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Country Inns

2009 July 15
by Gordon Reid

Well, I’m back in Philadelphia, having driven 750 miles over the long weekend, mostly in Virginia. I set my G.P. S. for “no major roads”, with the result that Grant and I drove through the loveliest country byways and saw much more than if we had just barreled down the highway.

Ever since I discovered the Inn at Montchanin (in Delaware, near Longwood Gardens) I have tried to stay at country inns where possible when I was travelling. There are good guides which list them state by state, and most of the guides agree that the top Country Inn of them all is the Inn at Little Washington, which is in Washington, Virginia, close to the Blue Ridge Mountains. So that was our first port of call on Friday.  And I found that all the extravagant praise showered on this inn is totally justified.

From the moment we arrived, we were welcomed by a staff that actually seemed glad to be there and wanted us to share their delight in the place. My car had been making a worrying hum, so I asked if there was a local garage I could take it to to get it inspected. One of the staff simply said “Leave it to me”, took my car keys and disappeared with the  car. Meanwhile we were met inside with a smiling girl carrying glasses of champagne; she suggested we have a seat in a very tastefully furnished lounge until our luggage had been taken to the room. The room itself was stunning and had a broad porch-like balcony, covered in geraniums. Both dinner and breakfast were outstanding. (Now I’m beginning to sound like all the other gushing critics, but I can’t help it!). This may be the best small hotel experience in America – but I’d be glad to hear of others that some of you might know, for future trips.

The second Inn was quite a different cup of tea. We drove the (now purring silently) car south through lovely horse farms to Williamsburg, and went to the Williamsburg Inn. Of course, anywhere after the Inn at Little Washington would have been an anti-climax, but this one was severe. I was reminded of nothing so much as the old Railway hotels of the UK, like the Great Eastern in London or the North British in Edinburgh – before they were remodeled.  Of course, health and safety regulations had made modernization inevitable, but they had been implemented in a very ugly way, with sprinkler systems and smoke detectors almost appearing as the most prominent features of a room. The dining room was vast, with some nice chandeliers all mixed up with badly -fitted recessed lighting units. An ancient pianist played and equally ancient guests danced – all that was lacking was a genteel murder and Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot!

Colonial Williamsburg was in full swing and not as Disneylandish as I had expected. I particularly enjoyed the traditional garden flowers behind neat white picket fences round the beautifully restored houses. On Sunday morning we went to Mass in Bruton Parish Church for the 7.30 Mass, which was Rite One. Unexpectedly, the church was very full, the organ was well played and there was a 15 minute sermon on St John the Baptist which I enjoyed and profited from.

However, on the whole we were glad to leave Williamsburg, and especially its Inn and head north-east to Annapolis and the Bay Bridge, which carried us over to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Our goal there was the little town of St Michael, out on a peninsula in the Chesapeake Bay. There, right by the water, is the Inn at Perry Cabin, our last stop for the Sunday night. This is a beautiful place, and the Inn, though much expanded, has built its wings in the same style as the old place, and every room has a balcony or a porch looking out to the Bay.  Large ships and tiny yachts are in constant motion, and many of the latter moor for the night nearby and come into the Inn for dinner, which was very fine indeed. Breakfast the next morning on a pretty terrace surrounded by gorgeous flowers was a great way to finish our little expedition, and we drove back to Philadelphia through Maryland, where farmers offered all sorts of fruits and vegetables at every road end.

I am more than ever devoted to Country Inns and hope to sample many more of them. Dinner, bed and breakfast in such a place is a fine experience and a great way to relax.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Matt Marcucci permalink
    July 16, 2009

    You’ve got to try Sweetwater Farm in Brandywine, just down Rt. 1 from Center City:

    Be sure to stay in the main house.

  2. John permalink
    July 17, 2009

    Thanks for your wonderful post Father! It’s always great to hear someone’s experiences traveling. I hope your time was restful and renewing to you.

  3. Will permalink
    July 31, 2009

    The Frederick House in Staunton, VA should be on your list, although it is not actually a “country inn”, but right on the street in the town.

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