You may not be heading to a warm tropical beach this winter, but hey, why not make the best of what we’ve got here in New England? Think country inns — toasty as a pair of Uggs — with soaring fireplaces, views of frosty lakes or snow-dusted forests, and maybe a friendly inn dog to curl up with. Not to mention, kitchens with soups and stews (perhaps cooked on a hearth) to warm your bones after a winter walk or snowshoe hike. Grab a jigsaw puzzle or the chess board, get cuddly under a fuzzy blankie with your best travel buddy, and enjoy the best of the chilly season. If the Danes can do hygge (cozy, comfortable conviviality), so can we. Here are some top contenders in the “most cozy” category.
Castle Hill Inn, Newport, R.I.
Most people think of this classic inn — lauded by The New York Times as the “best spot in town” — as a summertime, “watch-the-sailboats-go-by” escape. After all, it sits on a 40-acre peninsula overlooking Narragansett Bay. But this century-plus-old Relais & Chateaux property is an indulgent retreat in wintertime, too. The main inn, the original 19th-century Agassiz Mansion, offers several suites with their own fireplaces; look for additional fireplaces in public spaces, like the Mansion lobby/lounge, perfect for curling up with a cup of tea and a book. And if you’re feeling like a dried-out husk of your former self, thanks to New England’s punishing winter climate, head to the inn’s spa, the Retreat at Castle Hill by Farmaesthetics (a local brand) for a soothing, moisturizing body treatment.
Best for: Couples looking for a posh escape.
Ultimate hygge moment: Spring for the firepit + s’mores package and settle in on the inn’s terrace under a pile of fleece blankets. Toast those ‘mallows to a perfect char with a backdrop of the Newport Pell Bridge, lit up at night. Need extra warmth? Add a spike to your hot chocolate or warm cider. [Note: The inn closes in January but reopens in February.]
From $435; 590 Ocean Drive, Newport, R.I.; 401-849-3800; www.castlehillinn.com
Captain David Kelley House, Centerville
If you like your getaway served with a dash of wicked good humor, this is your place. Come down for breakfast, and you’re likely to encounter “Britney Scones” or “Frank Scone-atra” serving up the inn’s signature baked goods. Or rather, one of the cast of characters created and performed by the innkeepers, in what is likely the most outrageous delivery of pastry the world has ever seen. It sprung from a battle (they call it “Scone Wars”) over which of them — Rick Garceau or Tom Nortz — served the best scone. Guests weigh in. Now it’s a thing at this six-guest-room B&B, located in the heart of Centerville on Cape Cod. Happily, every scone is a delight, featuring flavors like blueberry/banana/white chocolate. There’s not a bone-dry scone in the house.
“We’ve stayed in inns all over the world, and this one is our absolute favorite,” friends gushed about this circa 1835 Greek Revival-style, sea captain’s home. In addition to tasty three-course breakfasts that include a hot entrée (eggs Benedict with Key lime Hollandaise on Sundays), the owner-occupied inn is warm and welcoming. The house has hosted lodgers since the 1930s; the current innkeepers took it over and restored it to gleaming gorgeousness in 2009. There’s a baby grand piano and a gas fireplace in the living room lounge (in winter, guests can eat breakfast in front of the fireplace), and nice touches like bathrobes and luxury linens (plus flat-panel TVs) in guest rooms. Craigville Beach is a short walk away, as is the 1856 Country Store and Four Seas Ice Cream (open on weekends). There’s a happy vibe here, one you’ll want to hold onto as long as possible.
Best for: Couples who could use a laugh, and someone fresh to chat with.
Ultimate hygge moment: Bundling up and wandering Craigville Beach, mitten in mitten.
From $159; 539 Main St., Centerville; 508-775-4707; www.CDKhouse.com
Wolf Cove Inn, Poland, Maine
If you’re one of those “plays together/stays together” couples, this inn on the lake is a great option for you. Located on the shore of Tripp Lake in rural Poland, about 30 miles from Portland, the inn dates back to the 1890s but became an inn in the 1990s. Before that, this sprawling property was a private summer camp (home) and in the 1950s and ‘60s, it housed a restaurant called Lobsterland on the Lake. Some of the 11 guest rooms have gas fireplaces and jetted tubs and views of the lake, and you can up the cozy ante by springing for a “Romantic Getaway” package that adds sparkling wine, chocolate-covered strawberries, and breakfast in bed to your two-night stay. There’s also a standalone cabin. Some rooms are dog-friendly, so you can bring your cuddly canine along (dogs deserve a change of scenery too, no?)
The major appeal here is what’s outdoors: a frozen lake in the woods, perfect for ice skating (and very private, good to know if you’re not exactly “Disney on Ice”-worthy on skates.) Got snowshoes? Bring them along — the Poland Springs Golf Course, with groomed cart paths, is 10 minutes away. If you’re into Nordic skiing, plan to hit the network of trails at Oxbow Beer Garden, 10 minutes away. There’s even a dogsledding outfitter nearby (you’ll stay warm on the sled under heavy blankets). After a day of outdoor action, you’ll be delighted to head back to the inn and get dinner at the on-site lakeside pizzeria.
Best for: Outdoorsy types.
Ultimate hygge moment: Dashing through the snow in a horse-drawn sleigh, at nearby Carousel Horse Farm (www.chfmaine.com).
From $169; 5 Jordan Shore Drive, Poland, Maine; 207-998-4976; www.wolfcoveinn.com
The Pitcher Inn, Warren, Vt.
Want a bit of kitschy with your cozy? Choose among whimsically-themed digs at the 11-room Pitcher Inn, in Vermont’s Mad River Valley. (Sugarbush Ski Resort and Ole’s Cross Country Ski Center are a short ride away.) There’s the Trout Room (think ceramic fish, river rocks, and greenery), Mallard, Colonial, Lodge, Ski, and Mountain designs. An adjacent barn houses the dog-friendly Hayloft and Stable suites, suited for families or girlfriend getaways. The original, circa 1800s Pitcher Inn burned to the ground but the “new” (circa 1997) inn blends right in with Warren’s picturesque Main Street.
“Comfy chic” best describes the inn’s public areas. Wood-burning stoves and fireplaces are everywhere — there are 14 in all, and all but two of the guest rooms have them. Outdoors, there’s a firepit, perfect for making gourmet S’mores or enjoying a warm beverage. In the neighborhood (including neighboring Waitsfield), there’s a covered bridge (but of course), a brew pub with outdoor seating (Lawson’s Finest Liquids), and galleries galore.
Best for: Foodies and those who can appreciate over-the-top design.
Ultimate hygge moment: Enjoy a “Fire to Fork” hearth-cooked dinner at 275 Main, the inn’s fine-dining restaurant. Chef Jacob Ennis changes up the locally based menu depending on what looks good that day, but count on something hearty and warming, perhaps butternut squash soup, served from a big pot hanging in the fireplace.
From $530; 275 Main St., Warren, Vt.; 802-496-6350; www.pitcherinn.com
Admiral Peary Inn Bed & Breakfast, Fryeburg, Maine
Innkeeper Donna Pearce is like the auntie you wish you had. She may greet you with a snickerdoodle, make blueberry French toast for breakfast, and warn you to “keep it down!” if you’re getting too rowdy shooting pool in the great room. Adding to the homey vibe of this circa 1865 house: inn dogs Daisy and Gizmo, and a cat, Sasha (she’s a bit standoffish, though). “We’re as pet-friendly as you can get,” says Pearce, who’s happy to host your pooch if you confirm it with her first. There’s a big, fenced lawn out back, and a fire pit available if you’re inclined to light it up. Indoors, there’s a library, cozy nooks with comfy chairs, and the great room with a fireplace, TV (guest rooms don’t have them), and pool table. The inn is named for the Arctic explorer Admiral Robert E. Peary, and Pearce has named six of the seven guest rooms for her favorite places to travel, including Paris, Panama, Tuscany, and the Serengeti. Some of them have fireplaces or woodstoves. Beyond breakfast, the inn doesn’t offer meals, but there’s a good eatery, 302 West Smokehouse & Tavern, a short drive (or walk) away. Bustling North Conway is a 15-minute drive away.
Located just over the border from New Hampshire, in the shadow of the White Mountains, the inn is reasonably close to seven ski resorts (Shawnee Peak and Mount Cranmore are closest), plus Great Glen Trails, a draw for the skinny ski crowd. Arrange a horse-drawn sleigh ride nearby, at High View Farm in Harrison (www.high-view-farm.com).
Best for: Families, pet lovers, and those who appreciate the personal touch.
Ultimate hygge moment: You’ll remember how good it is to share food around a communal table when you gather for breakfast in the kitchen/dining room with the inn’s other guests. This place seems to draw a friendly clientele.
From $169; 27 Elm St., Fryeburg, Maine; 207-935-1269; www.admiralpearyinn.com
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org