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Cargills Castle

New Zealand's only ruined castle 
"The ruins of Cargills Castle, perched on the rugged, exposed cliffs above the ocean near St Clair, present a desolate yet compelling spectacle of austere sculptural beauty. Completed in 1877 for Edward Bowes Cargill, the castle is one of the important structures in Dunedin associated with the Cargill family", Carolyn Martin, "Air of History and Decay, 'September 1996.

Cargill Castle is one of New Zealand's most significant historic ruins, and one of only two castles remaining in the southern hemisphere

It is an unique element of Dunedin's cultural idenity because of its Italianate form, its broading presence or the windswept cliffs above the southern ocean, and its association with the Cargill family who plays such an important role in the early development in Dunedin.

Cargill Castle was built by Edward Bowes Cargill, a son of Captain William Cargill, and a prominent leader and a political leader in his own right. He was elected Mayor of Dunedin in 1898.

Cargill Castle was designed by Francis William Petre. He was one of New Zealand most prominent colonial architect and was celebrated for his pioneering work in concrete construction - work that earned him the nickname, 'Lord Concrete'.

The construction of Cargill Castle was to be significant for Francis Petre. During that time he met and fell in love with Cargill's eldest daughter Margaret Petre and Margaret Cargill's romance caused consternation because Petre was a Roman Cathollic while the Cargills, of course were staunchly Presbyterian. Love however triumphed and the couple were married in the Cargill's drawing room, shortly after its completion.

The castle, known for its ball and weekend parties during the Cargill years, was also used as a tearooms, restaurant, cabaret during the 1930's, and was a centre for Dunedin's nightlife during World War Two.

The path of decline to the ruin we know today began in 1974 when partial demolition occured, opening the structure to the elements.

Its future has been uncertain in recent years. An application to demolish the castle was granted by the council in 1996.

However, many Dunedin citizens recognise that Cargill Castle is an intergral part of their city's history and identity. The Cargill Castle Charitable Trust has been formed to save the spectacular ruins.

Cargills Castle from the Gate


The trust views the ruins as having both cultural heritage and tourist value for Dunedin, particularly if the site is incorporated into a scenic walkway from St Clair to Blackhead. Rebuilding the castle is not considered necessary. Ruins attracts ten of thousands of visitors in Britian each year, and in this country, the Martha Hill Pump House ruin at Waihi recieves large numbers of visitors.

Cargill Castle is a poigant mounment to the years of wealth, power, depression, war, and recent economic decline. It would be tregedy if the battle to save the castle was lost in the 150th years of Dunedin settlement, and a century after E. B. Cargill became Mayor of the young and optimistic city of Dunedin

The Castle Must Be Saved!

By Helen Lowe, the Otago Regional manger for the New Zealand Historic Places Trust

2009 ODT article about the plans for Cargills Castle

Cargills Castle from St Clair Golf Course


Great short Dunedin walk

You can take a great South Dunedin walk past the castle and onto the famous tunnel beach.

Tunnel Beach walk(1 hour)

This short walk allows you to view the coastline and some great coastal cliff formations that were formed by the sea eroding the soft sandstone. A huge sea arch can also be seen. Tunnel Beach is so called because in the 1870's, a tunnel was dug by a local farmer, John Cargill to allow private access to the beach for his family. The abandoned Cargills Castle, which can be seen north of the track, was built by his brother Edward Cargill. You can walk down the tunnel to explore the beach with its boulders and caves. You may find fossils in the stone. A great picnic spot at low tide. The track is closed for lambing from August until 31 October.

Judith Wolfe has painted a couple of great pictures of Cargills Castle. These can be found at;

Reviews / Comments for Cargills Castle

Rating Averages


It would be great if the Castle could be fixed up abit or even if you are able to get closer to it.It is such an amazing place I have only walked around it Which i had to get permission That would have been about 10 years ago.I am also related to James & Kathleen Hunter They were my Great grand parents.If you read this Kelvin My e-mail address is Or if there is anyone else related to the Hunters.It would be good to hear some stories.

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This is really a sad moment. My grand parents(James & Kethleen Hunter) owned the castle during the depression years and I believe were the ones to make use of the sprung dance floor. My father told me it was quite the place to go. My first wife and I were keen to buy it and restore it but at the time it was part of a mushroom farm and for some reason, that put us off?. I have visited the castle and was inside around 1975'ish so it is really nice to come across a picture of a more complete structure.

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I found the article about Cargill's castle very interesting & informative. Even though I have been to Dunedin several times I have not visited the castle, it will definitely be on my things-to-do next time I'm down that way. I would like to recommend that the article be proof read and amended, as there are quite a few errors.
Regards, Jane

Did you find this review useful? +4

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