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Couples’ Getaway at the Berkshires’ Apple Tree Inn

by Barbara Rogers

Jul 15, 2022

© Sharon Oakes | Dreamstime.com

North America

The Berkshire Hills in western Massachusetts, like Newport, Rhode Island, were the summer playground of ultra-wealthy New York and Boston families. These families built mansions just as grandiose and lavishly decorated as those in Newport, and for a few weeks each summer, Lenox and surrounding towns became the hub of upper-crust society. Today, many of these mansions have become inns that are perfect destinations for couples or family travelers.


Not all these Gilded Age summer mansions were as grand as Ventfort Hall (which you can visit) or as pretentious as Bellefontaine, now the home of Canyon Ranch. One of the smaller ones (smaller being a relative term) sits grandly overlooking manicured lawns just outside the center of Lenox. Apple Tree Inn is a three-story, bungalow-style “cottage” built in the late 1800s, at the height of the Gilded Age.


As we entered, it was easy to imagine ladies in feathered hats and sumptuous gowns being served formal afternoon tea here. But the atmosphere now is relaxed and welcoming, with upholstered chairs set in conversation groups in place of a lobby. Hosts step out to greet guests instead of standing behind a reception desk, all registration having been completed online in advance.


Guestrooms, on the second and third floors, reflect the mansion’s era, but not its age. The flowered wallpapers, gauze drapes, antique iron or brass beds and working fireplaces maintain the feel of a late 19th-century country house, while modern amenities — queen- and king-sized beds with Frette linens, bedside reading lights and modern bathrooms — meet the expectations of 21st-century travelers.


In the second-floor Orchard Room, full-length glass doors open onto a large balcony overlooking an almost 180-degree scene of lawns, trees, wooded hills and the rolling skyline of mountains in the distance. The table and two chairs invite a bottle of wine and an hour or so of watching the change of light as the sun sinks lower into evening.


Dinner and cocktails are served in the Ostrich Room, a reminder this was indeed a grand mansion where elite guests were once entertained. The dark wood paneling and high ceiling give the room the feel of the great hall in a baronial estate, although the mix of dining tables and comfortable lounge chairs today give it a more inviting, club-like feel.


The menu mixes bar bites with dinner entrees and includes a cheese board with cured meats, olives and fruits, as well as lighter dishes like crab cakes and seared tuna. Braised short rib, filet mignon, grilled wild salmon and ribeye chimichurri are heartier entrees.


There is a curious contrast between the homey comfort of the inn’s guestrooms, with flowered wallpapers and antique glass ornaments, and its restaurant’s QR code-only menu. Even when requested, there are no paper menus available, so don’t leave your phone to charge in your room when you go to dinner.


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