Exploring the Abandoned Bannerman Castle on an Island in the Hudson River

It’s likely that if you’ve ever stood on the banks of the Hudson River near Newburgh, Beacon, or Cornwall-on-Hudson and looked out over the river, you couldn’t help but notice the deserted castle that’s perched on an island in the middle of the waterway. This castle is located on what’s now known as Castle Island.

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. The magnificent Bannerman Castle can be found on the six-acre-large island that is formally referred to as Pollepel Island. Because I was interested in finding out more about this incredible location, I decided to sign up for the seasonal tours that are provided by the Bannerman Castle Trust.

Due to the fact that Bannerman Castle is situated on an island in the middle of the Hudson River, tours begin with a boat ride that lasts for thirty minutes and departs from a dock in Beacon, New York, that is located right next to the community’s train station. This makes it very convenient for both people arriving by rail on the Hudson Line of the Metro-North Railroad who have cars and people arriving by rail on the Hudson Line who do not have cars.

On the Hudson River, the journey to Bannerman Castle by boat takes approximately half an hour and covers a distance of 3.5 miles. The vessel, which goes by the name Estuary Steward, is not particularly large and does not feature many extras. On the other hand, this makes for a pleasant and stress-free journey to the island.

The boat operators will typically provide some background information on the region as well as point out local attractions in Beacon and Newburgh, such as George Washington’s Headquarters and Dennings Point, while passengers are out on the water. Having said that, the narration is not official and is not included in the trip, so your particular experience may differ from what was described.

Bannerman Castle from the boat dock.
After arriving at the island, guests can begin their guided tour from the highest point on the island (roughly 70 steps up from the dock).

The tours of Bannerman Castle provide a fascinating view into the past of the island, including its use by Native Americans, Dutch mariners, and the Continental Army, all of which occurred before Francis Bannerman VI purchased the island in the year 1900.

Bannerman was the most successful arms and military surplus retailer anywhere in the world. When his business was at its peak, he published a 300-page magazine that had the capacity to outfit entire armies all over the world and actually did so.

It was recommended to him that he relocate the storage facilities of his company outside of New York City because he had such a large stockpile of explosive munitions. Pollepel Island proved to be the ideal location for securely storing his wares.

Bannerman spent the better part of the next two decades, up until the time of his death, constructing a number of castles on the island to use as armories for his company. What you see today is actually a collection of castles that have been constructed adjacent to one another in the style of European castles, particularly those found in Scotland.

Although there was a small home on the island for a caretaker and another home for Bannerman and his family to stay in when they were visiting, people never lived in these castles. Despite what you might think about them after viewing them, they were never inhabited.

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