Larnach Castle may be small by European standards, but it's clear William Larnach had more than a simple bungalow in mind when he set about constructing this marvelous edifice in 1871. No doubt keen to impress his French heiress wife, he hired 200 workmen for 3 years just to build the shell; a host of European master craftsmen took another 12 years to complete the interior. The carved foyer ceiling alone took three craftsmen 6 1/2 years to finish. The Georgian hanging staircase is the only one in the Southern Hemisphere, and it fits comfortably with the best of everything that Larnach incorporated.

Larnach came to New Zealand from Australia in the late 1860s to set up the first Bank of Otago. He later became a Member of Parliament, but with three marriages behind him and a family history dotted with scandal and misfortune, he committed suicide in the Parliament Buildings in Wellington. (His first two wives both died at the age of 38, and his third dealt him a fatal emotional blow by dallying with the son from his first marriage.) After his death, the crown used the castle as a mental hospital. For nearly 40 years, it has been the home of Margaret Barker and her family, who have committed themselves to its restoration. Pick up the self-guiding pamphlet at the reception area and wander as you wish.