A Real American Castle

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Exciting East Coast Discoveries

When you think of castles you think of Europe, right? Massive slabs of stone with drawbridges and turrets rising up from a heather-covered hilltop. You might think of Ireland, Scotland, England, or Eastern Block countries that have changed names since you were a child. But nobody thinks of the U.S. and castles in the same thought. Well, Gillette Castle isn’t in Bavaria, but you can pick up a Bavarian Crème donut along the way.

Located in the beautiful state of Connecticut is one of my favorite destinations and a real, live American castle. Gillette Castle is nestled inside Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam, Connecticut.  Built along the banks of the Connecticut River, close to the Goodspeed Opera House, is a delightful place to spend the day.

Named for its designer and original owner, William Gillette, who was most famous for his portrayal on the stage of Sherlock Holmes, Gillette Castle was originally a private residence.  Hard to believe anyone lived in such a fantastic piece of real estate.  The last time I heard of someone having their own train was on the show “Silver Spoons.” But sure enough, at one time there was a working steam engine and train tracks all around the grounds. As you hike through the hardwood forest you will find remnants of the tracks and train trestles.

During the year I lived in Connecticut I visited the place a few times. There is a lot to do and it is a good place to take a family with kids and grandparents. You start at the gift shop then take a tour of the castle. It’s not just the turrets and massive stones that make this a sight to behold. William Gillette was did some fascinating engineering before modern day conveniences (check out the locks, the water, the sprinkler system, the solarium/greenhouse- amazing stuff). And, after you’ve been through the castle, if you want to take a hike, you have many options to choose from.  Take a picnic and enjoy the day. 

If you are in search of a special place to visit, start with this piece of American history.  The ingenuity of its designer will inspire you to think bigger… plus it’s really pretty.

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