Imagine bundling up in a blanket on a cold winter night, watching a roaring fire unleash a torrent of crackling sparks as the heavenly scent of burning logs wafts through the room. Just as a live theatrical performance stimulates more of the senses than a show on TV, the delicious thrill of sitting in front of a real fire far exceeds the mood created by a flick-of-the-switch gas flame.
Where to find such a place? We searched Maryland and the neighboring states for bed-and-breakfast inns with wood-burning fireplaces, not just in the common areas, but in guests’ private enclaves, as well.
“Hospitality consists in a little fire, a little food. . . and an immense quiet,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote. The following five fireside retreats offer all three.
Brampton Bed & Breakfast
Over the past 22 years, former Bethesda resident Michael Hanscom and his Swiss-born wife, Danielle, have meticulously transformed this 19th century, Eastern Shore peach plantation estate from a private residence into an elegant inn ideal for rekindling romance.
“Coming from right near the Beltway, it’s so nice to go out there and hear the sound of geese and the wind and breathe deeply. It’s been our way of renewing our marriage,” says Silver Spring resident Karen Michels, who has been coming to the inn regularly with her husband, Dan, for almost 20 years.
Ten of the inn’s 12 rooms and cottages have wood-burning fireplaces or wood stoves, the other two have gas. All have sitting areas, a flat-screen TV with DVD player (no cable), plush robes and high-end antiques and fixtures. The Mulberry Cottage and Olivia’s Cottage, added just over a year ago, are designed to be the ultimate romantic escapes, with wood-burning fireplaces that can be enjoyed from the sitting area, bed and even the bath, via a large cut-out in the bathroom wall. Each cottage also has a Japanese-style soaking tub on its own screened-in porch. In-room massages are available.
Guests can browse through the galleries and antiques shops on Cross and High streets, just over a mile from the inn in the village of Chestertown. Or visit the renovated, vaudeville-style Prince Theatre for dance, music or stage performances. Or stay at the inn and play Scrabble or chess by the parlor fire, glass of sherry in hand. For dinner, there’s fresh Eastern Shore cuisine at nearby Brooks Tavern, and for dessert, there’s the never-empty cookie jar in the Brampton Inn’s den.
Cost and Information
Rooms with fireplaces range from $169 to $399 per night plus tax. That includes sweet and savory offerings that change daily, from homemade marshmallows for cocoa to mulled cider and cheddar dill scones. Frittatas and omelets with caramelized onions and smoked Gouda cheese are breakfast favorites. Children 12 and older are welcome. Only Russell’s Cottage can accommodate a pet ($49 per stay). Winter special: Stay two nights and check out at 6 p.m. on your last day. About 90 minutes from Bethesda; 410-778-1860, www.bramptoninn.com.
The Inn at Sugar Hollow Farm
The Inn at Sugar Hollow Farm is tucked away by a river and through the woods, 13 miles west of Charlottesville. Dick and Hayden Cabell spent four years searching for the perfect post-retirement property. They found it in this serene, 70-acre parcel in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, complete with an old farmhouse, a stream and wildlife roaming about. They added a Virginia farmhouse-style building with a host of inviting common rooms with wood-burning fireplaces, and welcomed their first guests in the fall of 1995. Twelve years later, Sugar Hollow was named one of Trip Advisor’s Top Ten B&Bs in America.
Guest rooms are located in the old farmhouse and the more recently built inn. Four of the five inn rooms have wood-burning fireplaces. The Shenandoah Suite is the largest suite and the only one with its own TV, DVD player and private deck, as well as a gas fireplace. (The old farmhouse rooms do not have fireplaces.) The Wildflower Room in the inn features a big bay window seat overlooking the pasture and mountains, whirlpool tub, four-poster king bed and fireplace. The cozier and less expensive Hunt Country Room has a queen-size sleigh bed, with a fireplace, as well. Fireplaces are in working order from mid-October to about mid-April, with fires rebuilt each day for guests. The Cabells make sure they’re home during fireplace use. Complimentary coffee, teas and soft drinks are available throughout the day. Though there are no TVs in the guest rooms, there is one in the common area.
Hikers can borrow a backpack from the innkeepers and take a 2-mile walk to one of two trails that lead to Skyline Drive and the Appalachian Trail. South Fork Trail is the shorter of the two and ends at Turks Gap with a gorgeous overlook of the Shenandoah Valley. For indoor relaxation, sip wine by the 17-foot-high, wood-burning stone fireplace in the tasting room at nearby King Family Vineyards (open seven days a week through the winter). Or stay on the property and enjoy a book in the reading nook, play a game in the great room overlooking the mountains, or have an in-room massage by the fire.
Cost and Information
Rooms with fireplaces range from $190 to $260 per night plus tax, which includes a full breakfast of such items as homemade buttermilk or pumpkin pancakes, French toast, egg specialties, Virginia ham and piping hot country biscuits. An optional candlelight dinner is available on Saturday evenings from January to mid-March. The cost is $50 per couple, including tax and gratuity, for those staying in rooms with wood-burning fireplaces, and gratis for those in rooms without a fireplace. Two-night minimum stay required on weekends. Children over 12 welcome. Pets not permitted. Just under three hours from Bethesda; 866-566-7388, www.sugarhollow.com.
Glasbern Country Inn
A visit to Glasbern Country Inn is a gastronomic adventure. This rustic, luxury inn sits on a 100-acre working Lehigh Valley farm not far from Allentown and is known for its restaurant, which serves organic food, including meat pasture-raised right on the property. Guests can spend a leisurely day walking by ponds and through greenhouses and pastures to visit pigs, chickens and cattle; then learn how agriculture can contribute to solving environmental issues at the nearby Rodale Institute. The institute is considered one of the pioneers in organic and sustainable farming (open Tuesdays and by appointment Jan. 1-March 31).
The inn has 38 old American and Shaker-style rooms and suites spread out among seven buildings. Fifteen of the rooms and suites have wood-burning fireplaces, and 14 have gas. Rooms include a TV, DVD player and private bath, some with whirlpool tubs. The two-story Garden Cottage has cathedral ceilings, two lovely, stone and brick, wood-burning fireplaces, its own country-elegant living room, wet bar and whirlpool tub. The less expensive, but still luxurious, bi-level Gatehouse suite has a wood-burning fireplace and a spiral staircase leading up to a loft with a whirlpool tub.
The Blue Mountain and Bear Creek ski areas, with skiing, snowboarding and tubing, are both about a 20-minute drive from the inn. After a day on the slopes, skiers can get the Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage at Glasbern’s onsite spa. For those with more sedentary inclinations, there’s the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail, with several award-winning wineries. At night, visitors can dine in the post-and-beam barn-cum-restaurant at the inn, with its massive stone walls and beautiful fireplace; then have a beer in the pub and check out the farm animal-inspired folk art.
Cost and Information
Rooms are $260 to $485 per night plus tax and include breakfast. Glasbern’s Babymoon package includes a pregnancy massage for the mother-to-be and a Swedish massage for the father-to-be, plus cookies and milk. Children of all ages and pets permitted in select rooms. The inn is about a three-hour drive from Bethesda; 610-285-4723, www.glasbern.com.
L’Auberge Provencale, French Country Inn Bed & Breakfast
White Post, Va.
Anyone longing to visit the French countryside—but short on time (and money)—can get a taste of France in Virginia at L’Auberge Provencale. Owner and chef Alain Borel and his wife, Celeste, make guests feel as though they’ve traveled to Provence thanks to the inn’s colorful fabrics and antiques, hand-painted bathroom tiles and fine French cuisine.
Six of 14 rooms have fireplaces that burn fire logs (with fireplaces in use from late October through the end of February), and another three have gas fireplaces. All rooms have a CD player, fruit bowl with cookies and chocolates, bottled water and thick terry robes. Six of the rooms come with a TV. Inn guests can choose from a variety of colorful rooms, most with whimsical carved wooden rocking horses or roosters. Room 9—known as La Chambre des Amis (The Bedroom of My Friends)—is a guest favorite with its blue striped walls, four-poster wood canopy bed, Spanish tile bath and large sitting area with comfortable chairs near the fire.
Guests can stroll through the nearby State Arboretum of Virginia, with its collection of more than 5,000 woody plants, including the largest variety of boxwood in North America and more than half the world’s pine species. Or, tour one of several area wineries. Back at the inn, guests can snack on roasted nuts and cookies by the parlor’s wood-burning fireplace, then dine on maple-and-cardamom-smoked duck breast or seared rack of lamb with caramelized garden fennel and onions at the inn’s award-winning restaurant (named one of the top 100 hotel restaurants by Zagat in 2009). The restaurant is open Wednesday through Monday nights (closed Tuesdays). Reservations are recommended.
Cost and Information
Wood-burning fireplace rooms range from $155 to $325 per night plus tax, which includes breakfast with a French twist: fruit-filled crepes topped with crème fraîche, homemade croissants and poached egg in a potato nest basket with nutmeg spinach. The Midweek Special ($365 for a suite, $340 for a guest room per night) includes a $100 dinner credit, an artisan cheese plate on arrival and a gift from the pastry chef upon departure. No minimum stay required. There is, however, a special—stay two nights, get the third free—through the end of January. Or, anyone becoming a fan of the inn on Facebook can receive a 10-percent discount on his or her next stay (not valid on holiday weekends). Travel time from Bethesda is just under 90 minutes; 800-638-1702, www.laubergeprovencale.com.
This historic, English country-style estate is set on a knoll facing the Blue Ridge Mountains. The main house was built in 1840 and named after its builder, Middleton Miller, designer and manufacturer of the Confederate uniform during the Civil War. Mary Ann Kuhn, a former Washington Post reporter and CBS News producer, purchased the property in 1994 and spent a year converting its manor house, log cabin and former slave quarters into a luxurious inn filled with Federal-style furniture and antique accessories. According to Kuhn, her guests’ favorite activity during the winter months is non-activity. “They spend quiet time by the fire reading a book or playing chess or backgammon,” she says. There are other options: Horses “Rally Joe Doc” and his buddy, “Odin,” a Clydesdale/thoroughbred mix that once belonged to Mary Tyler Moore, greet visitors to the barn; Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive are both 10 minutes from the inn; and wineries are clustered around the village of Little Washington. And the famous Inn at Little Washington is just two-and-a-half-blocks away for dinner.
The Middleton Inn’s seven accommodations include four guest rooms in the main manor house, one private cottage (where you can have breakfast delivered on a silver tray in front of the fire) and “The Cabin,” which is ideal for families or a couple traveling with friends. This rustic log cabin has heart pine flooring, fieldstone chimneys, two bedrooms (each with a queen bed), a wall of books, comfortable living room and three working fireplaces. Jennifer and Matthew Berzok of Bethesda stayed in the cabin last November. “The inn is very luxurious without being pretentious,” Jennifer Berzok says. “They pay a lot of attention to detail.”
Most room fireplaces at the inn are shallow and burn fire logs as opposed to cut logs. But you can request wood for the cabin and cottage fireplaces if you’re experienced with building fires. Also, only the cottage, the cabin living room and the manor house parlor have televisions. You can request that a TV be set up in any of the other guest rooms.
Cost and Information
Winter rates range from $245 to $525 per night plus tax, which includes a complimentary wine-and-cheese hour, four-course breakfast, evening port and bottled water in rooms. Children (and pets) welcome in the cottage and cabin; children must be 12 and older for manor house rooms. Middleton Inn is about two hours from Bethesda; 800-816-8157, www.middletoninn.com.