King Arthur’s Court in Connecticut: Gillette Castle

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Most of my earliest childhood memories of the Mainland relate to the many trips we took from Hawai’i to Connecticut to visit my grandparents on the coast of Long Island Sound. Perhaps the oddest of these–one that I suspected I might have just invented–was a faint recollection of riding in a carriage towards the ruins of a great stone castle. As you might imagine, we don’t exactly get a lot of thirteenth-century European architecture here in the States.

It turns out, though, that Gillette Castle State Park is all too real: even if it was built in 1914 rather than 1214. The former mansion of eccentric and actor William Gillette, this architectural-folly-slash ruin is basically my Romantic heart’s wildest dream. And, to be honest, if I were a millionaire actor with cash to burn and land to buy, I’d also choose the forests of Connecticut as the ideal spot in which to live out my Arthurian fantasies.

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The castle’s interior seems to be indefinitely closed due to budget cuts (and the fact that it’s currently approaching the dead of winter), but visitors can explore the grounds for free. There was great parking and lots of trails and picnic tables–if someone with a car wanted to whisk me away next spring for a vaguely anachronistic day out, I’m just saying, they would undoubtedly win my eternal affection! (I’d even burn us a CD of my favorite medieval party mix.)

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If you’re not a fan of weird ruins and follies, there’s a pretty lovely view of the Connecticut River too.

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Given that the castle has been closed to the public for some time, I wondered which mysterious live-in gardener is responsible for this beautiful atrium. That’s the one part of the interior that I’d love to see!

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When I lived in Edinburgh, I decreed that I would visit a different ruined castle every weekend (and ended up seeing about twelve in total, I think?). I can’t exactly do that here in New England, but it’s good to know that the next state over has its own American version of a medieval escape!

2 thoughts on “King Arthur’s Court in Connecticut: Gillette Castle

    • Oh, awesome! I’d heard of Hearst but not Nitt Witt Ridge–kind of reminds me of the Palais idéal of Ferdinand Cheval. Would love to see both– I’m off to northern CA in January but I think the obligatory day trip down to Monterey is about as far south as we’ll get this, alas!

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