Observing the Plain People in fancy comfort Pennsylvania: B&Bs in Lancaster County make great bases from which to see Amish country.

June 21, 1998|By Thomas Fletcher | Thomas Fletcher,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Think of the Amish and most people think of Lancaster County, Pa. Here you will see these "Plain People" in their distinctive dress: the men in beards, broad-brimmed hats and black clothes; the women in their bonnets and long dresses, which are often green or purple, but always covered with black aprons. Eschewing modern conveniences, the Amish farm using horses, mules and equipment from a bygone era to work the land. Transportation is by horse and buggy. Electrical power and telephones are not found in their homes.

There is a natural fascination with a group that can live side by side with modern society while maintaining such a distinctive lifestyle. And that may be one reason the Lancaster area ranks among the top 10 visited areas in the United States.

Lancaster County offers a variety of accommodations, but among the most enjoyable are its bed and breakfast establishments. B&Bs give more flavor to the location; one feels more a part of an area.

The owners live in the area, so they are able to direct guests to areas of interest. Some, like our hostess at Swiss Woods, will arrange for guests to dine with an Amish family - the food was excellent and the conversation most intriguing.

Among the choices:

* Right on the edge of Lancaster is the King's Cottage. This Spanish Mission-style structure seems just a little out of place in Lancaster. It was constructed in 1913 as a private residence, but now features nine guest rooms, each with private bath. The Carriage House behind the main inn features a Jacuzzi for two, fireplace and king-size canopy bed. The rates include breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cordials, and range from $90 to $160.

* Just across the street is O'Flaherty's Dingledein House. This Dutch colonial home has five rooms for rent, three with private bath. There are several common areas. This is a very homey place. Guests can be provided with a map and taped audio tour of the area. The rates range from $70 to $95.

* Set on 3 1/2 acres along the Conestoga River is the Gardens of Eden Bed & Breakfast. Built in 1867, it has been featured in several national magazines, including Country Inns and Country Decorator. Innkeepers Marilyn and Bill Ebel have printed a list of more than 140 species of flora and fauna found on the grounds. The inn has three rooms for rent in the main building and the separate Beecher Cottage. Rates: $75 to $110.

* Flowers & Thyme was built in 1941 by an Amish carpenter for a Mennonite family. This B&B has three rooms for rent, all with private bath. In a country setting a mile from U.S. 30, it's just minutes from the main attractions of Lancaster County. Rates: $65 to $95.

* The Apple Bin Inn Bed & Breakfast has apples for its theme, right down to an apple-shaped wooden checker set crafted by owner Barry Hershey. The inn's structure is more than 120 years old and first served the community as a general store. There are four rooms for rent. A fifth, the Carriage House, is to open soon. All rooms have a private bath, telephone and television. The Cabin in the Woods, made of rough-cut lumber and with a separate entrance, has more privacy. Rooms rent for $95. The Carriage House will rent for $135.

* The town of Lititz was founded by the Moravians as a closed community in 1756. Here you can smell chocolate from the Wilbur Chocolate Factory. In the Historic District is the Alden House Bed & Breakfast, a brick Victorian built in 1850. Three large porches provide space for guests to relax. There are five rooms for rent with rates from $85 to $105 in summer, $85 to $120 in winter.

* Overlooking Amish farms near the town of Akron sits the Boxwood Inn. This stone farmhouse was built in 1768. Dick and June Klemm bought the property in 1991, hired an architect to design the renovations and opened for business in January 1993. There are four rooms and the Carriage House for rent, all with private bath. Rates range from $85 to $135 weekdays, $90 to $145 weekends. While in Akron, stop by Martin's Pretzels and watch the Mennonites hand-making pretzels.

* Out in the country, one finds Swiss Woods. The wooden beams, the hand-crafted furniture, the huge sandstone fireplace, the Swiss chocolates - it could be a Swiss chalet in the Alps. Located on 30 wooded acres overlooking Speedwell Forge Lake, this has seven rooms available, each with private bath. Rates: $88 to $145.

* The Inn at Mount Hope was opened in 1992. This three-story stone structure traces its history to the 1850s. A unique feature is the "kid-friendly" basement with television, VCR and a library of family videos. The Parker Suite has a built-in children's bed, private bath and switch-controlled gas fireplace. There are five rooms for rent, two with a private bath. The three that share a bath are all on the third floor and are available as a unit for $160. Rates range from $60 to $110, and $15 additional per child staying in the same room as the parents.

WHERE TO STAY

Lancaster County Bed and Breakfast Inns Association

1105 E. King St.

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