A Hasty Retreat Maryland: Little time to get away? A night or two of restorative pampering is as close as three charming B&Bs within an hour's drive of Baltimore.

November 01, 1998|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,SUN STAFF

Taneytown, a nondescript community misplaced in the pastoral farmland of Carroll County, may be an unlikely destination for an overnight getaway, but at the Antrim 1844, location plays second fiddle to elegance, history and comfort.

"I can't believe we're in Taneytown," my wife remarked as we finished a memorable five-course dinner on the inn's veranda, where we watched a crimson sun disappear behind a grove of towering trees. "It's so beautiful."

Indeed. Antrim 1844, a restored antebellum mansion, is an oasis of refinement in an otherwise unadorned community. The three-story brick manor, built by slaves before the Civil War, was once part of a 2,500-acre agricultural plantation, but today it is a country inn featuring 22 rooms amid 23 acres, largely hidden from the busy streets of Taneytown.

Our overnight stay at the Antrim 1844 was one of three short retreats my wife and I managed to carve out of our hectic lives in recent months. We have long realized that a long weekend away - at a bed and breakfast in the mountains, at the beach or anywhere - without the kids is an impossibility.

That's, in part, because we have very different schedules, a host of weekend commitments and no relatives nearby to watch three kids for an extended period. So we've learned to steal away when we can, searching out respites at nearby bed and breakfasts. We save time traveling, and it's much easier to leave the kids with friends for one night.

During these good-for-the-soul - not to mention the relationship - retreats, we decided, too, to seek upscale inns. We weren't concerned about visiting nearby attractions, but we wanted a quiet night away, a nice dinner and pampering.

Our choices: Antrim 1844 in Taneytown, Stone Manor near Middletown and the Turning Point Inn, just south of Frederick. Here's what we discovered.

Antrim 1844

It's so easy to succumb to the lifestyle I imagine preceded me more than a century ago at the Antrim 1844, consistently ranked among the top bed and breakfast inns in the country.

The transformation began slowly. My wife and I arrived, harried, from different directions, different jobs and late for hors d'oeuvres and cocktails, served promptly at 6:30 every evening. We hastily unloaded luggage in our suite and headed directly to the common rooms of the manor's first floor, where we found a few couples engaged in conversation, sipping wine and sampling appetizers.

We had a chance to catch our breath and to look around the grand home. We had driven by the Antrim 1844 hundreds of times, but had never really seen the Greek Revival house until our visit (a canopy of trees and shrubbery hides the inn from the main road through Taneytown).

A large foyer opens to a long hallway, where a winding staircase leads to the second and third floors (and a widow's walk). From the widow's walk, Union Gen. George Meade observed troop movements during the Battle of Gettysburg, which occurred just 20 miles away.

On either side are the common rooms - a formal dining room, a library and two drawing rooms - each stylishly furnished and handsomely decorated. Each of the manor's nine guest rooms is equally stunning and features antiques, fireplaces, canopied feather beds and marble baths or whirlpools.

Along with sophistication, the Antrim evokes warmth; the worn wood floors creak, the stair banister is well-used and owners Richard and Dorothy Mollett are usually around to greet guests.

The evening of our visit, Richard Mollett, a serious but jovial man, shared some of the history of Antrim, which he and his wife bought in a dilapidated condition in 1988. Named after County Antrim, Ireland, the home was built as a wedding gift in 1844 by Col. Andrew Ege for his daughter.

Slaves were used on the farm for several years, and the remnants of slave quarters stand by a stream that meanders through the largely wooded grounds. Other families occupied the home for years, but the house was uninhabited from 1929 until the Molletts arrived.

The highlight of our evening was the inn's prix-fixe five-course dinner served on a veranda that overlooks a lovely formal garden and well-manicured lawn. Dinner is an event and, for us, lasted until 10 p.m. By dinner time, we had acquiesced to the genteel atmosphere and were in no hurry about anything. None of the other diners seemed particularly concerned about time either, surely victims of the ambience. But, then, how could anyone leave, knowing a glowing sunset would descend on the rugged hills and symmetrical woodlands on the horizon, softening a harsh summer evening.

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