By Amy Simpson Swiss
Photos: Courtesy of Amy Simpson Swiss
Bannerman Castle is the name of this historical and cultural gem, and you’ll be happy to hear that you most definitely can go exploring there. In fact, I highly recommend it. Visiting the island is the kind of outing that will satisfy everyone in your family, from your youngest explorers to your most experienced history buffs.
The fun begins as you board a boat in Beacon or Newburgh for the first leg of your journey. You’ll glide along the gorgeous Hudson River, passing Denning’s Point and the Hudson Highlands along the way. When I made this trip, sailing on The Estuary Steward along the river was one of the highlights of the afternoon.
Once you arrive on Pollepel Island, you’ll meet your tour guide on the dock. Tour guides are members of the Bannerman Castle Trust, which is the nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring and maintaining the Bannerman grounds. Your guide will lead you through the beautiful flowering gardens and along the windy, rustic paths to the castle and several other historical points of interest.
As you walk these lovely trails, your guide will share a wealth of knowledge about the place and the people who lived there. The history of the island sounds like the plot of a movie, complete with bootleggers, smugglers and a part to play in the Revolutionary War. The story of Frank Bannerman—the man who built the castle—is the most interesting aspect of the island’s long history. The castle was actually an armory, and the full story is worth the wait! My guide, Wes, was an exceptional storyteller, bringing this history to life in a funny and completely engaging way.
Your tour will also allow you to take in incredible views of Storm King Mountain, Breakneck Ridge and even West Point in the distance. These are vistas you just can’t see anywhere else; this vantage point is unique and breathtaking. The crumbling brick and stone ruins of the castle and the Bannerman summer home, combined with the lovely gardens surrounding the property, evoke another time and place. Bring your camera and get ready for an adventure!
There are many ways to enjoy the island this season. In addition to the walking tours, you can also enjoy movie nights, theater and musical performances, and other special events. To see a full schedule of tours and events, and to buy tickets, visit the Bannerman Castle Trust website at www.BannermanCastle.org. Book your tickets early; they do sell out.
A trip to Bannerman Castle has all the irresistible elements of a wonderful adventure: a boat ride, a castle, a hike among the ruins; some mystery, some history and a lovely afternoon. Happy wandering! █