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Bannerman's Castle & Pollepel Island

Located just outside the North Gate of the Hudson Highlands at the entrance to the Newburgh Bays and technically in Dutchess County, Bannerman's Castle is a colorful reminder of both the unique history as well as the personalities that made the Hudson Valley famous. Now a ruin, Bannerman's Castle sits atop a small island, Pollepel Island, mid-river, an island of mystery and myth whose legends stretch back into the mists of time.

Pollepel Island, commonly known as Bannerman Island, is a tiny jewel in the setting of the Hudson Highlands State Park. Once an uninhabited place it was considered haunted by Native Americans becoming a refuge for those trying to escape hostile tribes. These superstitions and others promoted by later Dutch sailors made for many fanciful tales, even the name Pollepel originated with a legend about a young girl named Polly, (Polle), who was romantically rescued from the breaking river ice and subsequently married on the island's shore. During the American Revolution, the famous "chevaux de frise," an underwater blockade, spanned the Hudson River from Pollepel Island to Plum Point.

After the Spanish-American War, the Bannerman family, long dealers in surplus government goods and munitions, purchased so much surplus equipment and ammunition from the US government they were forced to seek out storage somewhere other than the former Bannerman store in downtown Brooklyn. While canoeing on the Hudson River, David Bannerman chanced upon Pollepel Island. The Bannermans purchased the island to construct a safe storage site for their military goods. Mr. Bannerman designed and began constructing a warehouse in the style of a Scottish castle in 1901. Equipment of every description as well as ammunition were shipped to the island for storage till sold.

This most fanciful castle now lies in ruins, looming high above the river spreading age old myths and legends about the ghosts and spirits of the island and creating new ones as fresh generations discover this unique and haunting structure. Special boat tours to the island depart from Newburgh in season taking you out and around the island, retelling the tales and giving you the history and lore of both the island and the castle.

From shore, the best vantage point is from the Bannerman Island Scenic Overlook, located on Route 9 north of Cold Spring. Watch for a tiny seldom used rail platform for Metro-North called "Breakneck Ridge." From here you will have your best land view of both the island and castle. In addition, the view includes the great North Gate of the Hudson Highlands and a sweeping panorama across and north up to Newburgh and beyond. A breathtaking view and scenic backdrop for one of the most curious and interesting places in the Hudson Valley.

During the summer months a cruise departs from Newburgh & Beacon taking you out to the island for a walking tour. It may be a little expensive, $40 per person when last we checked, but it is well worth the time and money. If for no other reason, the view from the island simply cannot be matched anywhere else in the Valley.

Specifics on visiting Bannerman's Castle & Pollepel Island were correct at time of publication. We would suggest that you confirm dates and times prior to your visit.
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