By ANASTASIA MILLS HEALY
Two hours north of Fairfield County lie a Scottish castle and an Italianate palazzo, both pedigreed former Gilded Age “cottages” where royalty from any country would feel right at home.
Complete with turrets, gargoyles, suits of armor, and crackling fireplaces at every turn, the 1902 Blantyre entices winter guests with cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on its 100 acres, a library of 4,000 books and many overstuffed chairs in which to read them, gourmet dining, and a spa.
Blantyre doesn’t let the pesky fact of not having a pond on property get in the way of offering ice skating: They flood their four Har-Tru courts. Does cuddling under a heavy blanket while dashing through the snow in a carriage pulled by two white steeds sound enticing? How about a snow barbeque? The only bummer about the snow: You’ll have to wait until it melts if you want to arrive by helicopter.
Head to Blantyre before March 1 when it closes for renovations for a month. In exciting breaking news, the 23 accommodations at this Relais & Chateaux country house are being renovated and refreshed, marrying Old World ambience with updated amenities and chic new wallpaper, curtains, upholstery, bedding, and other soft goods. The company behind these changes is also responsible for the success of the to-the-guts renovation of the Ocean House in Watch Hill, RI.
When Blantyre reopens April 1, the spa will also be upgraded, and a new, more casual dining experience, Blantyre Bistro, will debut–with a bar–to fashion a more lively space. For those who appreciate the formal dining for which Blantyre has been known, that tradition will continue at The Conservatory at Blantyre, which will have an outdoor dining terrace overlooking tiered lawns.
Blantyre: 16 Blantyre Road, Lenox, MA; 413/637-3556; blantyre.com. The resort welcomes children ages 12 and up (unless a guest books the entire property) and dogs under 35 pounds.
What about the Italian palazzo? That would be Wheatleigh, built as a wedding present for the daughter of a railroad magnate in 1893 when she became Countess de Heredia. Muted colors and expansive views over grounds—including a lake–laid out by none other than Frederick Law Olmsted produce immediate calm in this grand edifice modeled on a 16th century Florentine palace.
To name drop some more, the resort has original Tiffany stained glass windows, and the Berkshires’ man of this summer, Leonard Bernstein, stayed here when it was the summer quarters for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Lenny’s room was the two-floor Aviary, where guests can doze off in the treetops like the birds that once inhabit the space. The claim to fame of the aptly named Terrace Suite is its 40-foot private portico. With only 19 guest rooms, Wheatleigh is one of the smallest members of The Leading Hotels of the World.
The property’s 22 acres have plenty of ideal sledding hills and children are welcome, so bring the family and borrow a sled or snow shoes. The slopes of Butternut and Catamount are nearby, and the hotel can arrange ice fishing in Stockbridge.
Chef Jeffrey Thompson’s modern French cuisine–think wild Burgundy snails and smoked salmon quiche–is fitting for this property, which is punctuated by tasteful contemporary art. Wheatleigh has a decidedly more current feel than Blantyre, a situation that could possibly change once the latter’s renovation is unveiled.
Wheatleigh: Hawthorne Road, Lenox, MA; 413/637-0610; wheatleigh.com
Superlative Nearby Wellness Options
Lenox is home to a Mecca for yoga practioners and one of the world’s best-known spas. Both offer day passes as well as accommodations.
One of the foremost yoga training centers in the country, the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health presents classes on mindfulness, meditation, Ayurveda, creative expression, spirituality, self-discovery, and healthy living in addition to many forms of yoga. Winter options include “Snowshoeing and Yoga” and “Nature and Mindfulness in the Winter Woods,” a joint outdoor exploration with Mass Audubon.
297 West St., 413/448-3152, www.kripalu.org, day pass $125.
The 100,000-square-foot spa is a pampering retreat where guests can while away the day in the indoor pool, sauna, steam room, whirlpool, and salon. Add to that 40 classes a day; an indoor running track; tennis courts; studios for cycling dance, yoga, and Pilates; cardio and weight rooms; as well as racquetball, squash, and basketball courts, and you have quite a lot of decisions to make about how to spend your time. Many Canyon Ranch devotees however find all of these bells and whistles distractions. They come for personalized health care assessments from medical professionals and guidance about everything wellness related, from nutrition and disease prevention to stress management and brain fitness.
165 Kemble St., 413/637-4100, 800/743-9000 for reservations, www.canyonranch.com/lenox, day pass $370.
It is not too early to plan for the summer peak cultural season in the Berkshires, a destination Travel + Leisure voted one of the “50 Best Places to Travel in 2018.” This season Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer residency, is honoring Leonard Bernstein and there are many marquee names involved, from Yo-Yo Ma and Midori to James Taylor and Audra McDonald. Tickets are on sale now.
America’s longest-running international dance festival, Jacob’s Pillow is a National Historic Landmark that presents a dizzying array of exciting, world-class performances. Tickets go on sale April 2.
Each summer the Williamstown Theater Festival presents 400 theater artists in productions ranging from classical to cutting edge, plus late night cabarets and other special programs. Tickets go on sale April 3.
Some of the best summer Shakespeare in the country is performed by Shakespeare & Company in a mix of indoor and outdoor theaters. Tickets go on sale March 7.
This summer the Norman Rockwell Museum’s special exhibition is “Keepers of the Flame: Parrish, Wyeth, Rockwell and the Narrative Tradition,” which connects American illustration and legendary artists Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth, and Norman Rockwell to European painters. It’s a thrill to see the museum’s permanent collection (open year round) of iconic works by this American treasure.
Works by other well-known American artists such as Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent, plus a strong French Impressionist collection await visitors to the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown.
The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art has cavernous gallery spaces (it’s the largest contemporary art museum in the United States) that this summer feature exhibitions by artists Laurie Anderson, Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Holzer, and Robert Rauschenberg. The KidSpace gallery will be curated by Sally Taylor, the daughter of James Taylor and Carly Simon, and will include new music by both of her parents.