When winter’s damp chill settles into the bones, sometimes the only remedy is to cozy up next to a fire. Not some anemic, gas-fired flicker but a roaring wood blaze.
Leave Washington early one Friday, and in less than two hours you can be enjoying a fire at one of these cozy inns. Each has a fireplace in your room, and all are in or near a neighborly town, nice for an evening stroll or a toast at a local pub.
Romantic Seclusion: Brampton Inn
There are so many biscotti and crisps and scones and teacakes on offer during afternoon tea in the dining room that Brampton Inn guests may not notice the fire roaring just behind them. No matter, as fireplaces in all the guest rooms let you bask in your own warm glow.
Guests don’t seem in a hurry to wander off, which might be because of the pastries or because the parlor is a fine place to be, chatting with others who can’t think of a thing to do.
For charming isolation, pick either the Sunset or the Sunrise Room in the Garden Cottage. Both are spacious and airy, with double whirlpool tubs and private patios. For dinner, the Front Room at the Imperial Hotel, a mile into Chestertown, gets excellent reviews.
Brampton Inn, Chestertown, Md.; 410-778-1860; bramptoninn.com. Ten rooms and suites, most with wood-burning fireplaces or wood stoves; $195 to $295.
Romance by the Hearth: Antrim 1844
With 20 wood-burning fireplaces, Antrim 1844 is a virtuoso in the art of blazing ambiance.
“We go through a lot of wood, 30 to 35 cords a season,” says general manager John Vonnes. “It’s one of the first things people ask about when they call.”
Guests can spend an evening at Antrim and not sit by the same fire twice. Have a welcoming pint by the flames in the Pickwick Pub, then relax into a fireside soak in your suite’s double Jacuzzi before dinner. Follow the sound of crackling logs to the drawing room for hors d’oeuvres, and, if you still haven’t warmed up, request a seat by the cavernous brick hearth in the Smokehouse Restaurant.
After dinner, take a stroll through town before returning to your duvet-covered canopy bed; you’ll find the wood has been replenished. (A full-time and a part-time staffer keep the fireplaces stocked and clean.) The Boucher Suite is a favorite, with a fireplace, double Jacuzzi, two private porches, and two large bathrooms.
There’s no hurry to leave your nest in the morning; the staff leaves a wake-up tray of coffee, juice, muffins, fruit, and a newspaper by the door. At 9 am, head downstairs for breakfast and you’ll be rewarded with, say, waffles and sausage. Spend the day in nearby Gettysburg, play a chilled game of croquet on the inn’s lawn, or relax with a book, but get back by 4 to 5 pm or you’ll miss tea by the fire.
Antrim 1844, Taneytown, Md.; 410-756-6812; antrim1844.com. Forty rooms and suites, most with gas or wood-burning fireplaces; $160 to $400 a night.
Victorian Beauty: Mayhurst Inn
Watching the Mayhurst Inn emerge through columns of towering magnolia and pine is a little like spotting the Mormon Temple as you round the Beltway. Stark white but warmed by ornate cornices, arched windows, and a carved cupola, Mayhurst is an Italianate Victorian monolith in the small town of Orange, Virginia.
Built by a grandnephew of James Madison’s two years before the Civil War, the plantation home sheltered Confederate soldiers in what is now the General’s Room, just off the entry hall. General “Stonewall” Jackson was given the larger and sunnier Southern Charm bedroom one flight up.
A dozen working fireplaces still warm the parlors and guest rooms, but their shallow fireboxes are a sign of old times; the 1859 appliances were built for coal, not wood, fires. But Duraflame logs fit in nicely, and some rooms have been retrofitted with gas for those who prefer their history more modern.
The Southern Charm room is a favorite among guests—not just Stonewall Jackson—for its great light and its double whirlpool by the fire. For drama, try the Madison Room—it’s wallpapered in Dolley Madison red.
Mayhurst Inn, Orange, Va.; 540-672-5597; mayhurstinn.com. Eight rooms, all with wood, gas, or electric fireplaces; $150 to $235.
Small-Town Charm: Old Waterstreet Inn
The Old Waterstreet Inn is not period-perfect, the innkeepers don’t talk much about famous historical people and where they slept, and some of the knickknacks look suspiciously Pottery Barnish.
This is a fresh version of a historic inn, and though it retains enough of its 1840s character to let you feel its history, you are struck by how warmly the pine floors gleam, how the white wood mantels show off a simple ceramic vase, and how the duvet covers match the perfectly painted sage or rose walls. Attention is focused on making guests feel at home, be it the 19th or the 21st century.
Some guest rooms are named with a nod to Virginia’s apple-growing history. The Winesap Room is a favorite for the sunlight pouring in through the triple-bowed windows, the fireplace across from the Mission-style bed, and the heated tile floor in the bath. The vast Cortland Room offers a different mood with its midnight-blue walls, and the private porch is a bonus on warmer days.
On weekend evenings, a wine-and-cheese happy hour fortifies guests for the short walk to dinner on Old Town Winchester’s pedestrian mall. The inn is a great jumping-off point for an afternoon of winery hopping or antiquing, and rooms sell out in late October during the popular Shenandoah Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival.
Old Waterstreet Inn, Winchester, Va.; 866-665-6770; oldwaterstreetinn.com. Five rooms, two with working fireplaces; $140 to $165.
Cool Pint in a Warm Pub: Kenmore Inn
In cold weather, Kenmore Inn’s gardens aren’t quite as exuberant. But once you settle into your canopied bed by the fire, you’ll be happy it’s winter.
Beyond naps and books, there’s wireless Internet and a flat-screen TV to entertain. Kenmore’s pub is a cozy spot for a cocktail, with its brick walls and pressed-tin ceiling. Elegant dinners are served in the dining room, which is key if the weather’s too bad to walk to nearby restaurants. If you do venture outside, the inn’s location in historic Fredericksburg makes it easy to see the Revolutionary-era houses.
The morning-averse will be pleased that breakfast is not a communal affair; you get your own table. Favorite rooms are the Fredericksburg Grand and the Regal Kenmore for their cozy canopies.
Kenmore Inn, Fredericksburg; 540-371-7622; kenmoreinn.com. Nine rooms, four with fireplaces; $123 to $168.