Gillette Castle State Park – Visiting a castle in Connecticut

If there was one thing I didn’t want to miss when I was in Connecticut, it was visiting Gillette Castle State Park. I was rather intrigued by the idea of visiting a castle in the middle of the New England forest. And after my visit at Silver Sands State Park the day before, I was even more excited to explore another state park!

Gillette Castle is located in Hadlyme, on the banks of the Connecticut River. One of the popular ways to get there is by boarding the Chester-Hadlyme ferry (in service since 1769!), but since we weren’t sure the little ferry could accommodate our converted van, we decided it would be easier to drive on the country roads along the river to get to the state park.

I had seen many photos online, but I was still impressed to finally see this medieval-looking fortress, that made me forget for a moment that I wasn’t in Europe, but in Connecticut…

Gillette Castle in the forest
Am I still in Connecticut?

Gillette Castle was built by William Hooker Gillette, an early 20th century actor and screenwriter best known for portraying Sherlock Holmes on stage. Gillette designed the plan of the house himself, and supervised most of the phases of its construction. It took 5 years to complete, and in 1919 Gillette moved into his castle, all while continuing to improve the interior.


Gillette died in 1937, and the state of Connecticut bought the property in 1943, making it a state park. Today, Gillette Castle is one of Connecticut’s most popular tourist attractions.

Road towards Gillette Castle
It’s a lovely day to visit a castle

It is easy to understand why. Not only is the castle made of local fieldstones impressive, but the landscape is also particularly pretty. The castle is built on top of the most southerly hill in a chain known as the Seven Sisters and it offers a magnificent view of the Connecticut River.

View on the Connecticut River
Castle with a view

The interior of the castle is also worth a visit. Without being too imposing, the rooms are filled with small details that make the visit interesting. For example, the castle’s 47 doors all have a unique, wood-carved locking mechanism. There are also some secret doors and passages, as Gillette liked to surprise his guests.

Inside Gillette Castle
The cozy living room of Gillette Castle

And if that wasn’t enough, Gillette Castle State Park also includes a few miles of hiking trails. Gillette developed some of the walking paths himself, in addition to building a personal railroad through the forest to amuse his friends and visiting dignitaries (Einstein himself is said to have once taken a miniature train ride there). The railway has since been dismantled, but a trail now follows its old route.

We didn’t have time to hike all the trails because we had to get to our next destination, but we were able to spend enough time there to appreciate the nature and the rugged terrain of this beautiful corner of Connecticut.

Trail at Gillette Castle State Park
Walking in the lovely forest of Connecticut

Access to the state park and its trails is free, but you must pay an entrance fee in order to visit the castle (it is recommended to book your ticket in advance, especially on weekends and holidays). It’s definitely a not-to-be-missed state park if you visit Connecticut!


  1. On a winter day, after a large snowfall, I walked up to the castle. The building was closed for the winter however the front walk was not, where your photo of the river was taken. As a photographer I could get shots of the ice flows on the CT river, hawks and eagles were actually flying below me. I heard a noise and looked to see another photographer under a coating of snow. Turns out I was not the only crazy person that day 😂. A must visit place.

    1. Oh wow! I have to say, this place must be stunning (and maybe a bit eerie) in the winter after a snowfall! Especially if you have the place all to yourself!

  2. Eccentricity put to good use. Looks like Gillette had a grand plan. Nice that the state took it over and kept it accessible to the public. Thanks for sharing Vanessa. Have a great Friday. Allan

    1. It was a really interesting place. I like these odd buildings! Thanks for reading, Allan! 🙂

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