Tucked away in southeastern Vermont’s Windham County, Townshend has quietly gone about its business since 1753, when it was chartered as one of the New Hampshire Land Grants. Named after British politician Charles Townshend, whose tax initiative prompted Boston’s biggest tea party, this quintessential New England town charms visitors with its natural beauty, including rolling hills, a state park with hiking trails, a gorgeous town green, and a lake. Original farmsteads dot the countryside, along with a historic covered bridge, antiques stores, and modern shops, including a fabulous smokehouse-country store. While most of tranquil Townshend inspires one to unplug, those who feel the need to shake things up a little will appreciate that bustling Brattleboro lies only 17 miles away and the nearby resorts of Stratton Mountain, Bromley Mountain, and Mount Snow offer all sorts of alpine adventure.
Situated on the Townshend green, The Old Brick Tavern
(1 Common Road, 802-365-7621, www.oldbricktavern.com, $170) is a homey yet well-appointed B&B with two lovely rooms, each with a queen bed and private bath. Rooms come with a full hot breakfast, such as spicy corned beef hash with poached eggs served on antique china. Also on the green you’ll find Boardman House
(10 Common Road, 802-365-4086,
.vtchamber.com/lodging/boardmanhouse , $70-$120), a 19th-century, Greek Revival-style farmhouse with four simple rooms and one suite, each with a private bath. Up the road, set on 160 acres overlooking the Green Mountains, the elegant Windham Hill Inn (311 Lawrence Drive, 800-944-4080, www.windhamhill
.com, $255 and up) pampers guests with 21 beautifully appointed guest rooms with breakfast, afternoon tea, and a sunset cheeseboard included in the price.
You can’t visit Townshend without stopping into Townshend Dam Diner (5929 Route 30, 802-874-4107). With its booths and old-time spinning counter stools, lively chatter from the staff and regulars, and casual family feel, the diner features made-from-scratch breads and baked goods, stuffed omelets, homemade soups, house-roasted turkey, pork, and beef lunches and dinners. In nearby Jamaica, you’ll find specialty coffee drinks, baked goods, and light lunches at Jamaica Coffee House (3863 Main St., 802-874-4643, most sandwiches $7.25). For dinner, Asta’s Swiss Inn (3894 Main St., Jamaica, 802-874-8000, entrees $18-$35) specializes in traditional Swiss specialties, like wiener schnitzel and grilled knackwurst and bratwurst with crisp, shredded potato rosti, all served in an elegant dining room with white tablecloths and an impressive wine list (many Austrian wines). At the Windham Hill Inn (see above), you’ll find upscale New England cuisine in the form of two seasonally inspired menus, with four or six courses ($60-$80), served in a pretty little dining room overlooking a small pond.
DURING THE DAY
Shoppers will appreciate the boutiques and antiques shops sprinkled throughout the area, including Taft Hill Collection Gift Store (1096 Vermont Route 30, 802-365-4200,
www.tafthill.com), selling furniture, linens, and housewares, including various glasses and bowls hand-painted with flowers. Twitchell House Antiques
(2568 Route, 30, 802-365-9224, www.twitchellhouse
.com) has rooms full of treasures ranging from linens and vintage jewelry to furniture and old kitchen tools. Lawrence’s Smoke Shop & Country Store (653 Route 30, 802-365-7372, www.lawrencessmokeshop.com) has delectable smoked meats (sausage, bacon, chicken and duck breasts), smoked cheeses (try the smoked mozzarella), various maple products, and crafts. Nearby, Grafton Village Cheese (56 Townshend Road, Grafton, 800-472-3866, www.graftonvillagecheese.com) sells aged and flavored cheddars, along with various cow and sheep’s milk cheeses, including Eweden Apple Pie, a sheep and cow’s milk cheese seasoned with holiday spices and marinated in Eden Ice Cider. Photographers and outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the area’s natural and man-made attractions, beginning with Scott Covered Bridge (on Route 30). Built in 1870, it’s the longest single-span covered bridge in the state, arching over West River below Townshend Dam. Hikers can climb Bald Mountain in Townshend State Park (2755 State Forest Road, 802-365-7500, www.vtstateparks.com/htm/townshend.htm ) for panoramic views or follow the trails in Jamaica State Park (48 Salmon Hole Lane, Jamaica, 802-874-4600, www.vtstateparks.com/htm/jamaica.htm) to Hamilton Falls, considered one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state.
Since hunting season has begun in Vermont, be cautious when hiking and wear bright colors such as orange, especially in Townshend from Nov. 10-25
(rifle season) and Dec. 1-9 (muzzle-loader season).
Townshend becomes quiet at night, which is part of its charm. However, if you’re looking for more than curling up with a good book at your inn, head to Phelps Barn Pub, a carriage house tavern inside The Grafton Inn (92 Main St., Grafton, 800-843-1801, www.graftoninnvermont.com), which has live music on Saturday nights. Alternatively, enjoy a post-prandial drink near a crackling fire at the nearby Three Mountain Inn (30 Depot St., Jamaica, 802-874-4140, www.threemountaininn.com).