Tucked high on a hill on the California coastline lays a little piece of American legacy…
A National Historic Landmark Hearst Castle is something truly unique. Built by publishing scion William Randolph Hearst the 165-room Castle was designed by architect Julia Morgan between 1919 and 1947. In the 1920s and 30s the Castle was a hotbed of activity for the rich and famous with legendary names like Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill frequently staying for visits.
A four-hour drive from both San Francisco and LA you arrive at the Visitors Centre to a rather nondescript building. After purchasing a ticket (there are a few different options but the staff are super friendly and will helpfully make suggestions for what might work best for you) you wait until the allotted time to hop on a bus to head up the hill.
At a glance from sea level the Castle doesn’t look like much but as the bus makes the perilous climb through the winding roadway it’s beauty and grandeur is revealed.
The sweeping views over the Pacific are absolutely beautiful but I don’t know that I appreciated them properly as I was absolutely terrified we were going to go off the edge at every sharp turn. There’s something less than reassuring about your driver taking a hard right and muttering ‘oh dear’ as the bus teeters onto two wheels….
Commonly referred to by Hearst as ‘the ranch’, the Castle’s acreage still houses a large collection of cattle…who roam freely and have no qualms about pretending they’re Gandalf and the buses are the Balrog.
‘You. Shall Not. PASS!’
Finally arriving (safely and alive) at the Hilltop we met with our dashing guide, Lorenzo who whisked us off on an informative, scorching (seriously SO HOT that day!!) tour through the grounds.
Now here is a man who knows how to rock a hat.
Unfortunately the famous Neptune Pool with its Roman facade is being remodelled so we couldn’t see it in all its glory but if you want a glimpse of what it looks like when full and beautiful just watch this Lady Gaga video where it makes a cameo.
Unsurprisingly the views from the terraces are absolutely gorgeous.
The hilltop is home to the ‘big house’ as well as three ‘cottages’ which are bigger than most mansions.
The facade is intricate with detail – it’s clear Hearst spared no expense!
We took The Grand Rooms tour which allowed us access to the ground floor rooms of where Hearst’s guests met their host and were entertained during their stay.
We started with the Assembly Room, where guests met for cocktails.
Lorenzo mid-knowledge imparting. He seriously knew everything about the house, grounds, history and Hearst!
From the Assembly room we headed into the Refectory, where meals were served.
I love that despite the grand surroundings and elaborate meals Hearst kept it real, demanding that Heinz ketchup be on the table for every meal.
Shrouded in mahogany the Morning Room is the perfect place to catch the rising sun.
The Billiard Room
The Theater, where Hearst and his guests would sit and watch movies from his production company.
After the formal tour was over we wandered the terraces, enjoying the views over the rolling hills and pretending we were Lord and Lady of the Manor.
Welcome to my humble abode!
It really is an interesting place and truly unique in North America!
Saucy wenches on benches!
A closer look…
The tennis courts, leading to…
…the most mesmerizing and amazing pool I’ve ever seen. The marble! the perfect cobalt blue! the gold accents! I want one! I want ten!
Utterly fantastic. Have you ever seen such a perfect reflection?
It does make me a bit nervous though to see so much marble and water…does it not seem like a recipe for complete disaster? I did a bit of research and couldn’t find mention of any fatalities in the Hearst Castle Pool so maybe it’s alright…
Having seen it all we got back in line to get on a bus for the perilous journey down the twisting, winding roads. The road is different than the one up so you get different views as the Castle shrinks into the distance behind you.
Below is a look at just how much the road twists and turns. Now imagine you’re in a bus with a driver who is clearly only half paying attention… O_O
Our final views of the castle in the clouds before arriving (safely) back to sea level.
Hearst Castle wasn’t initially on our ‘Must See’ list but I’m honestly so glad we stopped in. It’s a magical place and a great day out for people of all ages. A big thumbs up from me!