Why a Wonder: A Scottish castle on an island in the Hudson River near New York City! How cool is that? There really is such a place, and it is on an island in the Hudson Highlands, now called Bannerman's Island, although it used to be called Pollepel Island. It was erected by Francis Bannerman VI (1851-1918) from Dundee, Scotland who came to the U.S. as a child. He started a business buying and selling surplus army goods and munitions and established a store on Broadway in Manhattan. He was so successful, he needed more space for his goods, so he purchased the island and built a Scottish castle where he stored his arsenal. He also built a summer residence for his family. A fire destroyed much of the castle in 1969 but the ruin is still fascinating to explore and the family residence is intact.
Where: Bannerman Island is in the Hudson River near the town of Beacon, New York. Tickets may be purchased for guided tours of the island on-line from the Bannerman Castle Trust which also offers special events such as movie nights and theatricals. The Trust is a nonprofit volunteer group that works with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The island can also be booked for special events such as weddings. The cost of a tour is $40. The tours are timed and access is by ferry from Beacon. One can also use one's own boat or kayak to reach the island for a tour. Tours last 2.5 hours.
When: Tours are available from May 1-October 31 on Saturdays, Sundays and selected Fridays. Call or visit the website for the schedule. Phone 845-237-2636 or visit bannermancastle.org.
Photography: A wide angle lens will be useful for capturing the large castle ruin and the imposing facade of the family residence. A medium telephoto can be helpful to capture architectural details or views of the island as the ferry approaches. Aerial photography by drone requires a permit and a fee. Visitors do not have to follow the guided tour but may spend time on their own photographing the architecture; however, they must abide by the ticket time and be at the ferry when it is scheduled to depart. You may bring a tripod but may not wander into areas that are roped or fenced off for protection of the structures. Nevertheless, there are plenty of viewpoints available. There are also garden areas surrounding the residence that were first planted by Jane Campbell Bannerman and have been maintained by the Trust. Of interest is a foundation stone set in the family residence that came from the clan MacDonald's home in Glencoe, Scotland. Frank Bannerman, the first of the seven Frank Bannermans, was the standard-bearer of the clan who escaped the massacre of 1692 by sailing to the Irish coast. His descendants remained in Antrim for 150 years. Tours are conducted rain or shine so camera rain covers might be of use in inclement weather. Wear hiking boots as there are narrow dirt paths and some rocky areas to traverse the island. Some bottled drinks and snacks are available for purchase.