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A TANK AWAY | CORNISH, MAINE

Treasure-hunt in the autumn hills

Plenty to discover: antique, bike, and apple-pick

The Cornish Inn is located downtown, the center for antique shops. The Cornish Inn is located downtown, the center for antique shops. (Tom Nangle for The Boston Globe)
By Hilary Nangle
Globe Correspondent / September 22, 2010

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Folded into the foothills of the White Mountains, Cornish is filled with architectural gems and dotted with antiques and crafts shops. The nearby rural towns of Parsonsfield, Limerick, Newfield, Brownfield, and Hiram extend the range of a visitor’s activities. The region is especially lovely in autumn, when foliage is turning and apples are ripening.

STAY
Smack-dab downtown is the delightfully old-fashioned Cornish Inn (2 High St., Cornish, 207-625-8501, www.cornishinn.com, $75-$165), a three-story gently updated classic with a wraparound porch. Rates include a self-serve continental breakfast. Midway Country Lodging (712 South Hiram Road, Cornish, 207-625-8835, www.mainemidwaylodging.com, $79-$99) is a motel-like inn, or maybe an inn-like motel. All rooms have TV, Wi-Fi, refrigerator, microwave, and phone; some have a whirlpool, VCR, or balcony and nice mountain views. The handsome, brick, Greek Revival-style Jeremiah Mason Bed & Breakfast (40 Main St., Limerick, 207-793-4858, www.jeremiahmasonhouse.com, $50-$70 with full breakfast) retains the elegance of a bygone era. Spacious, antiques-accented rooms have chandeliers, marble fireplaces, and floor-to-ceiling windows.

DINE
Krista’s Restaurant (2 Main St., Cornish, 207-625-3600, $10-$24) serves fabulous fresh fare in huge portions in its cheerful dining rooms and on a screened deck overhanging a stream. Dinner options range from burgers and salads to salmon and steak, all with a creative flourish. The menu at the Cornish Inn (2 High St., Cornish, 207-625-8501, $13-$22) changes weekly to reflect what’s locally available. Ultra-fresh seafood is served at Bay Haven Lobster Pound Two (Maple St., Cornish, 207-625-7303, $13-22), which is operated by a fishing family. Dress down and order the humongous fisherman’s platter (plan on sharing). Good food at a good price, served in a pleasant country-style dining room across from Lake Sokokis has made the Peppermill Restaurant (171 Washington St., Limerick, 207-793-2500, $8-$15) a local favorite for all meals. Heather and Gary Labbe have turned four antiques-and-treasure-filled rooms in their lovely Carpenter Gothic home into the Clipper Merchant Tea House (58 Main St., Limerick, 207-793-3500). Begin with the lavender lemonade, then opt for either lunch ($9-$13) or, even better, the indulgent high tea ($29, serves two).

DURING THE DAY
Antiques and artisans’ shops dominate genuinely quaint downtown Cornish. Cornish Trading Company (19 Main St., 207-625-8387) is a huge multi-vendor shop spread out on multiple floors of the former Masonic building. Plain and Fancy (30 Main St., 207-625-3577) specializes in American folk art. Full Circle Artisan’s Gallery (22 Main St., 207-625-7725) carries fine craft by Maine artists. Village Jewelers (Main Street, 207-625-8958) displays a drool-worthy selection of Maine gems. Evie’s Eclectic Collections (Main Street, 207-625-8916) delivers on its name, with merchandise displayed in a beautifully restored mansion. For porcelain, glass, and vintage linens, stop into Cottage Treasures (47 High Road, 207-625-2301). Poke through antiques and junktiques at Red House Antiques (53 High Road, 207-625-8322).

Soak up more old-time flavor at Willowbrook Museum Village (Main Street, Newfield, 207-793-2784, www.willowbrookmuseum.org, $9 adults), a re-created 19th-century village comprising 25 National Historic Register buildings, including two historical homes, a carriage house filled with restored beauties, a magnificent carousel, and a country store.

Pick Macintosh, Cortland, Macoun, Spencer, and Golden Delicious apples at Apple Acres Farm (363 Durgintown Road, South Hiram, 207-625-4777, www.appleacresfarm.com), then pick out some fresh-pressed cider and a slice of apple pie for a picnic. The farm also hosts a Bluegrass Festival (Saturday, rain date Oct. 2, $7 adults).

Mosey over to Parsonsfield to view the Parsonsfield-Porter Bridge, a historical 152-foot double-span covered bridge over the Ossipee River dating to 1859. Amp it up at Back Country Excursions (43 Woodward Road, Parsonsfield, 207-625-8189, www.bikebackcountry.com), with 23 miles of dedicated mountain-biking trails and a technical terrain park. Instructional and guided rides are available. Rates begin at $30 for a half-day; bikes rent for $30-$45.

AFTER DARK
Check what’s on the schedule at Stone Mountain Arts Center (695 Dug Way Road, Brownfield, 866-227-6523, www.stonemountainartscenter.com), a 200-seat performance hall where singer-songwriter Carol Noonan, the owner, brings in nationally renowned performers.

Hilary Nangle can be reached at www.MaineTravelMaven.com.