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Sunshine warms even the scones in Rockport

Email|Print| Text size + By Ellen Albanese
Globe Staff / November 6, 2005

ROCKPORT -- The good news is that Tobey Shepherd's scones are as delectable as the regular guests at the Linden Tree Inn say they are. The bad news is that the secret to their scrumptiousness, by Shepherd's own admission, is copious butter and heavy cream.

''This is not a place to come if you're dieting," she said.

The Linden Tree has 18 rooms. Twelve bedrooms are in the 1850 Italianate Victorian main house on a quiet, residential street. A two-bedroom attached family suite has a private entrance, and four efficiency units are in the carriage house. The location, just a few blocks from the beach and Bearskin Neck, is ideal. Shepherd and her husband, John, a native of Britain, promise ''Anglo-American hospitality," which includes complimentary dinners for guests on Christmas, Boxing Day (a British holiday celebrated the day after Christmas), and New Year's Day.

In the inn's sunny, high-ceilinged living room with a bay window facing the street, guests can watch a large television or select from a wide assortment of classic games, such as Risk, Sorry, Clue, and Monopoly. Pictures of the Shepherds from childhood to the present, on the mantel and in the stairwells, add a personal touch. In the foyer, we found menus from local restaurants and a well-stocked rack of brochures about area attractions. When we arrived, Tobey gave us a map of Rockport and offered suggestions for walks and drives.

Our room in the carriage house was long and narrow, with sliders at one end opening onto a private deck just big enough for two; unfortunately the plastic chairs were in need of cleaning. The room had one queen and one twin bed, a television, two upholstered chairs, and a dinette table with four chairs. There were two air conditioners, which seemed generous for the size of the room. The kitchenette had a sink, compact refrigerator, microwave, stove with two burners, coffeemaker, toaster, dishes, flatware, some basic pans and cooking utensils, and lots of cabinet space. The well-lighted bathroom had a vanity, tub, and shower; we liked the retractable clothesline in the tub enclosure. (The housekeeping was not as attentive as we would have liked; our bed was made up, but the bathroom was not cleaned and wastebaskets were not emptied.)

Breakfast was a convivial, if slightly crowded, affair, with guests serving themselves from a buffet that included fresh fruit, orange juice, coffee, raisin bread, mini bagels, cereal, granola, scones, and a hot entree. We had broccoli and cheese quiche one day and a Swiss cheese-and-egg strata the next. Sections of the daily newspaper were passed freely among the tables. Some guests chose to eat in a sunny enclosed porch decorated in blue and white, settling into comfortable wicker chairs.

Two guests from Germany headed for an outside deck in the warm, Indian summer weather. College friends Svenja Muehlbach and Andrea Sieber heard of the inn from other German travelers they met in New Hampshire's White Mountains. Because of the Linden Tree's proximity to Boston, they decided to stay here rather than at a Boston hotel before their return home after a two-week visit to New England. Muehlbach said she liked the ''welcoming, family feeling" of the inn.

''It would be unusual in Germany to visit with other guests over breakfast," she said.

The Shepherds bought the inn in 2002. Tobey was a pediatric nurse looking for a change, and John continues to teach at Bentley College. Both love Rockport, and when the inn came on the market, Tobey said, ''we found a place to live and a place to work." She said the building has served as some type of lodging since the 1920s.

Unlike many lodgings in the area, the Linden Tree is open year-round. John said he and Tobey plan to create meeting space for hosting more small business or civic groups, especially off season.

All rooms have private baths and queen, king, or twin beds. A charming third-floor room offers twin beds tucked in the alcoves, while another room features a tiny private deck. A guest refrigerator is on the second-floor landing.

Tobey led me up narrow stairs to the cupola, which affords a view over treetops and church steeples to the ocean. Binoculars and a telescope are provided. Sitting up there with the sun on her face, she looked supremely content.

''When we walked into the inn for the first time," she said, ''I knew this was it, this is where we wanted to be."

Contact Ellen Albanese at ealbanese@globe.com.

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