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Summer Escape to a Home-Away-From-Home

West Hill House B&B delivers R&R with a personal touch

By J.L. Barker

I wanted to kayak on Blueberry Lake. I wanted to soar across the sky. I wanted a summer vacation. Nothing says nostalgia like a lazy summer day and that was exactly the kind of attitude I was looking for during my vacation in Central Vermont. The grind at my corporate job was wearing me down and the last trip I planned was for a company meeting—not exactly relaxing. So, alongside my girlfriend, Katy, my plan for this trip was to not plan anything, but instead spend several unstructured days enjoying the time off, basking in summer.

We arrived at West Hill House B&B on a Monday evening. A former 1850s era farmhouse with a wide, welcoming veranda, the bed and breakfast is tucked in a hollow near the base of one of the area’s mountains. The nearest town, Warren, is just two minutes down the road. The B&B is also in the vicinity of Sugarbush Resort and Mad River Glen, with its “ski it if you can” trails. But, at West Hill House B&B, the mood is much more laid-back. With the landscaped gardens in bloom and a big red barn on the property—this place was idyllic.

Gazebos, gardens, and dreams

I’d been to West Hill House B&B once before, and our hosts, Peter and Susan, greeted me like a member of the family when Katy and I arrived. Smoky, one of the two well-mannered house cats, also welcomed me, as is his chiefly duty as General Manager.

When I was here before, it was to run a corporate strategy meeting. Then, I’d requested the Garden Room, which is accessed by a spiral staircase from the main part of the house or at ground level from the private entrance. This time, I was ready to relax and enjoy the activities I had heard about before, but didn’t get a chance to do.

Peter showed Katy and me our guest room. I was excited to see Katy’s reaction when she realized that this is not just an updated farmhouse, but a super-comfy spot to call home for a few days. Each guest room has a gas fireplace and lots of other creature comforts, like cozy robes and reading nooks. Every window framed a view of Vermont maples, green lawns sloping to ponds (there are four), gazebos (there are two) or the red barn (referred to as the Handsome Red Barn). While showing us the room, Peter also told us about the B&B’s status as a Green Hotel (TripAdvisor designated them as a Green Leader) and how everything is run on solar power. If I had a Tesla, I could have even plugged it into their dedicated EV Charging station.

We were in the Paris Suite, which had a completely different style that I’d termed “seductive luxury.” I was totally spoiled: I had a flickering gas fireplace in the bathroom for ambiance while I luxuriated in a Jacuzzi big enough for two. When night fell, I snuggled on top of the memory foam mattress and achieved maximum R&R.

To hike or not to hike

After taking my time waking up, I did my morning stretching exercises in a gazebo to the sounds of water spouting from a sculpted shorebird’s beak, while Katy waited for breakfast in a hammock reading a book from the well-stocked library.

When it was time for breakfast, we just followed the smell of maple syrup that wafted from the kitchen where Susan was cooking. Our senses led us to a formal dining table, where we sat to eat with the other guests whom Peter introduced as he poured juices. Soon we were all helping each other design the perfect summer day, and Peter, who has a Scots accent and cordial friendliness, was a font of information about area activities—hiking to summits with sweeping views; kayaking on one of the rivers; biking high-speed downhill runs at Sugarbush Resort, local events and so much more that I couldn’t remember it all. I became more and more inspired with each activity he described. Then, he excused himself to bring out three courses of homemade breakfast, which included Vermont maple syrup on blueberry pancakes and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in a shot glass for dessert.

“You’ll be able to hike all day on this full breakfast,” I teased Katy. Her goal that day was to pick up the Long Trail (about three miles from the B&B), which runs from the Canadian border to Massachusetts, so she could at least say she hiked part of the country’s oldest, long-distance trail. When Peter mentioned the 35-minute hike to Sunset Ledge, with wide-open views all the way to Lake Champlain, we agreed to go for a late afternoon hike on our last day.

One of the couples staying there were avid mountain bikers, but instead of going to Sugarbush Resort, they decided to play golf that day. The B&B is literally next door to a beautiful 18-hole course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. What swayed their decision: Peter’s description of the gorgeous views the renowned architect finessed at every tee.

I rain-checked on the Long Trail hike and instead put soaring in a glider at Sugarbush-Warren airport on my summer-fun list. Warren is said to be ideal for it, and the views were certainly amazing—looking down on the highest ski peaks, the forested hills and a patchwork of farms, green fields, red barns and lots of cows.

Before I left, Peter and I managed to convince Katy, who wouldn’t be talked out of hiking, to come with me the next day to Blueberry Lake for a day of kayaking. I told her about the clear, warm water and that it bordered Green Mountain National Forest. But our mention of the adjoining hiking trails is what really won her over. “We can take a dip in the lake to cool off,” I said gleefully.

More than guests

Our final day was Thursday and we ended up going mountain biking with the avid mountain biking couple on the Enchanted Forest Lollipop Loop. My legs were still burning when we set out for Sunset Ledge but I’m glad Katy held me to my word—the view of impossibly green valleys and mountains against the warm sunset colors was well worth the trek. Upon our return to the B&B, we enjoyed drinks on the deck, a perfect elixir to ease my muscles. I settled into a chair and felt every drop of the cool drink slide down my throat, leisurely chatting with Peter and Susan in between sips. Katy enjoyed getting the opinions of a Scotsman on the intensity of peat and smokiness of the whiskies. Meanwhile, I got the history of the circa-1850 house from Susan.

The three great-great-granddaughters of the original farm owners, the Allen family, came to stay recently and brought Susan pictures of the farmhouse. As she showed me faded black-and-white photos, she said that at least one of the sons fought in the Civil War. Killed at Gettysburg, he never came back to reclaim the scythe he left set in the crotch of a maple at the corner of the property. The handle had long since rotted away, but Susan and Peter showed the Allen sisters where the blade is still visible on both sides of the trunk.

Susan and Peter, like that maple, are deeply rooted in their property, though they’ve been Vermonters for only 10 years. Their philosophy, “We are the hosts to our guests,” is certainly reflected in everything they do. When I was planning the corporate meeting, I’d done due diligence on TripAdvisor, where 419 out of 450 reviewers rated this B&B “Excellent” (the rest rated it “Very Good”). I’d viewed photos and videos on the West Hill House B&B website, and once I met Susan and Peter, I knew I had picked the right place. I didn’t feel like a vacationer passing through. I was a guest in a home-away-from-home that would always welcome and treat me like a close friend.

Before heading home, I suggested we stop at the corner of West Hill Road to see the blade in the tree. As I looked at the blade that Mr. Allen never had the chance to come back for, I was reminded of how unexpected and short life can be. It made me even happier that I took the time to circle back to West Hill House B&B for a true getaway.

Life’s too short not to do what brings you joy, and Peter and Susan’s B&B seems to operate and thrive under that ideal.

Book your stay and enjoy new experiences with new friends.