Five Favorite New England Inns
Finest Summer “Cottage”
Inn at Shelburne Farms
1611 Harbor Road
As I drive directly into the setting sun, the entry posts appear as two shimmering blurs. My vision clears, but the illusion of passing through the pearly gates persists.
“Welcome to Shelburne Farms,” the gatekeeper says, advising that it’s still two miles to the inn. The road snakes through parklike woods and meadows suggesting an English estate — but the herds are cows, not deer. Vermont’s largest house bursts into view as I emerge from a tunnel of maples. Multichimneyed and turreted, it’s set above lawns and against the sweep of Lake Champlain. Children play tag in formal gardens while, inside, guests gather around baronial hearths and in the velvet depths of the Main Hall and library. Others play billiards in a richly paneled game room hung with deer and buffalo heads. It’s like stepping into a Gilded Era house party.
In the 1890s, this mansion, built for Dr. W. Seward Webb and Lila Vanderbilt Webb, was far from New England’s only opulent summer “cottage.” Today, however, it’s the only one in which paying guests still feel as though they’ve been invited, perhaps because the transition from home to inn has come without a bill of sale. In 1972, Seward and Lila’s six great-grandchildren incorporated the estate’s 1,400 surviving acres and historic buildings as a nonprofit environmental center open to the public.
Shelburne’s real centerpiece is the five-story, tower-topped Farm Barn, larger and more imposing than the mansion. It’s here that the estate’s award-winning farmhouse cheddar cheese is produced, made from the milk of its grass-fed, purebred Brown Swiss cows. Here too, in the Children’s Farmyard, kids can milk a cow, collect eggs, brush down a donkey, and much more.
Shelburne Farms is now a public place with a visitors’ center, guided tours, special programs, and events. The inn, however, retains its unusually private feel. The 24 highly individualized rooms vary from cozy to palatial, and four cottages are sequestered by the lake, looking out to the purplish peaks of the Adirondacks beyond.
Warmth of a Family Farm
Liberty Hill Farm
511 Liberty Hill Road
Liberty Hill’s red cupola-topped barn is so picture-perfect that Vermont artist Woody Jackson has silk-screened this Rochester landmark onto T-shirts that sell well in Japan. Better yet, this is the real thing: a working family farm.
Beth and Bob Kennett milk 110 of their 240 Holsteins. Grown sons Tom and Dave help run the farm, and Tom’s 5-year-old twins, Tucker and Calvin, will start their chores this summer. Guests may help as little or as much as they wish. Children may collect eggs and hang out with the pigs, goats, and kittens.
Meals are served family-style, and Beth makes everything from scratch. On one summer evening, a dozen guests plus family sat down to roast turkey, zucchini casserole, salads fresh from the garden, pumpkin muffins, and just-picked sweet corn. After the main course, kids disappeared and adults lingered over blueberry pie with homemade raspberry ice cream.
This rambling, 1825 clapboard farmhouse has seven guestrooms that accommodate visitors in numerous ways. From rockers on the porch you can hear the gurgle of the White River, good for trout fishing as well as swimming. A portion of the farm’s 230 acres also runs straight uphill, into Green Mountain National Forest, connecting with trails for mountain biking and hiking. This valley alone once held 40 dairy farms, but Liberty Hill is now the last. As for the warmth of the “farm hospitality” extended here, it’s as prodigious as Beth’s cooking, hard to believe.
A Sense of Harmony
Guest House at Field Farm
554 Sloan Road
In Williamstown, Massachusetts, first impressions of the flat-roofed Guest House at Field Farm are underwhelming. Then you step through the front door and see Mount Greylock. The high, wide-shouldered mountain is framed in multiple picture windows, and, instead of competing, the uncluttered rooms — furnished in gleaming 1950s chrome, solid colors, and glowing wood — complement the view.
“In a lot of places you’re not allowed to sit in anything by these designers,” innkeeper Ole Retlev tells me, waving at chairs by Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner. The fluid glass-topped coffee table is by Isamu Noguchi, the couch by Vladimir Kagan, and that’s an original Eames chair.
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.