Was Mother Nature playing a trick on us? The first day of April dawned blustery and cold, with wet, slushy snow falling thick and fast as my husband and I drove to Rhode Island to spend the weekend at the beautiful seaside Castle Hill Inn in Newport. I fully expected the raw, wicked weather to put a literal damper on our overnight trip.
How wrong I was. Instead, we discovered that Castle Hill Inn is a romantic and relaxing destination whatever the weather or season.
We bowed our heads against the elements as we walked into the inn’s beautiful main building, the circa-1875 Agassiz Mansion, which was once the summer residence of Harvard marine biologist Alexander Agassiz. No sooner had we arrived than we were invited to afternoon tea, which is complimentary for guests, and given the keys to a Superior Beach Cottage room.
We found our accommodations just down the hill from the Agassiz Mansion among a neat row of sand-hued private cottages with names like Nautilus, Telltales, and Spindrift. The guest room was a study in understated nautical décor, with whitewashed walls and vaulted ceilings, watery light blue accents and light fixtures that looked like they might have been plucked from a lighthouse. A set of French doors at the back of the cottage opened to a wooden deck overlooking a small cove tucked between two jetties, the inn’s private beach for guests.
After dropping our bags at the cottage, we headed back up the hill to the mansion to enjoy a quick drink at the packed and lively bar before taking our afternoon tea, the highlight of which was a basket of delicate French madeleines.
The mansion itself sits at the apex of a more than 40-acre property on a peninsula that stretches along Narragansett Bay. Its warm, wood-paneled walls are covered with ornately framed oil paintings and antique nautical tools including a brass sextant. Heavy antique furniture and a photograph of Agassiz at work in his laboratory (which is now the inn’s chalet) recall the place’s grand history.
Agassiz Mansion, the inn’s main building
When we returned to our cottage after tea, the wind and rain had given way to a gray, but dry, sky. So we bundled into heavy coats and rubber boots for a chilly walk along the private beach, climbing atop rocks and splashing through frothy waves. Afternoon gave way to evening, and we retreated back to the warm cottage, where I picked a book from the cottage’s well-stocked bookshelf and curled onto the couch by the fire.
Cottage guest room
Visiting during Newport Restaurant Week (coming up again March 2 through 11) was another treat, since we got to experience a three-course prix fixe menu, with two lovely amuse-bouches from executive chef Lou Rossi and his team. To save us from having to drive ourselves up to dinner (or walk in the cold weather), a car service drove us to and from our cottage. Later that night, we were lulled to sleep by the soft sound of waves crashing gently just beyond our back door.
Sunshine and a bright-blue spring sky greeted us when we woke the next morning, and though it was cold, I wrapped myself in a blanket, made myself a cup of coffee, and sat on the deck in one of its wooden rocking chairs, taking in the sparkling blue ocean that stretched out as far as I could see.
After a complimentary breakfast of the inn’s signature lobster eggs Benedict up at the mansion, we took further advantage of the good weather to explore the inn’s expansive grounds, including its sweeping lawn and grand terraces. We also visited the tiny and secluded “Grace Kelly Beach,” where the actress ducked out of sight from paparazzi and a curious public during the filming of the movie High Society a few months before she became Princess of Monaco. The hotel staff built a set of wooden stairs down to the rocky little spot just for her.
As we drove away from Castle Hill Inn in the bright sunshine, I marveled at how grateful I felt toward the wind and rain of the night before. Rather than spoil our trip to Castle Hill Inn, they had made it all the more cozy, giving me permission to cuddle, relax, read, and simply enjoy my surroundings. castlehillinn.com