Bannerman Castle: Take a summer tour of the historic Hudson Valley attraction

A visitor to Pollepel Island photographs the crumbling

A visitor to Pollepel Island photographs the crumbling remains of Bannerman Castle on the Hudson River near Newburgh. A businessman named Francis Bannerman who made his fortune buying and selling surplus military munitions after the Spanish-American War bought the island in 1900. The castle primarily served as a storage facility for Bannerman's arsenal. (April 30, 2013) Photo Credit: Angela Gaul

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One of the most striking sights on the Hudson River, Bannerman Island's castle is a high-walled ruin topped with turrets that looks as if it were built to repel catapult attacks. In reality, the century-old structure, located in the waters between Beacon and Cold Spring on Pollepel Island, was a warehouse for bayonets, pith helmets, rifles and other military relics.

The island has had a second life in recent years as a summer tourist attraction. Visitors can take a tour boat or a kayak for guided tours or visit the island on set dates for a self-guided tour and live music.

The structure is named for Francis Bannerman VI, who bought the rocky, 6 1/2-acre island in 1900 as a place to warehouse items sold in his war relic store in Manhattan, some 50 miles south. (City fathers did not want him to store munitions locally.) Bannerman was an amateur architect and modeled his warehouse after castles in his native Scotland, giving it a siege-ready look with a moat and turrets.

Family members continued to frequent the island after Bannerman died in 1918. The island was sold to New York State in 1967, two years before a fire gutted the castle. Bannerman Castle Trust formed in 1993 to turn the scenic ruin into a proper attraction.

In the past, big chunks of the castle have tumbled down. The trust has worked to restore elements of the structure and continues to fundraise in order to further stabilize the building.

Today, visitors can get close-up looks at the castle ruins and rehabilitated gardens, but must stay back because of the threat of a fresh collapse. Here are details about touring the island and enjoying the summer events roster.

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TOURS

By tour boat:

Bannerman Island Trust: The Bannerman Island Trust, in cooperation with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, operates public tours to Bannerman Castle and Pollepel Island, in which visitors travel to the island via the ship Estuary Steward. The boat departs Torches Landing in Newburgh (at 11 a.m.) and the Beacon Landing in Beacon (at 12:30 p.m.) for 2 1/2-hour guided tours. Tours are held May through October on Saturdays and Sundays. Private tours are available daily by appointment. Tickets are $35 ($30 for children ages 11 and younger). For reservations, go to www.zerve.com or call 800-979-3370.

By kayak:

Hudson Valley Outfitters: This Cold Spring store runs five- to six-hour tours for $130. Tours include kayak rental, a guided tour, a waterproof lunch, and a hard-hat tour of the island. Tours run from May 25 to Oct. 5 from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (63 Main St., Cold Spring; 845-265-0221; www.hudsonvalleyoutfitters.com).

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Storm King Adventure Tours: Leaving from the Cornwall-on-Hudson headquarters, four-hour tours to Bannerman's Castle are $100 and take place Saturdays and Sundays from May through Sept. 20 as well as on Thursday, July 4. (178 Hudson St., Cornwall-on-Hudson; 845-534-7800; www.stormkingadventuretours.com).

Mountain Top Outfitters: This Beacon store runs a five-hour tour for $100 from June 19 to Aug. 17. (144 Main St., Beacon; 845-831-1997; www.mountaintopsonline.com)

Self-guided tours:

The Bannerman Castle Trust historians will be on hand for self-guided tours of the island on the third Sunday of the month from May through October. Each of the five events includes a mini-concert by local musicians such as The Strawberry Hill Fiddlers Group, a teenage fiddler band from Dutchess County, and the New Paltz-based band The Sweet Clementine. Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch. Tickets are $35 per person ($30 for kids). For reservations, go to www.zerve.com or call 800-979-3370.

SUMMER EVENTS

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July 4th picnic: Enjoy burgers, hot dogs and other summer favorites at a Fourth of July picnic on the island, an event that also includes the cruise to the island and live music. Tickets are $75. Reserve tickets through www.zerve.com or by calling 800-979-3370.

Fourthth Annual Hudson Valley Chefs' Farm Fresh Dinner (Sept. 7): Five notable Hudson Valley chefs will present a five-course meal in the garden located next to Bannerman Castle, and guests will also be provided a guided tour of the island. Tickets are $125 per person and can be reserved by calling 845-831-6346.

IF YOU GO

Bannerman Castle: www.bannermancastle.org; Facebook: facebook.com/BannermanCastleTrust; Twitter: @BannermanIsland

With contributions from The Associated Press

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