Hotel - Nesbitt Castle (originally Holdengarde Castle)

History of Nesbitt Castle
Although it feels authentically medieval, and does indeed have an interesting (although significantly shorter) history, Nesbitt Castle was built in the first half of the 19th century by Theodore Garde.

Born in 1877 in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, the son of an early missionary, Theodore was sent to Durham University to study theology. His stay in Durham, with its castle and medieval history, sparked a lifelong enthusiasm for antique artefacts and the Middle Ages. After returning to South Africa, he changed his name to Holdengarde, went on a trip to Zimbabwe and founded a company for construction engineering and hardware.

The company did well and Holdengarde became a successful businessman. He purchased 0.4km2 of land on the outskirts of Bulawayo and began to realise his dream – the construction of a Gothic fortress in the middle of Africa.

Over the next 30 years, Holdengarde ran his business, served the community (for which he was awarded an OBE) and functioned as the mayor of Bulawayo. At weekends, he, his wife and a small group of workers built the turrets and towers, twisting passageways and crenellations that were to become Nesbitt Castle. Holdengarde's vision, dedication and persistence replaced any plans or architectural drawings and enabled the team to face many obstacles, from heavy rains to the eccentric character of the owner, who would from time to time demolish and then rebuild his work. In true adherence to the Middle Ages, Holdengarde even refused running water and electricity, although his wife had electricity installed in his absence. Running water, flush toilets and a telephone, however, were not added until after his death in 1948.

Over the following few decades, the castle fell into a sad decline. More or less abandoned by the owners, it was occupied by squatters, Satanists and other dubious people, who even burnt down part of the building.

By 1988, when the castle was bought by Digby Nesbitt, it was a shabby, rain-invaded ruin. Nesbitt renovated and restored the building, stumbling across hidden niches and alcoves. In 1990 it was finally opened as a boutique hotel, The Nesbitt Castle.

Built in the 19th century in the suburbs of Bulawayo, The Nesbitt Castle was the romantic vision of Theodore Holdengarde, an eccentric admirer of the Middle Ages. Once a private home, this Gothic-style fortress was widely known as Holdengarde Castle until 1990. It is now a quirky hotel with a unique ambience.

With its thick granite ramparts, twisting staircases and crenellations circling the towers, Nesbitt Castle feels steeped in history, even if the place was built a few centuries later than its medieval style would have you believe.