Connecticut Drive: Litchfield County
By Carol Cambo
Yankee‘s driving tour of Litchfield County in the northwest corner of Connecticut follows a 56-mile tour in a counter-clockwise direction, beginning in the town of Litchfield and a visit to nearby Goshen to meet the animals of Action Wildlife.
Boitano the poitou donkey was playing hard to get. Jim Mazzarrelli, owner of Action Wildlife in Goshen, Connecticut, told us an offering of fresh grass would coax his distinctive whinny. My friend waved greenery in front of Boitano’s snout, rewarded only by indifferent silence.
We fared better, noise-wise, in the rare-animal farm’s petting barn, where children shrieked as their hands were snuffled by bleating baby goats. And later, as we walked around the vast property, zebus and oryx, llamas and ostriches — 300 animals in all — greeted us from their spacious pens with snorts and grunts.
This was our first stop on a tour of Litchfield County. Action Wildlife surprised us because these lush hills have earned much of their mystique from being home to the likes of Mia Farrow, Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, and other Hollywood emigres — not Persian red sheep and fainting goats.
From the farm, the road west to the Cornwalls (Route 4) is bounded by pastures rimmed with stone walls. There are walls of shale and fieldstone, stacks of massive granite boulders, and still other walls made from stones that look polished as if plucked from a riverbed.
From Route 4, follow Route 128. The road will dip sharply into the village of West Cornwall. At its heart is a prime photo opportunity: an 1864 red covered bridge spans the Housatonic River. Most days you can see fly-fishermen along the riverbanks, filament flashing in the sun as they tempt the trout.
You can’t (and shouldn’t) miss the rustic Wandering Moose Café right next to the bridge, where alfresco diners can listen to the Housatonic hurrying south. Choose from standard deli fare for breakfast and lunch, plus creative salads. The dinner menu is fancier, featuring gourmet pizza, duck, and, fittingly, trout.
Don’t overindulge, because next you must hike uphill to The Wish House, a gift shop/gallery filled with stylish women’s clothing, kitchen accessories, children’s gifts, artwork, and imported items. A few houses away, a former Masonic Hall houses a 45,000-volume collection of rare books and is open on Saturdays to browsers. Notable categories here include literature, diaries, letters, and children’s books.
Also on Main Street is the Cornwall Bridge Pottery store, but if you’re heading south on Route 7, stop at the outfit’s workshop (in Cornwall Bridge), where you can shop for bargain seconds and often catch potters in action.
To get there from here, you’ve got to cross the one-lane West Cornwall Bridge. Observe the local courtesy: Flash your lights to signal drivers on the opposite side to cross. Once over, stay left on Route 7 south, a scenic beauty that passes by Kent Falls State Park, home to the highest multidrop waterfall (some 250 feet) in the state. (A short walk from the parking lot will bring you to the bottom of the falls.)
Continue south on Route 7 toward Kent, keeping your eyes peeled for Sculpturedale and The Dog Show on the left. The outdoor gallery features metal figures by sculptor Denis Curtiss, while his wife’s barn shop carries canine-themed gifts. This stretch of road is fringed with (more) stone walls and pastures, as well as views of the Taconic mountain range to the west. The Appalachian Trail roughly follows this spine as it crosses the northwest corner of Connecticut.
A few miles farther south, the yellow sign at a railroad crossing signals The Sloane-Stanley Museum. Landscape painter Eric Sloane teamed up with Stanley Works and the state of Connecticut to open it in 1969, commemorating the tool company’s 125th anniversary. The museum features Sloane’s collection of early American tools, a re-creation of the artist’s studio, and a pioneer cabin Sloane built in 1974.
- Action Wildlife
- The Wandering Moose Cafe
- Barbara Farnsworth Bookseller
- Cornwall Bridge Pottery
- Sloane-Stanley Museum
- The Dog Show and Sculpturedale
- Hopkins Inn
- Village Barn and Gallery
- The Wish House
- The Inn at Kent Falls
- The Boulders Inn
Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.