My husband and I shared a lovely, relaxing weekend at Hillbrook Inn in late August. Having never been to the area, I have to admit, we were a bit nervous. A European-like chateau in the middle of West Virginia? We feared something tacky and Disney-like, but that's not what we found at all. Hillbrook is a lovely more than 100-year-old Tudor home with creaky floors, nooks and crannies galore. It's filled with quirky and eclectic antiques, and the owners are accessible but not in your face. We loved it. There were a few hitches that keep me from giving it five stars, but I'd still recommend it to friends without reservation.
We loved our room, the Point. We were a bit nervous about it too, as it's the cheapest room available ($169), but it was perfectly fine. (In fact, we were really glad we didn't splurge for one of the more expensive suites. They're probably more spacious, but they're not part of the original house, which leads me to believe they lack some of the character we loved.) The Point isn't large, but it was certainly large enough for us. it has a full/queen bed, a decent-sized closet and a sitting area with a table and two chairs. You have to duck when you enter it through a tiny hallway, but that's part of the charm. Because it's right above the kitchen and the office, though, we could hear commotion downstairs in the morning. It didn't bother us, but if you're sensitive about noise, it might bother you. Another thing to know: no hair dryer or ironing board. Oh, and no TV either.
Breakfast is included with your stay, which is quite a bargain. You eat whatever the chef prepares. One day we got a fruit plate and then pancakes with fresh whipped cream. Another day we got a yogurt parfait and then an omelet with sausage links. The coffee was some of the best I've had. And the breakfast room -- a solarium looking out on the grounds -- is lovely.
We decided to splurge for the $65/person five-course dinner, based mostly on the rave reviews we read on TripAdvisor. Unfortunately, we were quite disappointed with the food. The dining experience, however, was wonderful. You eat in the home's lovely dining room. Think dark wood, high ceilings, candles. It feels very romantic and intimate, and indeed it is! The night we were there, there were five tables of two and one table of five. I doubt they could ever fit more than that. The food, though, was not what I expected for $65/person. First course: a spinach-pastry something-or-other topped with a deliciously tart sauce -- the whole thing was surprising, interesting and good. No complaints about this course. Second course: a simple salad with parmesan cheese. Really? A salad? That feels like cheating. Third course: penne with a light white sauce. It was fine. And it was homemade. But a basic pasta? That's not a particularly interesting culinary experience, if you ask me. Fourth course: filet mignon with asparagus. It tasted good, but again, this isn't what we expect of a restaurant that calls itself gourmet. FIfth course: for dessert, a chocolate cake. Again, good, but gourmet? No. If we had to make the choice again, we'd eat about five minutes away in Charles Town, where there was a restaurant called Dish that looked to have similarly fresh, simple, good foods, but much cheaper.
The grounds: There's enough space for a nice walk, but not enough for a run. We had a nice time lounging on a hammock. We were also very excited about the life-size chess game, but we were disappointed to realize so many pieces were missing that it was impossible to play.
Stuff to do: We mostly enjoyed a lazy weekend, but we also trekked to Harper's Ferry (about 20 minutes away) and went riving tubing on the Shenandoah (about 10 minutes away).