Chances are, it will take you longer to drive to the historic Fonthill Castle in Doylestown, Pennsylvania than you will actually be there. For that, you must have a few other things on your agenda to make the trip worth it. We will outline some of these below. But first, if you go on their website, it will say that reservations are required. Do not take this lightly. I actually made an 11 a.m. reservation for us. We were expecting to hit traffic on the way there, but we didn’t and arrived a little after 10. We went to check in, hoping to maybe catch an earlier tour, but there was no tour guide present. It would seem that if no one books a tour, they don’t call for the guides to come in. So we hung around, walking on some of the grounds taking in the fall foliage. Not exactly spectacular, but I understood why we had to wait and was not at all annoyed.
As for the actual tour and castle, it was really good. Our tour guide has worked there for more than 15 years and actually used to play on the grounds as a child after the owner died and left the property to his housekeeper as a gift. The original owner and builder was archaeologist Henry Chapman Mercer. You learn all about him on this tour and the more you understand him, the more you realize why the castle was built the way it was. There are artifacts and designs ranging from all time periods and regions of the world. Some are original, while others are hand-copies he made himself. Nearly every inch of wall and ceiling space is covered by pottery he hand-designed and had made in his own tile-works on the property (also open for tours). The style is mainly Gothic, with slight touches of Byzantine, if my humble, non-artistic eyes did not deceive me. There really is something for everyone to notice. As you approach, you will wonder who might walk out the front door to greet you: Dracula or Harry Potter?
You will notice there are no pictures of the interior in this post. That is because no interior photography is allowed. You will need to purchase a permit. Also of note, you will need a permit to photograph the outside if you are a professional photographer. Admission to the museum is $14, which I thought was a little high. However, the guide did thank us at the end, saying how admission helps keep the place open. I work at a museum too, so I sympathize with that. There are also packages you can purchase to tour the Mercer Museum (which houses his full collection) and tile-works stated above.
In getting back to making this a day trip, unless you plan on doing all three locations (which we didn’t), you will be out of there in about an hour. It was our plan to go straight there and then check out downtown Doylestown. However, it was Election Day and traffic was horrible on the one road heading into town. We changed plans. We headed over to Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, which is only about 15 minutes away, for lunch. The review of that restaurant will be coming later. Then we went in to New Hope (another 10-15 minutes away). It worked out well. We started at the farthest point and gradually worked our way back east. If you have never done Peddler’s Village before, I suggest you allow at least two hours. Book the earliest tour possible at Fonthill, and do what we did. You’ll have yourself a great day trip.