Located in the towns of Lyme and East Haddam, the Gillette Castle State Park is perfect for a summertime day trip, as these are the months when both the castle and the park can be explored. Sprawled out across an area of 122 acres, the park consists of a number of unusual and unique features, guaranteeing a fascinating day out.
A Brief History of the Park
Gillette Castle was originally known as Seventh Sister, and was built in 1919 by William Gillette, who was famous for playing Sherlock Holmes in Buffalo. After he died and left behind no heirs, the State of Connecticut took over the park and renamed it the Gillette Castle State Park, before it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. While the park used to feature a railroad and steam train, this has now been removed and replaced with walking trails.
Self-Guided Castle Tours
Visitors to Gillette Castle can take a self-guided tour, although there are members of staff located within each room in the castle, so that they can point out some of the rooms’ unusual features. A dungeon-like room is where you enter the castle initially, after which you will then be able to go through to the rest of the house, seeing everything from its heated bed to its carved wood light switches. Another highlight are the doors within the castle, as each 47 of them are uniquely and intricately carved. When Gillette lived here, he had around 17 cats, and this is why you will also see a number of cat toys scattered throughout the castle, each one having been finely and meticulously crafted. The character of Sherlock Holmes was also a significant part of Gillette’s life, which is why you will see many quirky features around the castle, including several that enabled Gillette to play a number of pranks on his guests.
The Library and Art Collection
The castle’s art collection and library can be found on the third floor, and this was only added to the castle in 1926, for the sole purpose of housing Gillette’s books and art. In addition to the many seascapes and landscapes that you will find on display here, visitors can also check out the original first edition Tarot cards, which were painted by Pamela Colman Smith.
The Castle Grounds
The castle grounds are a joy to explore, and beautifully frame the striking structure of the castle, no matter which perspective you view it from. The three mile long rail track, which has now been converted into a walking trail, is a great place to start, as this circles the entire property, ensuring that you do not miss out on anything. There are also plenty of woodland areas to explore, all of which are home to a wide range of natural diversity.
The Gillette Castle State Park is one of the most popular attractions in Connecticut, attracting around 300,000 visitors each year. While the park itself can be visited throughout the year, the castle is only open to the public from Memorial Day weekend until Columbus Day, so be sure to plan your visit soon.