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October 2019 / Travel / by Becky Pomfret

Falling for New England

New England conjures images of picket fences, Anne of Green Gables and stunning coastal reaches. Covering six states, it’s impossible to see it all in one holiday, but Relais & Châteaux’s various properties offer one way to pack in some sights, and to do so in style.

We land in Boston early in the evening and drive the short distance to Lexington, where we check in to our cute and cosy room in The Inn at Hastings Park – the perfect pitstop for weary travellers. Built in the 19th century, the Inn has been lovingly and sympathetically refurbished with locally sourced wallpaper and furniture, along with modern touches like Smeg fridges in the suites. Bathrooms are stocked with full-size Molton Brown products, which is a welcome nod to being that little bit more environmentally-friendly. Service here feels very personal: I’m told that when parents and their children use the hotel as a stop-over for visiting Harvard, staff will leave a university baseball cap on the bed. The hotel’s restaurant, Town Meeting, also acts as a community hub offering cooking classes and wine-tasting sessions.

You can’t stay in Lexington without taking a historical, guided trolley tour with Liberty Ride, so on our first morning we climb aboard the quaint tram and set off on a 90-minute ride around the area, accompanied by our very knowledgeable and funny tour guide, Marsha. We discover so much about the history of the region, learning about the Battle of Lexington and Concord as well as about life in Colonial America, and specifically New England. The highlight for me, though, is seeing the home of Louisa May Alcott, where she wrote Little Women – it quite turned my brain.

Sadly, we leave pretty Lexington all too quickly, but we are excited to make our way to the USA’s smallest state, Rhode Island, and our next stop, Ocean House Hotel. This historical building in Watch Hill was recently rebuilt, almost brick by brick, with phenomenally respectful attention to detail. It is beautiful and charming in a quietly elegant way, and offers fabulous views over the Atlantic Ocean. Check-in is swift and professional, and the friendly staff are all passionate about the hotel and its history. The room, when we get to it, is huge, with the deepest bath I’ve ever seen. Every day when we return, we discover little personal touches: a lens cloth next to my glasses, a screen cleaner by the laptop, lavender salts for the bath, a bookmark next to my book. These small details make the stay truly memorable.

The exterior of the hotel is stunning, with a wrap-around terrace for dining al fresco and a pristine croquet lawn where you can take a private lesson with world pro croquet player, Stephen Morgan (aka Croquet Steve). Inside there is a swimming pool and world-class spa, as well as the Center for Wine & Culinary Arts, where we are lucky enough to be cooked for by Chef Tim Meyers. The fine weather means we are able to take a yacht trip around the harbour with Barton & Gray Mariners Club (thesecan be arranged by the hotel) and we are treated to an entertaining couple of hours looking at the beautiful boats in the harbour and sampling the excellent local wine. Some of the properties here are spectacular – we can’t help but gawp at Taylor Swift’s huge home!

The weather turns the next day, so we borrow one of the hotel’s Mercedes to take a drive around the area. We enjoy a stunning dinner at sister hotel and restaurant The Weekapaug Inn, situated on Quonochontaug Pond. The Pond House Dining Experience offers ‘pond-to-plate’ or ‘pasture-to-plate’ specialities paired with Louis Roederer Champagne. The horizontal rain means we aren’t able to eat outside, but the food is divine, nonetheless. Indeed, the hotel feels all the cosier in the inclement weather. Offering many opportunities to go fishing and clamming, it would be the perfect base for families who enjoy the outdoors. There is even an on-site naturalist who can take guests out on the pond (which is bigger than Central Park) returning them to a warming hot chocolate in front of an open fire.

The next and final stop on our whirlwind New England tour is Nantucket Island, a tiny, isolated island off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. To my jaded London eyes, Nantucket Town resembles a model village. On arrival by ferry (top tip: get in the queue early to grab front seats for the best view), it’s striking how different the architectural style here is to that in the UK. The natural habitat is the number one priority here and any building work has to be approved by the local Historical Society; 70 per cent of the land on the island can’t be built on in response to a bid to preserve the habitat. There are consequently miles of gloriously empty beaches and quiet country roads.

The Wauwinet - New England

Our new home is The Wauwinet, a short drive from the centre of town. As Nantucket’s only member of Relais & Châteaux hotels, the hotel is known worldwide for its outstanding service and cuisine, and has recently undergone a multi-million-dollar renovation. Accommodation is offered in luxury rooms and quaint cottages, offering impressive views of Nantucket Bay, where the spectacular sunsets are very Instagram-worthy. We spend our first evening dining on Wagyu beef and lobster rolls at Topper’s Restaurant, before sleeping like babies in our rose-covered cottage.

Nantucket Town is a pottering sort of place: we pass happy hours popping in and out of the myriad high-end boutiques and spend time yacht-spotting from harbourside restaurant CRU, whilst sipping on delicious ‘Crucomber’ cocktails and tucking into local fish dishes. A quick visit to Nantucket’s fascinating Whaling Museum, where you can learn about the history of the region as a 19th century whaling hub, is well worth the time, too.

Our final adventure, a Great Point natural history tour, takes us on a four-wheel drive safari of the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge at the northernmost point of the island. We are the only people on the beach there, and delightedly watch playful and curious seals frolicking in the water. It’s lovely to see how protected nature is on the island – we can only access a small part of the sand dunes here because five miles of them are closed in order to protect a pair of nesting birds.

Holiday sadly over, we take a hair-raising but mercifully quick internal flight back to Boston in a nine-seater plane, distracting ourselves from the apparent perils with plans for a return visit, soon.

Rates for The Inn at Hastings Park start from $325 per night on a room only basis, including complimentary in room mini-bar and daily resort activities (innathastingspark.com)

Rates at Ocean House start from $415 a night for a double room on a room only basis, including complimentary in room mini-bar and daily resort activities (oceanhouseri.com)

Rates at The Wauwinet start from $195 per night for a double room on a room only basis (wauwinet.com)