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Checking In

All feels shipshape in Dennis, where much pleases the eye

Email|Print| Text size + By Ellen Albanese
Globe Staff / July 3, 2005

DENNIS -- Leafing through a booklet of guests' comments in our spacious suite at Scargo Manor, we came across the word ''pristine." With apologies to the writer, we're stealing it, because it's the perfect word to describe this handsome sea captain's house where every wall seems freshly painted, every piece of woodwork newly polished, every window just washed.

Innkeeper Debbie Bain, who bought the house with her husband, Larry, in 2002, describes herself as ''fanatic" about cleanliness and presentation. For our money, that's fanatic in a good way.

The 1895 manor on 2 1/2 acres abutting Scargo Lake is a gem, with sunny window seats, stained glass accents, pocket doors, and ornate brickwork. The centerpiece of the front room is a built-in cabinet with a clock over the fireplace, which has rounded edges and intricate designs carved into the brick.

We stayed in the largest accommodation, the Captain Howes suite, consisting of a large sitting room, an even larger bedroom, and a spacious bath -- more than 500 square feet in all. The corner suite had eight tall, arched windows; during the day, the lace panels let in plenty of light, and at dawn we appreciated the room-darkening shades.

Decorated in burgundy, cream, and gold, the sitting room had a daybed, fireplace, coffee table, two chairs, end tables, and a large television. Colorful braided rugs covered wide floorboards painted forest green. While the inn is right on Route 6A, it is set back from the road, so there is little traffic noise. The view is of an expanse of manicured lawn, flowering shrubs, and a wide wraparound porch.

Even with a canopied king-size bed in the bedroom, there was room for a sitting area with two upholstered chairs, a vanity, a mahogany highboy, end tables, and plenty of lamps. A closet between the two rooms held a mini refrigerator stocked with bottled water and soda.

The bathroom had a tub and shower, a nice deep sink, hair dryer, and plenty of storage. Smaller rooms are equally charming. All have a private bath, though most have a shower only. The Hydrangea Room, decorated in the blue of this popular Cape Cod flowering shrub, has a skylight and view of the lake. It shares a sitting room with two other third-floor niches.

Breakfast is served from 8:30 to 9:30 in a sunny room on tables set with slate-blue damask topped with white lace. It consisted of fresh melon cut into the shape of a dory, fruit juice, and waffles one day and spinach quiche with sausage the next, along with homemade cranberry bread. The Bains were whirling dervishes, always on hand to refill coffee cups, offer advice, or give directions.

Paintings by local artists adorn the walls of the breakfast room.

''It's a twofer," said Larry. ''We help artists sell their work, and they help us decorate the inn."

Also on display in the common rooms are custom-made baskets. Everywhere, there are magazines and books about the Cape.

Much of the inn's charm lies in the details: carefully chosen antiques, a jar of sea glass on a hearth, a glass bowl of sand dollars, seashell-print paper lining bureau drawers.

It's a pleasant walk to the lakefront and the Adirondack chairs, hammock, and gazebo with wicker furniture. Guests can borrow rowboats, canoes, and bicycles or take a swim.

Roz Levine and her sister, Sandra Katz, Worcester real estate agents who found themselves at Scargo Manor after winning a weekend here at a charity auction, said they ''absolutely fell in love" with the inn.

''This place is spotless," Levine said, ''and you could not ask for more accommodating hosts."

Another perk of a stay at Scargo Manor is the fact that the inn is next door to a legendary Cape restaurant, the Red Pheasant. It's an upscale, gourmet venue with prices to match, but the food and atmosphere merit its reputation. From our table in the old barn, we could view a lighted English garden decorated with stoneware from nearby Scargo Pottery. We enjoyed an appetizer of flash-fried soft-shell crabs, followed by one of the night's special entrees, lobster and scallops ''a la nage." The lobster tail and seared sea scallop in a light herb broth with fingerling potatoes was a delicate treatment of the sweet seafood. Linzer torte with fresh strawberries and Frangelico crème brûlée capped an excellent dinner.

The Scargo Tower, about a mile away, offers a panoramic view of Scargo Lake and Cape Cod Bay beyond. The round stone structure is known as a good spot from which to view the sunset. Debbie says it's also a popular site for marriage proposals -- though the lazy romantic might want to skip the 38-step climb to the top and pop the question in the manor's lovely lakeside gazebo.

Contact Ellen Albanese at ealbanese@globe.com.

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