Heading down to Gillette’s Castle in Connecticut, I was under the impression that the castle would remind me of the one I imagined up for Tearing Honor. I haven’t done hands-on research for novels before and was convinced that I would be disappointed that I didn’t visit this castle in the making of Tearing Honor. To my surprise, as I toured the castle, nothing screamed out to me that I should have visited before writing up an imaginary castle.
Gillette Castle is a more modern castle than ones you would typically find in the medieval time period. It was built in the 20th century, so no surprise there necessarily. The outside itself reminded me of medieval castles, but inside was where my opinion rapidly changed.
Gillette designed his castle with comfort in mind. Though a theater actor for years upon years, he wasn’t too fond of ‘unwelcome’ guests. Along the walls above his living room area, he implanted various mirrors in just the right locations to see who was entering his home before physically running into them. If he saw in his mirrors an ‘unwelcome’ guest, he snuck out a secret door in his office, leading to an exit on another side of the castle. It would’ve been really nifty to actual experience going through the secret passage and see what kind of tunnel he had designed, but that wasn’t part of the tour.
He had mirrors for other purposes too. The man had quite the sense of humor. For instance, one mirror was adjusted in such a way that he could see the bar area when he was standing in the upstairs halls above the living room. He designed a bar that closed in such a way that the top needed to be lifted up before the door handles would open the cabinets where his liquor was stored. Most people were unaware of this, so he’d tell them to grab a drink while he went and grabbed something upstairs, and they’d go to open the bar’s door to get some drinks to find that it was ‘locked’. He’d stand upstairs and laugh while he watched his friends attempting to grab a drink, fidgeting with the bar believing it was locked, all from a mirror above the living room. Then he’d proceed downstairs and ask them why on earth they didn’t have drinks in hand yet and get the same answer “it’s locked.” What a prankster! Not exactly something I would expect to find in a medieval castle.
Another oddity that stuck out to me was his sun-room, just aside of the living room. It was absolutely gorgeous (not to say something like that wouldn’t be found in a medieval castle). But his elaborate fountains and blooming plants/flowers didn’t seem fitting for the business you would find in a noble’s castle. War, politics, and religion tended to be the center of attention for those who lived in castles. Gillette, on the other hand, believed in relaxation and meditation. Of course, the man wasn’t running a kingdom; he was simply living beside the Connecticut River putting on Sherlock Holmes plays and generally enjoying life.Gillette also created his own railroad on the grounds. Though only a short ride, the railroad was one of his guilty pleasures in life. He would bring visitors and friends for rides when they’d stop by, just for fun. Yet another attraction you wouldn’t find in the medieval time period. Again, you weren’t able to ride the train, but you could view the front and the cabooses in the educational building before walking up to the castle.
There were a decent amount of walking trails outside, donning a covered bridge and a giant stone archway. For those who are looking for trips with a decent amount of exercise incorporated, Gillette has you covered. There are two trails: one that just leads you into a random area in the woods and another that leads you down to a small beach along the Connecticut River. The woodsy trail is simpler to walk and a bit more scenic. You’ll come across dozens of wine-berries (depending on the time you visit) and lots of trees. The second trail is more man-made, with flattened out dirt trails and wooden half-steps to lead you down to the beach. Not the prettiest of walks, but it at least gives you a good cardio workout.
Needless to say, Gillette’s unique and modern interior and exterior designs kept it far from portraying the typical medieval castle I described in Tearing Honor. Though I would like to do hands-on research for some of my coming novels, I’m glad to see that I didn’t miss out on anything useful visiting one of the few nearby castles to my home. Perhaps the castle’s exterior would’ve developed my descriptions of the walls and doorways a bit more, having viewed the castle’s outside hands-on. But not so much the interior.
Gillette Castle is a quick and relatively entertaining trip to make in a day. You only need about 2 hours to enjoy all of the castle and the grounds, that is unless you plan to bum on the beach the rest of the afternoon. It’s a great start to a day trip to Connecticut, allowing you to squeeze in other activities along the way. As far as I can recall, there wasn’t a fee to take a tour of the castle. It is more of a self-run tour, but there are tour guides around to provide information about the castle and Gillette himself. Be warned: Gillette Castle doesn’t seem as large as they claim it is in the tour or online guides. It may be, but what you see doesn’t encompass nearly the size of building they describe. I give Gillette Castle a 3.5/5. Mainly, I discounted its score because I would’ve like to see a more medieval-esque castle, and I was disappointed that the size of the castle wasn’t what people had hyped it up to be.