Train and Hike to Gillette Castle
Heard of Planes, Trains and Automobiles? How about trains, boats, and a pleasant 3/8 mile hike to one of the most unique sites in Southern New England?
Gillette Castle looks like a medieval fortress, but was actually built by William Hooker Gillette, a noted actor, director and playwright, between 1914 and 1919. He designed the castle and most of its contents personally, with lots of innovative quirks like built-in couches and intricate carvings. None of the structure’s 47 doors are exactly the same.
You could drive to the front door – the castle is located at 67 River Road, East Haddam, CT 06423 (860) 526-2336 – but, in the spirit of the castle’s uniqueness, why would you? There’s a far more charming way – take the Essex Steam Train for 30 minutes through the beautiful Connecticut River Valley, detrain at the Hadlyme Flagstop, and take a short walk to the Chester/Hadlyme Ferry. The ferry transports passengers across the river (it takes about 5 minutes) to the base of Gillette Castle State Park, where you walk up a moderately graded trail to the castle itself.
Not every person is a good candidate for this little hike (small children in strollers and those not in good health are out) and not every train makes the connection (check the Essex Steam Train website for details.) Still, if you’re an average hiker, it makes the castle even more magical.