Did you ever turn a corner and suddenly feel like you’ve driven off the map? Discovered your own little patch of unspoiled turf? That’s how it feels to stumble across Gillette Castle in East Haddam, Connecticut, a Gaudi-like stone castle teetering on the tip-top of a precipice.
You can get there by taking the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, a “historical landmark” that’s been operating for over 200 years (it was used during the American Revolution), and is definitely the most fun way to reach Gillette Castle.
A budget-travel ferry ride later, with the castle looming ever nearer, we debarked the Selden III after our 5-minute boat trip and began the vertiginous ascent (there’s a driving road, too, but the climb is fun, and over quickly).
The castle is amazing. From a distance, it looks like a medieval sand castle, dribbled on top of a cliff.
Up close, it’s a handmade work of art, with no uniformity, and plenty of crooked lines and unmatched stones. It jigs and jags and meanders and soars.
It’s living and breathing, and speaking of breath, the views of the Connecticut River from the terrace will certainly take it away.
The story of the castle is almost as good as its looks.
It was designed and built by William Gillette in 1914, who portrayed Sherlock Holmes on stage for over 30 years. An inventor as well, he tinkered with the insides as much as the outsides, designing most of its contents, and taking 25 years to complete the 24-room mansion, raised from local fieldstone.
With no heirs, his will stipulated that the estate could not go to a “blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” The state took over the property in 1943—there are hiking trails encircling the castle like webs of time.
A definite off-the-map day….
Have you ever explored Gillette Castle?
Gillette Castle State Park. 67 River Road, East Haddam. 860-526-2336; www.ct.govThis post was first published in 2013 and has been updated.