A worn-looking structure, Bannerman Castle, sits on an island in New York's Hudson River.

Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island in spring. Photo: Erin Lindsey/Escape Brooklyn.

Every day, thousands of passengers pass a giant castle in the middle of the Hudson River on the MetroNorth’s Hudson Line.

While most commuters pass it on the regular, you can always pick out the folks who haven’t seen it before: their eyes practically pop out of their head, and then their faces turn to their phones to Google it. You can almost hear their inner dialogue: “What the hell was that castle? Can I go there?!” The answers: that the castle is Bannerman Castle, and yes you can.

Backing up a bit, Francis Bannerman VI, the castle’s namesake, was born in 1851 in Scotland and immigrated into the U.S. in 1854. The family business purchased surplus military equipment at the end of the American Civil War, including guns, ammunition, and equipment. The business was wildly successful, and it expanded quickly–so quickly, in fact, that the family business had to be moved because of the concentration of explosives in Manhattan was so dangerous. In 1900, Bannerman purchased Pollepel Island for use as a storage facility and a showroom of sorts. Bannerman designed the castle himself, intriguing the public and other businessmen by his aesthetic choice of building a castle instead of an ordinary warehouse.

The rest, they say, is history – including an explosion, a fire that destroyed much of the island, abandonment, decay, and the eventual intervention and preservation by the Bannerman Castle Trust. Today, thousands of visitors make the trip to Bannerman Castle.

How to Get to Bannerman Castle from NYC: MetroNorth to Boat (or Kayak!)

Bannerman’s Castle on Pollepel Island is located just an hour and a half from New York City, making it a perfect daytrip. To plan a visit, check the Bannerman Castle Trust website for tours, as well as info on how, where and when to catch a boat. After a short ride, you’ll be led for a two-hour walking tour through the island. Cost is about $40 and tours run from May through November.

Pro tip: we also love Storm King Adventure Tours’ sunset kayak trips to the island, but note there’s no visits to the shore.

Planning a trip? Make sure to reference our Beacon, NY guide for ideas of how to spend the rest of your day–or weekend!