Royal treatment

South of Tacoma, sleep in a castle and tour formal gardens
Karl Samson

Where to stay and what to do

A man's home may be his castle, but most men don't take the old adage literally. Chester Thorne did. Between 1907 and 1911 in the wilds south of Tacoma, he erected an edifice of such magnificence that it became known as Thornewood Castle. Located in the town of Lakewood, the castle is now a B&B where guests can play king or queen for a day.

"This is part of the history of the Northwest," says owner and innkeeper Deanna Robinson, who lives in the mansion with her husband. "It needs to be shared."

Thornewood Castle, designed by architect Kirtland Kelsey Cutter, boasts 30,000 square feet of living space and is a perfect reproduction of a Tudor Gothic manor. Within its walls are 22 bedrooms and 20 bathrooms, as well as architectural details salvaged from a 15th-century English mansion. Even if you don't spend the night, you can sign up for guided tours ($25) or enjoy high tea ($50; reservations required).

If Thornewood Castle gives you déjà vu, it's likely because you saw it on the Stephen King–inspired miniseries Rose Red, cast as a huge haunted house. A handful of ghostly apparitions have indeed been reported at Thornewood, and its TV appearance made the legend even more convincing.

Thornewood makes an ideal base for visiting Lakewold Gardens, another of this area's grand estates. Designed by noted landscape architect Thomas Church, these gardens cover 10 acres on the shore of Gravelly Lake. More than 250 species of rhododendron — one of the largest collections in the Northwest — grow here, and they're are at their peak in May.

For a glimpse of the area's more humble beginnings, wander around the nearby town of Steilacoom, where the local historical association operates a small museum and recently restored one of the town's pioneer homes. Currently, the association's best-loved project is Bair Drug & Hardware, which today has a fully functioning vintage soda fountain.

Where to stay and what to do | Top

Lakewood is about 10 miles southwest of Tacoma; from I-5 take Gravelly Lake Dr. S.W. and head north into town. Steilacoom is another 3 miles west; from Lakewood take Gravelly Lake Dr. S.W., go west on Washington Blvd., bear northwest on Military Rd., and continue north as it becomes Stevens St.

ATTRACTIONS

Lakewold Gardens. Don't miss the rustic garden shop. 10–4 Thu–Mon; $5. 12317 Gravelly Lake Dr. S.W., Lakewood; (888) 858-4106.

Steilacoom Historical Museum. 1–4 Wed–Sun; donations accepted. 112 Main St., Steilacoom; (253) 584-4133.

DINING

The Bair Restaurant & Catering. Inside the former Bair Drug & Hardware; serves breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea. 1617 Lafayette St., Steilacoom; (253) 588-9668.

E. R. Rogers Mansion. Restaurant in a historic home overlooking Puget Sound. 1702 Commercial St., Steilacoom; (253) 582-0280.

LODGING

Thornewood Castle Inn and Gardens. From $175. 8601 N. Thorne Lane S.W., Lakewood (call for directions); (253) 584-4393.