On a small island in the Hudson River lies one of New York’s hidden gems, Bannerman Castle. This abandoned castle sits in ruins among the water with a fascinating history and impressive architecture of what remains of its structure. Surrounded by the river and mountains, the castle and home on the island are a breathtaking sight. This is a great day trip for anyone coming from New York City, and below you’ll find how to visit Bannerman Castle on the Hudson River and what the tour entails.
Where Is Bannerman Castle Located?
Although Bannerman Castle is on an island, it’s still part of Beacon, New York. Beacon is 60 miles north of New York City, which makes visiting the abandoned castle a perfect day trip from the city. The launch dock for the boat that takes travelers across the Hudson River to Bannerman Castle has ample parking for those driving in.
The dock is also directly across from the Beacon Metro-North Railroad stop for those coming via train. From Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, take the Hudson Line on Metro-North directly to Beacon. Train schedules and fares depend on the day and time of your visit. You can check current Metro-North details here.
Find a time when the train will arrive at least 30- 45 minutes before the start of the tour in case of delays.
When Can You Visit Bannerman Castle?
You can visit Bannerman seasonally from May through October. Boat and walking tours are available with multiple time slots on the weekends and most Thursday and Friday evenings during this period. Special events hosted on the island are listed with dates on Bannerman's website.
Brief History of Bannerman Castle
For a piece of land so small, it has quite a big history. The island now commonly known as Bannerman Island, was originally called Pollepel Island, and Indian tribes believed it to be haunted. It even has ties to the Revolutionary War as the setting of an unsuccessful attempt to stop the British from moving north.
In 1900 Pollepel Island was forever changed when Francis Bannerman purchased it to store arms that he’d captured from the Spanish American War. Originally from Scotland, he was an extremely successful entrepreneur in New York and became the largest arms merchant in America. This was due to the seized equipment and weaponry he'd secured after historic wars, including the Civil War. Yet, it was after the Spanish American War, where he obtained 90 percent of the remaining supplies that brought him to the island for a place to hold all the newly acquired dangerous material.
As a Scotsman, he modeled the building after a Scottish castle and built a separate lavish home for himself and his family on the island. Francis Bannerman passed away in 1918. Shortly thereafter an explosion in 1920 destroyed part of the castles structure leading his surviving family to abandon the island. Impacted by nature's elements, the castle decayed over the years, followed by a three-day fire in 1969 that left it in ruins.
Today, the island is owned by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. The not-for-profit organization, Bannerman Castle Trust, holds educational tours now to the public to preserve the historic castle and island.
How to Visit Bannerman Castle
There are two ways to reach Bannerman Island. You can either take a boat ride, or you can get there by kayaking/canoeing. It's important to note for the latter option that you must have your own kayak or canoe, one will not be provided for you. If you don't have one of your own there is a tour with one provided. However, the price for that tour is $100 per person.
Both of these methods are organized through the Bannerman Castle Trust and require tickets purchased for each member of your party. They suggest arriving half an hour before departure, so keep that in mind when choosing a date and time. Tickets can be purchased here.
Getting to Bannerman Castle by Boat
Traveling to Bannerman by boat was the option I chose for my tour. My ticket included the cruise to the island and a guided walking tour of the grounds. There were four time slots to decide from, and I picked the first tour of the day at 11 am. We drove to Beacon from NYC and found plenty of parking at the lot. The 20-minute cruise on the Hudson River was short, informative, and a beautiful way to start the day on the water. On this tour, you’ll learn about Bannerman’s history, see the castle ruins and visit the separate Bannerman home and gardens.
Cruise and Walking Tour Pricing:
Getting to Bannerman Castle by Kayak/Canoe
While I opted for the cruise and walking tour, I would love to visit again by kayaking across the Hudson River over to the castle. This is a self-guided tour from one of four departure points. Once on the island, there is a historian there who will give a 20-minute tour. The tour price is per person, so even if you plan to use a tandem kayak, you will need two tickets.
1. Donohue Memorial Park in Cornwall on Hudson
- Half-hour paddle over to Bannerman.
- To park, a parking pass is required from the Village of Cornwall.
2. Kowawese Unique Area in Plum Point Park
- Half-hour paddle over to Bannerman.
- Parking is available within the park.
3. Scenic Hudson’s Long Dock Park in Beacon, NY
- An hour to an hour and a half paddle over to Bannerman.
- Spacious parking is available.
4. Cold Spring, NY (Foundry Dock Park)
- An hour and a half paddle over to Bannerman.
- Free parking is available on weekends.
Self-guided Kayak/Canoe Tour Pricing: $40 per person
If you don’t have access to a kayak and would prefer to take the kayak and walking tour, where one would be provided for you that is also an option. However, while you can book on the Bannerman Castle website, it is through Storm King Adventure Tours. This tour is also guided, but it is the priciest option of the bunch. Single kayaks are for those ages 12 and up. Tandem kayaks are for ages 7 and up with an adult.
Kayak and Walking Tour Pricing:
Solo Kayak: $100
Tandem Kayak: $100
- Make reservations at least a week in advance since spots sell out quickly.
- All tours are conducted rain or shine. Dress accordingly in case of inclement weather.
- There are no refunds or rescheduling of tours allowed, be prepared to arrive early. In case of serious weather where the captain of the boat cancels the trip, you can reschedule your tour to a different date.
- For those who plan to kayak with their own vessel, the tour time slot is when you will arrive at Bannerman Island. Make sure there’s enough time to paddle over.
Cruise & Walking Tour of Bannerman Castle Experience
If you're taking the cruise and walking tour, then your tour begins on the boat! During the ride over to the island, the captain gives a brief talk on the area's history, including information on the Revolutionary War and George Washington. He also told our group what to expect from the tour, and what time to arrive back at the dock for pickup.
Cruising across the Hudson River during the spring is beautiful. The view of the abandoned castle as I neared the island was a breathtaking sight to behold. At the dock, several wooden staircases lead up to the grounds, where the guide promptly met the group. The tour guide slowly walked us to a few spots to see the castle ruins from different vantage points while discussing the history of Bannerman Island and the Bannerman family.
The final stop is outside the Bannerman residence, where you'll find a stunning garden overlooking the Hudson. Once the guided tour has concluded, you’re able to freely roam the grounds for the next 45 minutes until the boat comes to pick you up. I took some time to soak up the extraordinary views of the river and mountains. Then I explored inside the home that's open to the public on the first level.
There are short rugged trails either leading down to the base of the river or to the top overlooking the island. They're both quick and worth the effort to complete. Before the boat returned, I sat on one of the many benches near the top of the stairs to the dock with a view of the abandoned castle to take it all in. It was a wonderful way to end my time on Bannerman Island.
- Wear comfortable shoes. The paths around the island are uneven and rocky in some parts. It would do best with sneakers or an active shoe.
- The tour is not suitable for mobility issues or strollers due to the terrain so consider this for any visit.
- Snacks and drinks are available to purchase on the island but not included in the tour.
Come To Bannerman Castle for a Special Event
While the guided tours of Bannerman are fantastic, the island also holds special events throughout the season for visitors to enjoy Bannerman Castle differently. These events include movie nights, live music, theatrical plays, and formal dinners. The movies and events vary every year, so always check their calendar to see what’s happening. This upcoming fall they’re bringing back Dracula, the original Broadway production. The play sold out in 2022 and is supposed to be nothing short of spectacular!
Visiting Bannerman Castle on the Hudson River was an experience I’ll never forget. Learning the full depth of its history, wandering the grounds, and taking in the endless views of the Hudson Valley made for an incredible tour. Additionally, being so close to NYC, it was the perfect day trip.
Would you want to visit the abandoned Bannerman Castle? Let me know in the comments!