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4.5
73 votes

Gillette Castle State Park

67 River Road, Old Lyme, Connecticut 06423 USA

Free
Free to Visit
Closed Now
Opens Mon 8a
  • Independent
  • Pet Friendly
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Public Restrooms
  • Outdoor Seating
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“king for a day!”

It's not very often that you get to tour a dead, eccentric, rich dude's castle, so the chance to explore a building that's basically like a mansion from Scooby Doo is pretty awesome. At Gillette Castle State Park, you're invited right inside the medieval-style castle that was once home to a famous (and slightly odd, but in the best way possibly) stage actor.

It was built by William Gillette, best know for his theatrical turn as Sherlock Holmes, in 1914. And, like every eccentric rich person, he designed it himself and added some...unusual features. You know, like a system of mirrors that allowed him to keep an eye on the rest of the house (and any guests staying there) from the master bedroom, a specially designed system of doorknobs and locks, and a train that circles the castle grounds. There are 47 doors in the building, and no two are alike. Other touches include built-in couches on moveable tracks and wooden light switches. He even designed the arial tramway that brought the building materials to the property himself. Gillette also had a special name for his regal estate: he called it "The Seventh Sister", because it was built on the last hill in a chain known locally as The Seven Sisters.

Gillette died in 1937, leaving behind no wife or children (his wife had died in the 1880s and he never remarried) to whom he could bequeath his estate. In his will, he only specified that it should not go to any "blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded", which is maybe the coolest thing I've ever seen written in a will ever. Whether he considered the government "blithering sap-heads" or not, the state of Connecticut took over the property and turned it into a state park in 1943-- at the very least, they seemed to understand Gillette's appreciation for the place.

In 1999, Gillette Castle itself underwent a 4-year, 11 million dollar restoration that added a museum and theater space to the building, as well as a picnic area and hiking trails in the park. The trails mostly follow the railroad tracks, with trestles and tunnels, and past the railroad station. The grounds are definitely worth a hike if you're not into the whole museum thing, but personally, I would want to go inside and check it out to see if there are any secret doors hidden in the fireplaces or bookshelves...hey, you never know! -Roadtrippers


From late April to Late November you can take the Chester - Hadlyme ferry across the CT River from Chester to get to Gillette Castle. While crossing the river, the castle is in full view, in all its majesty sitting atop the cliffs.The alternative is to drive north along Rt 154, to the famous East Haddam Swing Bridge, and then follow signs to the castle. In all, the drive is about a 10 miles through some wonderful scenic areas of Haddam, and East Haddam, Connecticut.

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Reviewed by
jim.kurtz.79

  • 4 Reviews
  • 1 Helpful
September 18, 2014
Rated 4.0

Very interesting architecturally and historically.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Jgartsu12

  • 10 Reviews
  • 4 Helpful
July 11, 2014

Not much of a hiking trail!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
arc360

  • 2 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
September 04, 2017

Correct Address: 67 River Road, East Haddam, CT

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Reviewed by
runmc21

  • 28 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
July 07, 2017
Rated 3.0

Very interesting spot. The view across the river is beautiful as well

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  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
June 13, 2017
Rated 4.0

Very beautiful park! This apps information is wrong though. The Castle is only open Thurs-Sun and it is $6 admission. You can walk around the outside though.

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Reviewed by
Reed

  • 28 Reviews
  • 4 Helpful
January 24, 2017
Rated 5.0

Great place to spend a awhile. Lots to see. Spend at least a Few hours and then enjoy the landscape and Inside interior of the castle. Well worth the Stop.

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Reviewed by
julie.martinezunold

  • 11 Reviews
  • 1 Helpful
August 09, 2016
Rated 3.0

Great view and awesome to see. There are trails and picnic benches with a great view of the river. Unfortunately, the governor closed the daily castle tours, so we only got to see the outside! What a bummer. Snack shop was open but didn't feel like fried food.

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Reviewed by
candyapplesox

  • 3 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
July 26, 2016
Rated 5.0

Really cool castle! Definitely worth a visit!

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Reviewed by
rwalkins

  • 9 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
July 10, 2016
Rated 5.0

Gorgeous views elevated above the banks of the Connecticut River. The "castle" was the dream of and constructed by William Gillette who was the first to bring the Sherlock Holmes character to the stage. He was a bit eccentric and the interior certainly shows this- 45 distinct hand carved doors, hand carved light switches and window locks, Tiffany lights, etc, etc...gorgeous! There was also a real small steam train at one time that went around his property...very cool. So much to see. Affordable. Take the ferry across the river if you come visit!!

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Reviewed by
Tim

  • 17 Reviews
  • 5 Helpful
June 19, 2016
Rated 5.0

The site is cool and gives a background
to high class society in the early 1900s the castle is reminescent of old stone buildings of northern europe. It was owned by a famous actor of the time and feels like a murder mystery house of sorts. It felt similar to stepping into the great gatsby and all the parties similar to the time. The area provides good but short hiking trails and the house is a mueseum that you can enter for about 6 dollars a person. Overall a good off the beaten path site well worth the visit if you are in the area.

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Gillette Castle State Park

67 River Road
Old Lyme, Connecticut
06423 USA

Hours

Closed Now
  • Sun - Sat: 8:00 am - 6:00 pm

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  • Independent
  • Pet Friendly
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Public Restrooms
  • Outdoor Seating
  • Free Parking

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