Editor's Note: Those who choose to travel are strongly encouraged to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19 and take personal comfort levels and health conditions into consideration before departure.
To visit the Blantyre, a Tudor-style estate tucked away in the Berkshires, is to step back in time. Built circa 1902, the palatial western Massachusetts property is one of 12 remaining Gilded Age mansions in the area — a memento of moment in history characterized by well-heeled families decamping to their second homes for glamorous parties and extravagant dinners.
But this refined experience begins before you arrive at the hotel. A private gravel driveway — dusted with snow during our recent winter visit — winds through the 110-acre wooded grounds, keeping visitors in suspense for half a mile, eventually revealing the Manor House, an imposing, ivy-cloaked edifice topped with turrets. The scene is straight out of Downton Abbey — befitting since its former owner, Robert Paterson, modeled the house after his mother's ancestral home in Blantyre, Scotland.
The handsome red-brick structure has lived many lives, changing hands over the decades, but that original air of elegance prevails. Inside, the perfectly appointed décor is enough to even make Gatsby feel at home: leaded glass windows, dizzyingly elaborate chandeliers, overstuffed chairs, elegant portraits, burnished wood, and fireplaces everywhere you turn — the perfect antidote to the blustering chill outside.
Though undeniably grand, the Relais & Chateaux hotel doesn't shun its homey charms: Books — shelves of them lining the hallways — are on loan, and a chess set can be found in the Music Room for guests who fancy some friendly competition. There are only 24 accommodations in the entire place — spread across the Manor and Carriage House, plus secluded, standalone cottages — only adding to the intimate atmosphere. Rooms have four-poster beds, fireplaces, soaking tubs, and undulating views of the surrounding hills.
"Your keys are in the bunny bowl," the hotel's general manager said warmly after escorting us to our room, pointing to a brass rabbit-shaped dish. Staff is always smiling, eager to share ideas for activities nearby — and there are plenty.
Unfolding with idyllic villages, charming barns, and scenic mountains in the distance, the Berkshires — named one of the best places to travel in 2021 — has lots of historic small-town charm and wholesome outdoor adventures, giving you the choice of doing as much or little as you desire.
In keeping with the nostalgic theme, the Mount, Edith Wharton's enchanting home, lies just a few miles down the road. Other cultural offerings include the Norman Rockwell Museum in nearby Stockbridge — the artist lived and worked here for over two decades — Mass MoCA, and The Clark, all suitable for an art fix. Hiking, maple sugaring, and even hot-air balloon rides abound in the warmer months, while snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are choice activities when the temperatures dip.
Exploring the hotel is an equally appealing endeavor. A year-round playground, the Blantyre is particularly charming in the winter, when it transforms into a romantic retreat. Couples can spend their days ice skating (the on-site rink was closed during our January visit), snowshoeing, and hiking on the property's private trails before sipping a cup of homemade hot cocoa while staying ensconced inside by the fire in their room. The aptly named Warming Hut offers another respite from the cold — the perfect nook for curling up with a good book or playing a round of pool. (Meanwhile, summers breathe life into the outdoor pool, tennis courts, and sprawling lawns.)
A standout spa — currently closed due to the pandemic — is set in one of the hotel's original greenhouses, and usually open year-round for massages, facials, and other wellness treatments. There's also a massive wine cellar, sheltering over 7,000 bottles, and a Music Room, perfect for pre-and post-dinner drinks, or just cuddling up by the fire to chat.
Speaking of dinner, if you find yourself here before the end of February, Café Boulud, a pop-up restaurant from the Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud, is a must for brunch or candlelit dinners featuring a prix-fixe menu with inventive takes on French classics.
In addition to Boulud's prix-fixe option, sweethearts visiting for Valentine's Day (Feb. 12-14) can opt for a special menu paired with a bottle of Dom Perignon Brut. A Champagne brunch is also on offer from Saturday through Monday.
Although time stands still here, there are reminders of the realities of present-day: Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the hotel has made some changes, including contactless check-in, housekeeping services on request, and daily complimentary breakfast in rooms. Temperature checks are mandatory upon arrival, high-touch areas are routinely sterilized, and the restaurant includes plexiglass dividers between tables and air purifiers. At the time of publishing, guests arriving from out of state are required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival, as well as fill out a form declaring health status.
But rest assured, it doesn't take much — a simple stroke of a melodic live piano, a complimentary glass of sparkling wine upon arrival, the feeling of peering out a window and seeing nothing but nature patted with snow — to bring you back to a bygone era.
Alisha Prakash is Travel + Leisure's senior digital editor. A New Yorker through and through, she's caught in a love affair between big cities and the great outdoors. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @alishaprakash and Twitter at @alishasays.
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