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Exploring Connecticut: Gillette Castle State Park

Updated on July 16, 2011

Medieval England Meets Contemporary Connecticut

Connecticut may be one of the oldest European-settled states in the U.S. but medieval castles generally pre-date the Pilgrims. Gillette Castle is a more recent construction, an estate built by William Hooker Gillette, a noted actor, playwright and director, during World War I. Acquired from his estate in 1943, it now serves as a state park along the shore of the Connecticut River. In addition to the mansion tours, the park offers hiking, shoreline, picnicking and camping, as well as numerous educational programs and even a miniature train line.

The Castle at Gillette Castle
The Castle at Gillette Castle | Source

The Seventh Sister

Spanning 184 acres, the Gillette Estate was named the Seventh Sister after the Seven Sisters mountain chain on which it resides. Gillette took personal direction in the construction of the castle and chose and designed most of the details in the castle. The medieval exterior belies an interior full of modern conveniences such as built in couches and track lighting. Extensive and unique woodwork also set this home apart.

The grounds of the Seventh Sister were also designed by Gillette and feature numerous paths through woods and along river, small gardens, a vegetable cellar and a 3-mile miniature railroad connecting to "Grand Central Station" just north of the mansion.

The view of the Connecticut River from Gillette Castle
The view of the Connecticut River from Gillette Castle | Source

Activities at the Park

There are many things to do at Gillette Castle

  • Tour the mansion and grounds, enjoying the sophistication and tranquility of this river retreat. Adult tour tickets are $6, children 6-12 are $2.
  • Explore about 5 miles of circular walking paths and light hiking trails including some with near-vertical stairs. Many were once part of the estate's railroad.
  • Numerous picnic locations and multiple picnic shelters including Grand Central Station.
  • Concessions on-site.
  • Riverside boat access and Aunt Polly launch site, wading and beach. During fair weather observe a great quantity of boat traffic on the Connecticut River, including a car ferry, steam-powered paddle wheels, sailboats and personal watercraft.
  • Visit the historic Visitor's Center, watch educational programs and performances and purchase souvenirs at the gift shop.

A walking path winds into the woods
A walking path winds into the woods | Source

Directions and Hours

Gillette Castle State Park is located in East Haddam & Lyme, Connecticut. From I-95 take exit 69. Take Route 9N to exit 7. Then follow route 148 and park signs to entrance.

  • Park grounds are open 8 am - Sunset every day of the year
  • Gillette Castle is open 10 am - 4:30 pm Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day.
  • Bus tours are available but need reservations at least 2 weeks in advance.
  • River Camping is available May 1 - September 30th. Campers must arrive and depart by boat. No vehicle access is available.
  • Handicap parking and picnicking is available. Only the first floor of the mansion is wheelchair accessible.
  • Visit nearby Devil's Hopyard, Harkness Memorial or Gay City State Parks while you're in town!

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