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Published February 19th 2016
In search of the amazing castles of Victor Harbor
While riding along the Encounter Bikeway recently the eyes wandered to the skyline and I took sight of Mt Breckan castle within the suburban hills of Victor Harbor. Knowing that there should be three amazing castles in Victor Harbor in addition to the castles in Adelaide, I parked the bike at Bridge Point at the end of Bridge Terrace and set foot on the Hindmarsh River Walk to see what I could find.
The Hindmarsh River, named after SA's first Governor, is a 15km long river that has its source in the Hindmarsh Tiers before passing through the beautiful Hindmarsh Falls on its way to its exit in to the sea at Victor Harbor.
The Hindmarsh River Walk starts alongside the road and rails bridges on Tourist Drive 56, and winds its way inland with a series of loops allowing walkers to undertake many short walks or perhaps to complete the full 7km in one effort. The rail bridge, still in use today with the Cockle Train, saw over 2,000 passengers per day during the early part of the 20th Century when the thrice daily picnic trains would bring Adelaideans down to the town once known as Port Victor.
Walking on the southern side of the river, the trail runs close to the river giving great views of the former boating lake, the woodlands and the birdlife. Meanwhile on the right, the majestic castle of Adare House is visible through the Caravan Park and gives an initial insight as to what life may have been like for the wealthy of Adelaide some 150 years ago.
Back on the trail and the boardwalk across Harry's Hole appears. Harry's Hole features a small swamp that always seems to hold water, and hence is a breeding ground for frogs and birds. A pause enables the ears to recognise the sounds, although the eyes fail to find any of these creatures.
The walk continues inland at an un-noticeable gradient until it reaches a wooden bridge at the junction of the Wattle and McCracken loops. To the south of the trail, the McCracken Golf Course is visible while the sounds of kids playing at Greenhills Adventure Park provide some indication as to what lies at the end of the short spur.
Crossing the bridge the walk heads uphill and around the Toc H Campsite before heading back along the cliffs near the river where the third of Victor's amazing castles is found. Known as Castlemaine, this historic home was formerly the summer residence of Sir William Sowden, the former editor of the local newspaper The Register, and like the others shares a great view of the river and sea.
Shortly after the home, the walk descends a series of steep steps and takes walkers back to river level where the trail then follows the river back to the start at the bridges. Another short loop, known as the Lagoon Trail, exists on the sea side of the bridges and takes walkers on a boardwalk around an open lagoon that is often home to numerous birds.
The Hindmarsh River Walk totals 7 km over the five named loops with plenty of starting points enabling the walk to be broken up in to several smaller legs. Good signage exists throughout the walk with brochures on the walk available from either the Victor Harbor Information Centre or online. The three castles are all privately owned and not open for inspection.
I remember hiring row boats..I think they were orange in colour,near the bridge and rowing up the river,with trees hanging over.I think this must have been around 1950.I have no idea how long these boats were in operation,but I think they may have ceased operation by about 1953.
I have never done the walk ,so that now that you have described it, I would be interested to give it a go.
Victor is one of my favourite places to visit and my family use to go there many times throughout the year.
Wonderful photos Steve! I grew up at Victor, and Mount Breckan (and the other 'castles') are intertwined in my earliest memories - particularly being taken up the winding stairs out onto the roof of the tower, high above the town. Four generations of my family worked at Mount Breckan, beginning with an ancestor being one of the original builders. And my grandftaher's old schoolmate used to tell over and over the awful story of the great fire in 1909. Well done! Anthony