I had a real feeling of de ja vue when I took a look at a new romantic movie ‘The Royal Treatment’ that debuted on Netflix this month.
It’s one of those B grade ‘Prince falls in love with the ordinary girl in New York’ stories that pops up from time to time. The critics apparently haven’t been kind, but the movie has been received well by Netflix viewers.
It’s not my sort of movie – give me Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights any day. Or Netflix’s Korean romance hits such ‘Crash landing on you’, ‘Hotel de Luna’ or ‘Romance is a bonus book’.
Normally I would have given up on this one pretty quickly. But I kept going because I couldn’t shake the feeling that I knew the backgrounds, especially when the action moved to the ‘royal castle’ in the mythical country of Lavania.
Now I’ve been to Edinburgh Castle and it definitely wasn’t that. And a few castles in Japan. Not them. Yet I felt I really knew this place well. When you’ve been travelling, like me, for over 50 years, some places do hide back in the memory banks even if you enjoyed them.
When finally, an overhead shot of the castle showed the stunning surrounding countryside, I suddenly knew where it was. Larnach castle in Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand.
I have visited there twice, and I’ve stayed overnight. No wonder I felt at home in the movie’s Lavania’s castle! I’ve personally explored every nook and cranny – well, those bits they let the public see anyway.
Larnach is New Zealand’s only castle. Actually, it’s not a real castle. It’s a pretty nice well built ‘mock’ castle with high quality furnishings and heritage value on the ridge of the Otago Peninsula, and it features some of NZ’s most outstanding views from its high point.
Larnach Castle was built in 1871 by a prominent merchant and politician Willian Larnach. It took 200 workmen three years to build it, with master European craftsmen spending another dozen years on its interior. There’s also been a lot of restoration work since then. It’s a very beautiful place and well worth visiting. Larnach is rated by Heritage New Zealand as a NZ Landmark.
Today Larnach Castle is still privately owned, but open to the public to tour and stay. I first visited in the early 1970’s on a day trip. I accidently left my address book there. You know the days before digital diaries and smartphones when people actually carried around a little book with all their contacts and addresses. Luckily, mine had my Australian home address in it, and the kind people at Larnach Castle sent it onto me by snail mail.
I returned again many decades later with my husband and stayed a night in the renovated stables. Very comfortable budget accommodation. The stables are 140 years old, and offers six guest rooms. There’s more expensive more upmarket accommodation available elsewhere on the property
I advise an overnight stay because it includes complimentary entry to the Castle, and it also means you can quietly explore the building and its beautiful gardens when the day trippers aren’t there. There is a lot to see.
The Gardens cover 7 acres and have been given a Garden of International Significance Award from the NZ Garden Trust. There are specialised garden areas within the main garden including the South Seas Garden, the Alice Lawn, and the Laburnum Arch which you see in the movie.
At night, you can attend four course dinner in the Castle dining room. It’s very formal, so take some swish gear – you might feel a little out of place in jeans and walking shoes.
There is a café set up in the impressive Castle ballroom where all visitors – day trippers and accommodated guests – can enjoy High Tea.
Lanarch Castle is only a 20 minute drive from the centre of Dunedin – though be warned that it’s a very steep drive up to the property.
You can find lots more information on the Castle website in English, Japanese and Chinese.Definitely a must see if you are visiting Dunedin.
Other scenes in the movie, by the way, were shot in Oamaru where I was very impressed with examples of Victorian architecture. The Victorian 19th century precinct houses shops and galleries selling some of New Zealand’s best arts and crafts. I’m sure you will easily recognise this street in the movie.
Oamaru is around a 90 minute drive north of Dunedin. It’s another place that I loved.