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A Tank Away

The perfect cure for congestion

Natural beauty, elegant inns, fine dining, and more

By Ellen Albanese
Globe Correspondent / May 18, 2011

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WOODSTOCK, Conn. -- In 1846 native son Henry Bowen, who had made his fortune in dry goods, built a summer cottage in Woodstock so that he and his family could escape the stifling heat and congestion of New York City. The green pastures and rolling hills that nourished the Bowen family for 122 years at Roseland have not changed very much. Along scenic Route 169 visitors today still see farms, orchards, and nurseries. The town’s agricultural past and present are celebrated in the annual Woodstock Fair (www.woodstockfair.com), held every Labor Day weekend at the fairgrounds in the town center. Beyond the town’s natural beauty, visitors will find elegant and historic inns, fine dining, and plenty to do, all at a comfortable, leisurely pace.

STAY

With some 8,000 residents, Woodstock may have more historic, distinctive lodgings per capita than any other town in Connecticut. Colorful gardens surround the Inn at Woodstock Hill (94 Plaine Hill Road, 860-928-0528, www.woodstockhill .net, $160-$260). The main house, which dates from 1816, has 18 rooms, each with private bath; there’s also a three-bedroom cottage on the property. Just down the road the Mansion at Bald Hill (29 Plaine Hill Road, 860-974-3456, www.mansion atbaldhill.com, $140-$230) features magnificent hazelwood paneling, floor-to-ceiling built-in china cabinets, and pocket doors in its first-floor common areas, along with six elegant guest rooms. Innkeeper Mary Beth Gorke-Felice has added some whimsy to the Elias Child House (50 Perrin Road, 860-974-9836, www.eliaschild house.com/, $125-$150), which dates from 1714. Along with nine fireplaces, two walk-in cooking hearths, and a beehive oven, you’ll find an “indoor outhouse,’’ or privy, now part of a screened porch. Another privy forms the base of a coffee table in the keeping room. Bed & Breakfast at Taylor’s Corner (880 Route 171, 860-974-0490, www.taylors bb.com, $130-$155) has three guest bedrooms with queen beds, private baths, and working fireplaces. Antique furniture and wide-board floors decorate this 18th-century house listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

DINE

The Inn at Woodstock Hill (lunch $12-$20, dinner $18-$40) and the Mansion at Bald Hill (dinner $18-$32) both offer fine dining (see STAY). For a ploughman’s lunch or afternoon tea, try Mrs. Bridges’ Pantry (292 Route 169, 860-963-7040, www.mrsbridgespantry .com, lunch $3-$8.25). The cozy tearoom and gift shop, whose motto is “carpe tea-um,’’ features desserts such as treacle and jammy tarts and sells 200 varieties of tea, along with such British staples as creamed rice, powdered custard, and pickled cockles. From the street, Sweet Evalina’s Stand (688 Route 169, 860-928-4029, $3-$10.50) looks like a smallish takeout joint, but there’s also inside seating and a sizable dining room overlooking Joy Pond. The menu covers favorites from chili dogs to pizza to seafood, and the pies are homemade. Sherwood’s Restaurant & Bar (35 Route 171, 860-963-2080, $7-$22) is a pleasant, airy pub with the bar separated from the dining room. According to our waitress, patrons come for the friendly service, reasonable prices, and the ribs.

DURING THE DAY

You could spend an afternoon at Roseland Cottage (556 Route 169, 860-928-4074, www.historicnewengland.org/historic-properties/homes/roseland-cottage, June 1-Oct. 15, $8 adults). The 1846 home of the Bowen Family with its lush gardens is known locally as the Pink House for the various shades of rose that have covered it over the years. We were fascinated by the wall covering in the first-floor rooms. Called “lincrusta,’’ it’s a dense, flexible material similar to linoleum, created to imitate leather and intricately carved in floral and other patterns. A guide will lead you through the house, pointing out how it has evolved (it was occupied by a member of the Bowen family until 1968). Don’t miss the bowling alley in the carriage house. Across the street, Roseland Park (200 Roseland Park Road, 860-963-9557), with 60 acres of wooded land and waterfront along Roseland Lake, is open to the public. From Friday through Sunday, visit the tasting room at Taylor Brooke Winery (848 Route 171, 860-974-1263, www.taylorbrooke winery.com). With just 3 acres under cultivation, it produces some 15 wines. Linda Auger, who owns the winery with her husband, Richard, said the St. Croix Rose, made in the French tradition, is a popular summer wine, and they will introduce a 100 percent Connecticut-grown merlot this fall. In good weather, meander through Palmer Arboretum (behind the Historical Society building at 523 Route 169) or hit the links at the Woodstock Golf Course & Driving Range (204 Roseland Park Road, 860-928-4130, www.woodstockgc.com), a nine-hole course that opened in 1896.

AFTER DARK

When we asked one resident what’s going on after dark in Woodstock, he said, “Do you mean besides the Board of Education meetings?’’ You can catch a country band on Friday nights at Sherwood’s Restaurant & Bar (see DINE). Otherwise, most residents head to venues in neighboring Putnam, such as Pangaea Wine Bar (132 Main St., 860-315-9042, www.pangaeawines.com) or the Bradley Playhouse (30 Front St., 860-928-7887, www.bradleyplayhouse.org). But, hey, check out the Board of Ed agenda first — you just never know.

Ellen Albanese can be reached at ellen.albanese@gmail.com.