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Cozy Corners

by Kathryn Boughton

March ushers in mud season—that bleak stretch when winter sports melt under a newly assertive sun, but when all the pleasures of spring are still beyond the horizon. What to do when the weekend rolls around and the desire for some soul-soothing fun asserts itself?

While the days are still nippy, when snow is still a present threat, why not seek out a warm fireside in some ancient inn or roadside pub and enjoy a convivial drink or a meal with friends.

The tristate region is rich in venerable hostelries where creature comfort is as much a part of the menu as is the fine fare. Here is a sampling of what the region has to offer.

Perhaps the most atmospheric is the historic Old Mill on the Green in New Marlborough MA. A wayside since 1760, the inn has been tastefully decorated in a style that transports the visitor back to the mid-18th century. Fires crackle in fireplaces and soft candlelight glints off pewter as attentive staff serves exquisite cuisine. There is also a newly renovated bar where visitors can have a drink by the glow of candle light and fireplace.

Step into the Stagecoach Tavern in Sheffield MA and be enveloped in the warmth and camaraderie of an Early American tavern. The oldest part of the tavern dates back to the mid- to late-1700s; historical records show that it first operated as a tavern in 1829. A stagecoach stop, it was a haven for travelers weary from the road. Today, the ambience of the past is evident in heavy wooden beams, glowing fireplaces and nooks and crannies where visitors can enjoy a cozy tête–à–tête.

Just down the road in Salisbury is another authentic stagecoach inn, albeit with an updated appeal. The White Hart, which dates to the opening decade of the 19th century, reopened in 2014 after being shuttered for four years. Prior to its closing it had undergone a $5 million renovation that erased much of its cozy ambiance, but the convivial tap room, with its sage green overtones, walnut coffering and proximity to a crackling fire, evokes an era when hot toddies and flip were the fashion of the day.

Morris has its own venerable home built in 1775 by Dr. Seth Bird, an eccentric physician known for bringing a coffin along on his house calls. Today, renamed Winvian, the former home has been transformed into a luxurious retreat where Chef Chris Eddy presides over an elegant dining room. Here the warmth of a real fire is a luxury bonus.

Similarly elegant is the Mayflower Grace in Washington where the tap room offers wines, beers and drinks to suit every taste and the menu has options to satisfy any whim—from small plates to main courses. In cold weather, the fireplace makes this cozy space within a rarefied setting the place to be.

The White Horse in nearby New Preston is rich in the ambience of an English pub, offering a menu of British favorites in a setting filled with eclectic antiques and collectibles, ranging from a 16th-century tavern table to a 1597 manuscript with the Great Seal of Queen Elizabeth I. A nod to the Colonies is included in a framed swatch of Martha Washington’s yellow brocade wedding dress, dating from 1759.

When the curious visitors has absorbed all the historical wonders, a fireplace or river views from the large outdoor deck ensure a pleasant visit no matter what the weather portends.