn Castle begins at the front entrance, where a costumed guide welcomes you into the grand foyer. From here, the tour takes you through a series of sumptuously furnished rooms, each telling a part of the MacNab family story and the broader tale of Hamilton's development.

The Main Floor

The main floor of Dundurn Castle boasts several impressive rooms:

  • The Front Hall: The entrance sets the tone with its grand staircase and portraits of the MacNab family.

  • The Drawing Room: Here, you'll discover luxurious furnishings and learn about Victorian social customs.

  • The Dining Room: This room features an impressive dining table set for a lavish meal, showcasing the wealth and status of the MacNab family.

  • The Study: Sir Allan MacNab's study is filled with artifacts from his political career and personal life, providing insight into his influential role in Canadian history.

The folly in Dundurn Park
The folly in Dundurn Park

The Upper Floor

Ascending the staircase to the upper floor, visitors encounter the private quarters:

  • The Bedrooms: Each bedroom is restored to its original splendor, complete with period-appropriate decor and personal items that belonged to the MacNab family members.

  • The Children's Room: A highlight for many, this room features toys and games from the era, offering a perspective on Victorian childhood.

The Servants' Quarters

The servants' quarters provide a stark contrast to the family living spaces. Here, you'll learn about the working conditions and daily lives of the staff who maintained the estate.

Dundurn Castle, Hamilton, Ontario
Dundurn Castle, Hamilton, Ontario

The Kitchen and Historic Cooking Workshops

One of the highlights of Dundurn Castle is the large, historic kitchen where visitors can sometimes participate in cooking workshops using 19th-century methods and recipes, providing a truly immersive experience.

The Grounds and Outbuildings

After exploring the interior, the tour often includes a stroll through the surrounding grounds, which include:

  • The Kitchen Garden: A recreated historic garden featuring herbs, vegetables, and fruits used in the castle's kitchen.

  • The Coach House: Once housing MacNab's carriage and horses, it now serves as an exhibit space and visitor center.


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  1. Architecture: Visitors can admire the Italianate-style architecture of the castle, which includes a blend of classical and Italianate motifs, and learn about the design contributions of renowned architect Robert Wetherell.

  2. The Rooms: The castle features over 40 rooms, which have been meticulously restored to reflect the period of Sir Allan MacNab’s residency. Each room is furnished with pieces from the era, offering an authentic historical atmosphere.

  3. The Kitchen: The tour often includes a visit to the castle's historic kitchen, where guests can learn about 19th-century cooking techniques and the types of meals prepared for the MacNab family.

  4. The Servants' Quarters: Gain insight into the lives of the servants who worked at Dundurn Castle by exploring the areas where they lived and worked, which stand in stark contrast to the family's quarters.

  5. The Grounds: The surrounding estate features beautifully maintained gardens and grounds that visitors can explore. The Hamilton Military Museum is also located on the property and is included in your admission.

  6. The Coach House: The restored Coach House at Dundurn Castle contains an exhibit on the transportation of the period and the role of the coachman.

  7. Events and Workshops: Dundurn Castle hosts various seasonal events, workshops, and Victorian-themed festivities throughout the year, adding extra charm to the visit.

  8. Interactive Experiences: Some tours may offer interactive experiences such as hands-on historical activities or the opportunity to try on period clothing.

Special Events and Programs

Dundurn Castle hosts a variety of special events throughout the year, including Victorian Christmas celebrations, tea parties in the garden, and historical re-enactments. These events provide an even deeper understanding of the period and are a delight for history enthusiasts.

Dundurn Park, Aviary building
Dundurn Park, Aviary building

Practical Tips for Visitors

To maximize your Dundurn Castle experience, consider the following tips:

  • Photography: Photos without flash are usually permitted inside the castle, but check with your guide first.

  • Accessibility: Due to the historic nature of the building, there are some accessibility limitations. However, efforts are made to accommodate all visitors.

  • Time: Allow yourself at least 1 to 1.5 hours for the tour and additional time to explore the grounds.


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Final Thoughts

A visit to Dundurn Castle is more than just a tour; it's an encounter with the past. The castle allows us to walk through history, to feel the opulence of the Victorian era, and to understand the social and economic fabric of 19th-century Canada. Whether you're a history buff, architecture enthusiast, or simply curious about the Canadian heritage, Dundurn Castle provides a unique and enriching experience that transports you back in time.

For those planning a visit to Hamilton, or for locals looking to reconnect with their city's history, Dundurn Castle stands as a testament to a bygone era, waiting to share its stories. As you depart from the grandeur of this historic mansion, you'll take with you not just photographs and souvenirs, but a deeper appreciation for the rich tapestry of Canadian history.

Be sure to check Dundurn Castle's official website for the latest information on tour times, ticket prices, and any upcoming special events that might coincide with your visit. This architectural gem is a cultural treasure not to be missed, and a highlight of any trip to Hamilton, Ontario.

Dundurn Castle, Hamilton, Ontario
Dundurn Castle, Hamilton, Ontario

Frequently Asked Question about Dundurn Castle, Hamilton

Q: How do I get tickets for Dundurn Castle?

A: Tickets for Dundurn Castle can typically be purchased on-site or online through the City of Hamilton's official website. It is advised to check availability in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons or around special events.

Q: Is there parking available at Dundurn Castle?

A: Yes, there is parking available for visitors. Dundurn Castle has its own parking lot, and there may be additional street parking nearby. Some parking may be free, while other options could require a fee.

Q: How long does the Dundurn Castle tour last?

A: The guided tour of Dundurn Castle generally lasts about an hour to an hour and a half. Allow extra time if you plan to explore the grounds, the military museum, or participate in any special exhibits.

Q: Is photography allowed inside Dundurn Castle?

A: Photography for personal use is typically allowed inside Dundurn Castle, but flash photography and the use of tripods may be restricted. For commercial photography, special arrangements usually need to be made in advance.

Q: Can I host a private event or wedding at Dundurn Castle?

A: Dundurn Castle offers facilities for private events, including weddings. You would need to contact the castle's administration directly to discuss details and make arrangements.

Q: Are there any dining facilities at Dundurn Castle?

A: There isn't a restaurant on-site, but there are picnic areas around the grounds. The castle is also located close to Hamilton's downtown area, where there are plenty of dining options.

Q: Is Dundurn Castle accessible for visitors with mobility issues?

A: Due to the historic nature of the building, there are some accessibility limitations. Visitors with mobility issues are encouraged to contact the castle beforehand to discuss their needs.

Q: Are guided tours available in languages other than English?

A: Guided tours are primarily conducted in English. For tours in other languages, it's best to inquire directly with the castle staff to see if arrangements can be made.

Q: Is there an admission fee for children?

A: Yes, there is typically an admission fee for children, but it is usually lower than the adult fee. Infants and very young children may be admitted for free. Check the castle's website for current pricing.

Remember to verify the information as details such as admission fees, opening hours, and tour availability can change over time.


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1 Comment

Feb 11

We will definitely take our kids their this Summer!

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