Fairville Inn, in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania

Fairville Inn, in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
The Brandywine Valley packs an astonishing array of history, art, estates and gardens into its 20-mile length. You could easily drive north from Wilmington, Delaware to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania on the route designated as the Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway in less than half an hour.

That’s if you don’t stop to explore its treasures, of course. If you stop it could easily take a week to tour the four antiques-filled mansions, their gardens, the vast duPont industrial estate and its museums, an art museum and its historic studios, and a Revolutionary War battlefield. That’s without stopping at any of the antique shops and galleries that line the roads.

This was clearly not a day’s jaunt, so we settled into a comfortable suite right in the middle of all this sightseeing overload, at Fairville Inn, in Chadds Ford, PA. Our spacious suite was in the Carriage House, just behind the main inn, which occupies a gracious early 19th-century home that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The large bedroom allowed plenty of space for the king-sized canopy bed and a seating area with wing chairs and a love-seat facing a fireplace. A smaller sitting room had a love seat (that could be made into another bed) and a desk and chair. Large widows in both rooms looked out across the gardens to a woodland.

The bathroom was large with two sinks in the wide vanity, and the walk-in closet was large enough that we could leave our luggage inside, open on the two racks provided.

Breakfast was served in the sun-filled dining room of the main house. Each morning we were offered a choice of several cooked-to-order specials. Over the course of our stay these included, among other entrees, crustless quiche, frittata, oven French toast, and pancakes. Breakfast began with fresh fruit and hot muffins, and there was a good selection of teas.

Afternoon tea was also served daily in the dining room, where a table was spread with fresh-baked cookies, tartlets, bars, plus a selection of cheeses and crackers. The genial hosts were on hand to offer suggestions on local dining and the next day’s sightseeing. Guests could also find lots of information on local attractions in the parlor, where there were comfortable chairs and game tables.

A five-minute drive from the Fairiville Inn is Winterthur, the 175-room mansion that houses America’s preeminent collection of American decorative arts and furnishings. Of course we couldn’t see all 90,000 objects in the vast collections, but tours focus on one part of the house and tell the story of Henry Francis duPont’s passion for collecting and the mansion he built to house his treasures. Other tours choose specific themes to follow, and there are always special exhibits that showcase particular collections.

Also a five-minute drive from Fairville Inn, Longwood Gardens are a fantasy world of flowers and exotic plants, spread across 1,077 acres, of which four are covered by a gigantic conservatory that provides a year-round home to tropical plants and a venue for spectacular floral displays that change with the season. Outdoors are terraced gardens with pools and fountain shows, a topiary garden, formal beds, an arboretum and a number of specialty gardens.

Nemours Mansion and its exceptional formal gardens are 15 minutes from the inn. The 102-room mansion is styled after a French chateau, and the epitome of Gilded Age opulence. Also a 15-minute drive is Hagley, where the duPonts’ fortunes began with the manufacture of gunpowder along the banks of the Brandywine.

Even in a long weekend we couldn’t begin to see all the places of interest here. And having seen Longwood Gardens in only one season, we’ll certainly want to return there at another time of year. So it looks like we already have a full itinerary for a second visit to the Brandywine Valley and the Fairville Inn.

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