Christmas at Dundurn Castle

Over the next few evenings this weekend, you can share a close-to-Dickens-y Christmas celebration at an historic site just around the corner in Hamilton. It’s at Dundurn Castle, a national historic site you might not even know about. I didn’t till recently.

Dundurn Castle in Hamilton, Ontario

We Canadians tend to be wimps about our own history. Just as with politics, when it comes to history we tend to be more fixated on our  dramatic friends to the south, or over the ocean.

Until I was invited to visit it in 2009, I’d never heard of Dundurn Castle. The mansion with its decorative dovecote was once home to Sir Allan Napier MacNab, a premier of Canada before Confederation.

And the site, Burlington Heights, was an important stronghold during the War of 1812. MacNab incorporated parts of the former fortress into his home, including the powder room (and I don’t mean guest toilet).

The interiors are prettily done up for an old-fashioned Christmas, giving you a glimpse into how the other 1% might have lived back in the 1800s. Here are some of the scenes I captured during my 2009 visit.

But I do want to return in the summertime to visit the heritage vegetable garden. It was just being installed back in 2009, so should be in full swing next summer. Put in on your garden bucket list.

A festive and fragrant chandelier. The eye-popping wallpaper, as our dad would’ve said, “is so far out, it’s in.”
Wish I had a table as long as this one!
The mansion is all angles, so it’s hard to capture with my camera. This is the gist at least of the staircase.
When we visited the kitchen, a cook in period dress was handing out samples of shortbread – made with lots of butter.
United Empire Loyalists feature prominently in Canadian history. We need plaques like this to jog our “lasting memory.”


  1. What is our fascination with historical sights in other lands? Perhaps it is the draw from our ancestors? You were very fortunate to have the opportunity to visit and share your photos and a little history with us.

    Merry Christmas!

  2. Favourite topic alert! We are historical site geeks and visit every one we can find on our drives around Ontario. I particularly love the basement at Dundurn. It gives a great view into the lives of all the people who lived and worked there and how hard it was for the lower classes. There's also a very touching diary they sell written by one of the McNabb daughters up until her mother's premature death.

    Another favourite site is Eldon House in London (ON). There's a published book of the personal diaries of various women who lived at the house over several generations and it gives a great insight into their lives and struggles through many major events in Canadian history.

    Happy Holidays, Helen!

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