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Buttermilk Falls Inn and Spa

by Irvina Lew

Nov 18, 2019

Colin Young | Dreamstime.com


“Over the river and through the woods…” are lyrics that remind me of leaf-peeping season, Thanksgiving reunions and snowy school holidays. The words came to mind as I drove into Buttermilk Falls Inn and Spa, a privately owned country inn on a 75-acre riverfront estate in the Hudson Valley. The bucolic retreat in the historic hamlet of Milton, New York, is an inviting destination that appeals as much to families — who can stroll the grounds, cross the Walkway Over the Hudson State Park (four miles away) or hike the woods — as it does couples and multigenerational families who like the fact that some may prefer to stay put and spa, while others visit shops and art venues in the small towns sprinkled throughout the valley.


We entered via the north entrance, where the beautifully landscaped road led to a parking area and parts of the 40-acre working Millstone Farm. I spotted some of the animals in the animal sanctuary — llamas, alpacas and angora goats — an impressively large kitchen garden and an enormous red barn (a popular wedding and event venue). Beyond them, there was the appealing North Cottage, one of the four stand-alone accommodations. There’s more I missed seeing: the heritage chickens, which supply eggs, the miniature donkeys, peacocks and the apiary with beehives.

Two-tiered falls on Buttermilk Creek in Buttermilk Falls State Park. Photo: Colin Young | Dreamstime.com


Following road signs to the Inn and Spa, we drove on the wooden bridge over the magnificent Swann Pond, on a road through the estate, with its towering trees, green lawns and still-flowering shrubs. It led to a small complex, including the historic main house. We arrived along with a biking group from Manhattan, some 70 miles down river, whose leader was delighted to learn all of their bags would be delivered to their rooms.


The Buttermilk Falls property dates to 1684, includes a land grant in 1694, and the construction of the main house in 1764. An authentic segment of that original stone structure appears in a hallway leading to the large living room; other historic elements, such as a stone chimney, are visible in some of the 10 rooms within the building. Even the low doorframes and narrow staircase nearby showcase typical 18th-century architectural elements.


Each of the accommodations has a gas fireplace, air conditioning, flat-screen televisions, robes, hair dryer and a country view. Two newly redecorated suites are furnished in contemporary décor with soft greys. One, the Gindele Suite, is family-friendly with a sitting area, separate small room with a sleep sofa (and glorious view), a galley kitchen and a nicely sized bedroom, with comfy reading chairs.


The freestanding spa is located in a solar-powered, stone-and-glass contemporary structure, not far from the fitness facility (and across from a nail salon). Next to the pool, one windowed wall overlooks a wooded hillside down to the Hudson River. From the large reception space, with its Babor cosmetics and Jurlique beauty products, guests walk fully dressed through the indoor pool area to reach a short hallway that connects the pool and the six treatment rooms; that’s where the two changing rooms are located. The women’s changing room houses a shower, toilet, about 16 lockers and a mirror-topped counter with sinks. Guests wait for services on chaises in the pool area, which also houses a sauna and steam room. While waiting, I noticed a trio lunching at a poolside table (Henry’s at the Farm, the restaurant, delivers light lunches); later, when room service delivered a carafe of wine, they popped out of the pool. I spent some time on the outside balcony until it was time to move indoors to await my practitioner; Kara, the masseuse, provided a really super massage. At my request, a take-out basket of housemade mini pastries from afternoon tea — which takes place every afternoon 3–5 p.m. — was delivered to me at the pool.


Food is a major component of the Buttermilk experience and our dinner at Henry’s took place in a modern, high-ceilinged space with rustic barn wood tables and wine jug lighting fixtures. The menu clearly states which seasonal fruits, herbs and vegetables — from A, for apples, to Z, for zucchini — are grown on the estate’s organic farm, and it lists about a dozen neighboring and local Hudson Valley farms that practice environmentally sound agriculture. Each locally sourced menu item is marked with the inn’s distinctive little llama logo. We ordered a Hudson Valley dish — Timbale with grilled eggplant, Portobello mushrooms, tomato and roasted peppers with goat cheese — and Thai Chicken Wingswith a sweet sesame glaze.


The next night, a rainy early October Thursday, at 6ish, we decided to go back to Henry’s (it’s named for the owner’s son) a second time. The restaurant was totally booked; so, we were invited to eat at the bar, where we couldn’t resist the burgers. We had each pined for one the first night and were pleased we tried them.


At breakfast, in the windowed sun room that opens to a brick terrace leading down to the river, the buffet included cereal, pastries and blackboard specials, including omelets made with the on-site farm’s fresh eggs.


The farm also supplies Frida’s Bakery Café in Milton, a sister venue. En route home, we stopped at the café, which the owner named for his daughter and found a Cheers kind of hangout with a dining room and a big back porch. At the counter, there were freshly prepared salads, wraps, baked salmon (or smoked), soups and an abundance of pastries.


Milton is within easy driving distance of the New York Thruway, Stuart Airport and the Poughkeepsie railroad station. It’s within an easy drive to visit orchards, wineries, the Culinary Institute of America, the birthplace of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Storm King Art Center, Francis Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College and historic New Paltz.


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