High above the Connecticut River, Gillette Castle commands your attention. The magnificent castle was once the private residence of William Gillette, the American actor best known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on the stage. Gillette died in 1937. The State of Connecticut purchased the castle and surrounding 122 acres from the executors of Gillette’s estate in 1943.
Gillette Caste State Park first opened to the public on October 7th, 1944. More than 300,000 people have visited the castle and its surrounding grounds every year since it was reopened in 2002 after several years of restoration done at a cost of 11 million dollars. The park includes the castle museum, a visitor center, gift shop, concessions, picnic areas, hiking trails and much more.
But most of the people come to see the castle, which is filled with a number of oddities personally designed by Gillette including unique hand-carved door latches, a liquor cabinet with a hidden lock and a mirrors set up in the Great Hall for Gillette to spy on visitors.
William Gillette built a quarter scale narrow gage railroad to ride around the property. He had 2 engines, several passenger cars and 3 miles of track that went over bridges and through a tunnel. His restored electric engine is on display in the Visitors Center. The purple hiking trail at the park is known as the Train Trail and goes along the route Gillette’s train once ran.
Know Before You Go
Gillette Castle State Park, which comprises the castle ground and mountainous park land, is open daily from 8AM to dusk.
The Castle itself is only open for tours Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Tours occur 7 days a week starting at 10AM and the last tour entry at 4PM. Tour entry times occur every 15 minutes while the Castle is open. Only 12 people are allowed entry at a time. Tours are self-guided through the Castle. Interpretative guides are stationed throughout the Castle to provide information and answer questions.
Tour tickets can be purchased online at reserveamerica.com or at the ticket booth in the Visitor's Center. As of 2022, ticket prices are $6 for adults (age 13 and older), $2 for youth (age 6-12), and no charge for children (5 and under). Admission is free for visitors with Library Passes, CT Disabled Veterans Passes or Charter Oak Passes. Tickets allow visitors entry into the Castle. There is a free exhibit room in the Visitor's Center with a video that provides background information on William Gillette, a timeline of his life, and a scale model of the Castle.
The interior is as eccentric as William Gillette himself, so an interior tour is not to be missed if you make the trip to the park.