We greatly enjoyed our recent trip to Chateau Laroche – The Historic Loveland Castle and museum. It is a magnificent sight to see. The castle was the life’s work of one man, Sir Harry Andrews. You begin your trip by coming down a narrow winding road. At the bottom you turn right. It seems like just another country lane until you come around a bend in the road and there sits a huge castle fit for a king (or a Queen). They have a paved parking lot at the front for visitors. You get out of the car and just stand in awe for a minute of the size and grandeur of what you see. As you walk up you see a small sign that reads “Please see front desk immediately upon entry. Private property.” This seems like fine advice but you will find yourself trying to drift to the many beautiful places on the way to the front door. We went in early spring and the flowers were just beginning to bloom. I bet the gardens alone are a sight in the summer.
As you enter the front door you are greeted with a wall of photos and a small counter. This room is also their gift shop. After a moment to adjust to the much dimmer lighting you realise that most of the walls in this room are covered in photographs. The wall opposite the register is covered in pictures of the castle throughout the years. You get a visual scene of how the castle grew over the years. Next to these rather impressive photographs are many of the man himself. They tell the story of his life. You get a small view into the life of what must have been a fascinating man. To have the idea to build a castle is perhaps a little mundane but to actually build it with your own two hands is extraordinary. In this area is also a small room blocked by a barred door. It was his office. They have left it the way he had it complete with a typewriter sitting on the desk.
You pay your entry fee and the man behind the counter says “Have you ever been here before?” I say “No, This is our first visit.” He says “You are in for a treat. We don’t have tours here. You just explore at your own pace. The place is quite large. Take your time and enjoy yourself.” I say “Thank you. Where do you suggest we start?” He says “Take the stairs over there(and he points to the set leading up). Then come back down and check out the dungeon. Then go back out and look at the grounds. Oh, and this is the only door in or out. All the rest are locked.” I say “OK, Thanks” and we move on. The fact that there is only one door in or out kind of worried me but after seeing the place I understand why. They have blocked off things that were unfinished or they felt were unsafe. A lot of what would be the first floor is that main large room and open courtyards.
We went up the circular staircase. There are many rooms on the second floor. There is a huge dining hall housing an equally huge wooden table. His bedroom is found here. It is also blocked off by a door of bars. It is still filled with his furniture. There is a large balcony overlooking part of the grounds and the river. A small room near this balcony holds something neat to see for children and parents alike. There is a small sign that reads “Spyhole.” Under it is a hole drilled into the rock with a small piece of glass at the end. When you look through it you get a view of the front door and anyone who might be standing there. This room also holds some neat little log chairs. My youngest really enjoyed these because they were her size. There are four more rooms on this floor. They have suits of armor in them. The back room holds an interesting surprise. They play an interview of the man who built the place. You get to literally hear him explain why he began the castle in the first place. You get some personal information like the fact that he never married because the girl he was in love with married someone else while he was in the military. You can buy a DVD of his interviews and stories in the gift shop. We didn’t buy this so I can’t tell you much about it. One of the other visitors was telling me about it in the parking lot as we left. We are not souvenir people. I don’t normally take much home with me except pictures.
|Sir Harry Andrews’ Bedroom|
|The Dining Room|
In this area of the castle is when I first noticed the rocks with places under them in the wall. There are rocks that were sent to him from other states and countries set in concrete throughout the castle. They are labeled beneath with where they came from. This turned into a hunt to see how many we could find. Ivy, my 10 year old, found this very interesting. She not only looked to find the rocks she also felt the desire to examine the rocks when she found them. They have been learning about rocks this year in school. She looked at the ones from other areas but also the ones that were taken out of the river there. She found many fossils. She said she could not wait to tell her teacher about the castle, the rocks and all the fossils she found. I would also like to point out the doors to any perspective visitors. There are intricate doors everywhere even the ceiling. The one in the room with the interview playing is simply amazing. It is pieces of wood pieced together in puzzle fashion. It must have taken quite a while to create.
We then took the stairs to what would have been the roof courtyard but they have a barred door here as well. This was one of my few disappointments with the place. Yes I would have liked to walk out there but I completely understand why they couldn’t have people out there. I also liked seeing it through the bars but I wish they would have allowed you room to turn around at the top of the stairs. A sign warning you that the stairs dead end would have been appreciated. We started climbing with my husband out in front and all of the sudden it ends. We almost ran right into each other. With toddler in arm trying to negotiate the turn around on very steep stairs is extremely difficult.
We then went back down to the main area and signed the guest book which we missed upon coming in. It’s neat that you get to sign the book showing you have been there. After that we proceeded down the stairs to the Dungeon. It’s not much. A small basement. On the back wall is a jail door. Inside is a skeleton in shackles. This was kind-of funny. Then it was back outside to enjoy the grounds. This was my favorite part. The grounds are beautiful with the castle like a perfect backdrop. There are some really neat things outside as well. The arch and the canopy of sticks & plants were great photo ops. There is a dragon in the rock garden. My youngest got a kick out of swinging the gate open and closed. It made squeaking noises. She would just laugh. There are many places to sit down along the way. There is a picnic area by the river as well.
|Bella Playing in the Gardens|
My only major issue with the place and information I would like to pass on to all other parents is the fact that they don’t have a bathroom. There have port-a-potties in the parking lot but that is all. If your baby needs a diaper change you will have to do it outside or in your car.
Price: (at time of visit-2011)-$3.00 per person
Website: http://www.lovelandcastle.com/ (They have directions on the site.)
Hours: Summer hours-Monday-Sunday 11am to 5pm
Winter Hours:Saturday and Sunday 11am to 5pm (weather permitting)