21 Feb 2016

Over The Mtn's & Thru The Woods - NZL by valeriepeltier

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Our journey to Larnach Castle began with our walk to the peninsula. Since the holiday park we were located at only had busses that headed downtown we decided we would walk closer to the peninsula in order to catch a bus, since the castle was located 12km down the road from the beginning of the peninsula. After a bit of a fiasco in finding the bus stop we finally made it there just in time for the bus to pass through. Since it was a Sunday the bus service came very rarely so if we wouldn't of caught this bus then it wasn't worth it to go to the castle. Thankfully we made it on time. During the bus ride the bus driver had told us he would drop us off at the base of the trail that would take us straight up the hill. Instead of taking the main walking track, he suggested this one for its straightforward directions, and shorter distance to the castle. It is also a less travelled route and offered great scenery. Excited to get to the castle and begin up this side trail, we quickly ate our lunch and began the climb. Happy that the bus driver had told us about this trail instead, we hoofed it about half way up along this goat track before turning and taking in the view. On either side of us there were rolling hills of farm pasture scattered with goats, a homestead off in the distance and the view of the harbor below displaying the several islands grouped together. Standing there you truly got the feeling as though you were standing in the center of Ireland's hilly landscape. Once we caught our breath we continued up the hill passing a few homesteads and winding our way along the gravel road into a forested area with large overhanging trees shading us from the mid day sun.

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When we reached the top of the hill we rounded the corner to the castle gates. Walking through you gained the feeling of being in a fancier place than the hillside overlooking the coast. The gatekeeper welcomed us as we approached on foot, telling him of our travels up the hill along the goat track. He was happy to hear that we had walked up the hill, because apparently the majority of people don't bother and therefore miss out on the culture the landscape surrounding the castle has to offer.
A path wound its way through a car park and a forested area before opening up to the well manicured lawn. The exterior of the castle being complimented by the foliage with the gravel lane circling to the front steps. We wandered across the grass in the center of the lane way to a fountain that was placed precisely in the center with the stone work display facing outwards. After getting a couple photos we moved towards the front steps inclining up to the double set of doors. I was surprised when a sign on the door stated "please ring for service". I'm guessing this was to detour people from just walking in that had not payed for the interior tour. A bell man dressed in a suit from the 1800's ushered us in while explaining the order in which to tour the interior for the best overall experience.
The interior was for the most part restored back to its original state from when the castle was built, with the exception of a few areas, which were not open to the public. The couple that had purchased the fortress spent a good portion of their life and dedicating it to the restoration, which was then handed down to their children. The detail brought back into the space was exquisite, down to the molding on the ceilings and the upholstery on the furniture.
Once we had completed the interior we began our journey around the gardens circling the building. They had even incorporated an Alice and wonderland theme throughout the gardens, complete with sculptures and cut outs of the characters. There were rose gardens, rock gardens, and a garden with layers stepping down the side of the hill overlooking the bay. They even sectioned off an area for a Native plant walk, where they labelled and provided diagrams of the plants they had replanted in among the flora and fauna. After so much exploring we stopped into the ballroom, which was now converted into a cafe to check out the type of food they were offering, which was a huge mistake because once we saw it we were drooling over the idea of seasoned wedges and fudge for dessert. After indulging out on the pebble stone patio alongside a flock of sparrows we took our last quick look around and traveled back down the path towards the gates.
With it beginning to get late we decided to begin our journey back down the hill, waving goodbye to the gatekeeper, rounding the corner and descending down the goat path in which we ascended earlier that morning.
The descent taking far less time and much less strenuous. When we passed through the last gate heading out of the pasture and back onto the road, Lauren spotted a box labelled "help yourself" containing freshly picked plums from one of the local farmers. We grabbed a few and continued to the bottom where we sat along the shoreline to wait for the bus and enjoy our delicious treat.