The death of Queen Elizabeth II on Sept 8, 2022 resulted in a quandary of sorts. My mom was from Britain, so the Royal Family held a special place for her. Leaning more to the Scottish side of my heritage, despite appreciating the warmth and grace that was always on display by the only Monarch many Canadians knew, I always had a bit of a “meh” attitude towards the Royal Family. My contrariness was obvious right from the start as, rather than allowing my mom to stand and wave to the Queen and Prince Phillip as they made their way down the street outside the Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay) Hospital, I forced my mom to be wheeled down to the delivery room and she missed all the hoopla.
While my first brush with royalty lives in family lore, I naturally have no recollection of that day, but I think mom eventually forgave me.
Royal connections I do recall are the many times I have ridden my motorcycle along the Queen Elizabeth II Highway #2 between Edmonton and Calgary. The Queen passed away at Balmoral Castle in Scotland and Mary and I rode past it twice when we were touring the Scottish Highlands in 2014. Associating the Queen with Castles is only normal and my thoughts turned to Canadian Castles I’ve ridden by. My first thought went to the distinctive Fairmont Hotel Macdonald in downtown Edmonton which was the tallest building in the city when we moved here in 1965 but is now a bit hard to pick out in the crowded cityscape.
Mary and I visited another one, Hatley Castle, while attending a motorcycle rally in Sooke, BC in 2013. Hatley is a National Historic Site and the main campus of Royal Roads University. Our middle child got her first Master’s Degree at Royal Roads and the Queen and Prince Philip visited it in 1983. Many people will recognize Hatley as Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in the X-Men movie franchise.
Thinking there should be some way to tie in the passing of Queen Elizabeth, castles, and motorcycles, I put together a Ride to Eat titled The Castles of YEG (YEG being the airport code for Edmonton International Airport and generally used as shorthand for Edmonton).
On October 8, a month after the Queen had died, I was joined by three friends for a tour of three castles I knew of close to home. The first one wasn’t far from our starting point and Don confessed that he was well acquainted with it. This home, that had been turned into a Castle complete with knights in shining armour on the roof, is actually a combined home and a dentist office. Don had some dental work done there decades ago.
The second stop on our tour was on an acreage to the southwest of the city. On our way there we took a twisting, turning route that my cousin Howi had taken me on through the area in the fall of 2020. The only way I managed to find it again was pulling out my GPS tracks from that October ride and programming my GPS to take us back there. Everyone was amazed, not only at the destination, but at the area we had travelled through. We weren’t just riding past gated communities, but gated properties.
Our third stop was a Bed & Breakfast marketed towards newlyweds. For $1,100 per night guests get the run of 3,700 sq ft (2/3’s) of the castle including a fireplace, chapel, and private pool. While it is a huge structure it is set quite a bit back from the road and in such a placing as to blend into the landscape in the right lighting. As a matter of fact, I’d taken friends past it the week before on another Ride to Eat along a very popular motorcycle road and nobody had noticed it.
And now, after about 200 km of riding, we headed for lunch at the Morinville Grill. Being as how this was Saturday of the Thanksgiving Weekend we all gave Thanks that we could get out and enjoy a nice ride, good company, and the fact we all had our own (slightly smaller) castles to go home to.
If you have a desire to go for a Castle Ride of your own there is a wikipedia page you can check for any potential destinations in your area – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_castles_in_Canada
- From R. Bruce Thomas