Ipswich, MA: The Inn at Castle Hill
Vacations are a time for relaxation, good food, dreamless sleep, and quiet morning walks. The Inn at Castle Hill in Ipswich, Massachusetts, delivers all — except for quiet mornings. Honking geese pass overhead, red-winged blackbirds chatter in the reeds, and ever-present seagulls squawk relentlessly — nature’s vocal welcome to one of the most beautiful places in New England.
The former Crane estate sprawls over 2,100 mostly wild acres framed by the Atlantic Ocean. One of New England’s finest beaches, four-mile-long Crane Beach, is easily accessible from the inn. A number of trails wind through the property, allowing you to explore the vast variety of terrain — beaches, tidal marshes, deep old-growth woods, hills, and streams.
A brief uphill walk from the inn is the Great House, which sits on a pinnacle with views of the sea. Richard T. Crane Jr., who made his fortune in plumbing fixtures, completed the home in 1928. If you are fortunate to be at the inn on a day the Great House is open to the public (usually Wednesdays and Thursdays), you owe yourself the pleasure of strolling its long hallways and peeking into some of the 59 rooms of this former summer home to see how very well the very rich lived. Even if the Great House isn’t open, its magnificent gardens are well worth strolling. A highlight is the grass Grand Allée, tumbling from the portico of the Great House all the way to the beach, with towering trees standing sentinel on both sides of this magnificent space.
After exploring the grounds, visitors will find a welcoming refuge at the inn. Each of the 10 rooms is different, from the charming, small, ship’s cabin-like room named Teller to the spacious Miné, which has its own woodburning fireplace to take the chill off fall evenings.
The 1840 farmhouse (remodeled in 1899 into a Shingle-style “cottage”) that eventually became the inn was the temporary residence for the Crane family while the Great House was under construction; later, it was used as the principal residence for Crane’s son and his wife. In 1949, this portion of the estate was bequeathed to The Trustees of Reservations, a conservation group that has worked to protect more than 55,000 acres of land in Massachusetts. The organization has refurbished many buildings on the property, including the cottage. The rooms live in a quiet harmony of grace and style.
That same harmony embraces the entire experience at The Inn at Castle Hill — from the bountiful breakfasts to a day of exploration, culminating in a fine dinner at an area restaurant and a drink by the inn’s fireplace before heading to bed with the promise of that dreamless sleep. Until, that is, you awaken to birds announcing a new day.