North American Inns / B&B Summer 2003

North American Inns

Summer 2003

By Kitty Hoffman

The pampered elegance, grandeur and freedom of a soaring eagle’s vista

Imagine a curved wall of windows, offering a view of clear water cutting through old-growth forest, with snow-capped mountains in the background. Imagine a carved Victorian bed with Battenburg lace-trimmed linens hiding under a romantic canopy of netting, and strewn with rose petals surrounding a chocolate heart filled with truffles. Imagine sipping a glass of chilled wine, or a cup of bergamot-scented tea, immersed in a deep whirlpool tub filled with luxurious bath salts. These are the sybaritic delights of Prancing Horse Retreat, a luxury bed and breakfast situated on a hilltop overlooking Vancouver Island’s spectacular Malahat drive north of Victoria.

The world-renowned Aerie Resort found the spectacular location first, and enhanced its strategic location with international award-winning innkeeping. Elaine and Alan Dillabaugh soon followed suit, building the neo-Victorian Prancing Horse to exacting standards. The result is a bed and breakfast that offers an outstanding experience of luxury, elegance, and wilderness beauty. Owners Elaine and Alan Dillabaugh first built the gothic-Victorian villa, complete with circular turret, as their own home. So many visitors came to stay that they decided to be hosts professionally, and added an entire floor of suites to round out their innkeeping capacity. Elaine is the host and breakfast chef, while Alan takes time from his luxury car business to squire guests in the bright yellow Ferrari for whom the Prancing Horse is named.

Visitors have seven different suites to choose from, all with elegant appointments and some of that fabulous view. The three suites on the ground floor all open onto a shared patio overlooking Finlayson Arm, complete with a mariner’s telescope for close-up views of the eagles soaring overhead. One of these suites has a Murphy bed containing such a beautiful wooden wall section that it is invariably left open. The three luxury suites on the middle floor all have double soaker tubs, ready-to-light fireplaces, and four-poster beds romantically draped with netting. The Eagle suite even has a 1,200-square-foot wraparound deck for relaxed champagne sipping.

The penthouse suites at the top of the turret, the Osprey and Annie’s Hideaway, are the piece-deresistance. Here it is possible to be secluded and pampered, with whirlpool bath, the highest aspect of the spectacular view through wall-length windows, and inviting romantic four-posters with deep comforters. It is possible to adjoin these two suites for a two-bed, two-room top-floor retreat.

The luxurious surroundings make a perfect setting for the gourmet breakfasts prepared by Elaine each morning. Freshly bake croissants and muffins are enhanced by local fruit and preserves lovingly made by Elaine’s mother. Freshly squeezed orange juice has a lift of champagne. Strong Italian coffee rounds out the beverages. A special entree is prepared daily, ranging from orange French toast, to soufflé, to eggs Benedict, and quiche. All is savoured in the elegantly comfortable dining room, also graced by the spectacular view of Finlayson Arm and the Olympic Mountains in the distance.

These sumptuous surrounds and comforts lend themselves naturally to romance, and many of Prancing Horse’s guests come for a quiet time to connect, especially for a honeymoon, anniversary, or Valentine’s Day. Many partake of the two-night Romance Package that includes long stem roses, a chocolate heart filled with Belgian truffles, chilled champagne on ice, and lunch a deux at The Aerie across the road. For these romance-seekers, Elaine is happy to bring breakfast on a tray, to be savoured en suite in the comfort of the thick terry robes. It is not surprising that The Prancing Horse is a favourite destination for intimate romantic weddings; it doesn’t hurt that Elaine’s father is a minister who is happy to officiate, while a local Justice of the Peace does the honors for the more secular-minded.

Whether it is romance or seclusion, the Prancing Horse offers the grandeur and freedom of a soaring eagle’s vista, with all the comforts of pampered elegance. What could be better than a mountain top retreat?


  • Travel the Wine Route and taste some of BC’s newest award-winning wines.
  • Step back in time at Cowichan Bay’s historic wooden fishing pier.
  • Take ‘the Island’s most beautiful shortcut,’ the Mill Bay-Brentwood Bay ferry, to visit world-famous Burchart Gardens.
  • Experience First Nations life and legends at the Native Heritage Centre in Duncan.
  • Hunt for curiosities in the ‘Town of Murals,’ Chemainus.
  • Hit the driving range at one of the 18-hole championship golf course nearby.
  • Fish or sail Finlayson Arm or the Cowichan River.
  • Hike the rainforest in the Carmannah Valley or the Gowlland Range.
  • Watch the salmon run upstream at Goldstream Park.
  • Savour world-class cuisine across the road at The Aerie, winner of international travel awards.
  • Pamper yourself at The Aerie’s Wellness Centre.
  • Take advantage of the special off-season rates to view the spectacular winter storms.
573 Ebadora Lane P.O. Box 11 Malahat, Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada, V0R 2L0 . Phone: (250) 743-9378