I have visited Gillette Castle three times and it’s been a unique experience each time. But the last visit on a misty day in the Fall was by far the best. The blog is on the grounds as I have not yet toured the house.
The original castle was commissioned and designed by William Gillette, a stage actor who played Sherlock Holmes. While I never had the opportunity to tour the castle nor even the visitor center, the grounds itself make the day.
I have never been here when the house was available for touring but learned the following from my google search about the interior. . .
“A Connecticut native and typical pragmatic Yankee, Gillette designed the entire edifice himself, including the 47 doors, each of which has a unique wooden puzzle lock that he also devised. The castle also has all sorts of unique and quirky features, such as a disappearing bar (used extensively during Prohibition) and a set of mirrors that let the voyeuristic Gillette see down into the main room of the castle from his own bedroom (so he could see when guests arrived and could make the proper “grand entrance”).”
There are several maintained trails with different destinations of interest. The most memorable for many is the 3 miles of former train track used originally to transport his guests on a miniature train (the Seven Sisters or 7S RR). I have shared below a link about the railroad from only in your state and later an actual vintage video of a ride with Gilette!
As for my visit, I followed the train trail on its now walking bridges made of stone and wood which coupled with the color of the falling leaves made for a picture perfect day.
He even created his own “Grand Central Station” for his guests overlooking the Connecticut River which offers a view of the car ferry between Haddam and Chester. This is where he also proudly displayed his love of cats.
Fun fact: Apparently Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein rode on the former miniature train! Below is a YouTube link to a DEEP vintage video of Gillette and an actual ride on the train
A walk to the train tunnel is worth the adventure as you can almost sense being on the rail as a guest of William Gillette with the awesome settings he created.
As I walked to the Aunt Polly area as noted on the map, a flurry of leaves showered the trail. It was such a beautiful New England fall moment, I took a short video to capture the leaves blowing around the trail
Down by the shore at the base of the castle is the area called Aunt Polly. The Hartford Courant wrote that “the boat, which burned in 1932, has been hidden in plain sight down the hill from Gillette Castle, a state park. The wreck has been battered by waves and wakes from heavy boat traffic on the Connecticut River. In the winter and spring, ice loosens ship beams like a giant thumb. Friends of the site want something done to protect it from the ravages of the splash zone in which it rests, partially submerged in the sand.”
Couple the day with a picnic from the Cooking Company or grab a bite at the Wrasslin Cats and reflect on William Gillette’s passion living with 17 cats. Also add a ride on the Chester-Hadlyme ferry (seasonal) to walk the lovely town across the river. Related blogs on each! There’s even more to see and blog about in this area.
Apparently, William Gillette expressed the desire in his will that it would never come into the possession of “a blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.”
When I woke on this day it was foggy with a bit of a drizzle. At one point that may have discouraged me from going on an outdoor adventure. I’ve learned that provides an opportunity for a different experience and one I’m so glad I didn’t miss. I am happy I made that decision.
I did ultimately return as I heard it was a pretty sunset spot. I did enjoy the colored glows in the sky after the sun went down beyond the mountain.
Below is the trail map for your convenience. Now go! 🙂
Sign up to receive new postings on outdoor adventures, tips and moments of inspiration!
3 thoughts on “CT: Middlesex County-Haddam-Gillette Castle (The Grounds)”