Arriving at the Country Willows Inn in Ashland feels like stepping onto a luxurious ranch in the countryside. Yet, only a couple of miles from downtown Ashland, this getaway is not as remote as it feels.
Those who are lucky enough to stay here will find few reasons to leave. Whether you choose a cottage or a suite, you will have access to the whole property and nearby trails. After a hike, retreat to the lovely main building, which always has a crackling fire in the winter and complimentary coffee, tea and homemade, gluten-free cookies.
The rooms are all decorated in a wonderfully simple country style yet with all the touches of luxury you’d expect from a 4- or 5-star hotel. High-quality linens, plenty of fluffy towels, whirlpool tubs and, in the suites, fireplaces.
During my stay, I opted for the beautiful country-style Hayloft Suite, which has exposed original wood paneling and a large sitting/kitchen area. I felt as if I really was staying in an old refurbished horse barn merged with all the comforts of a luxury hotel. I was in love with its understated elegance and charm.
Peace and beauty are what I typically seek when planning a getaway.
I want to ensconce myself in a beautiful, peaceful bubble until I’m ready to emerge. If I can also have nature outside my door, yet be able to get to a good restaurant or gourmet market within only a few minutes, I’m pretty much in heaven.
Country Willows, also known the Country Willows Bed and Breakfast, offered me exactly this. The property stands buffered from the noise of downtown yet is only a couple of miles away from downtown Ashland. And, thanks to the sprawling property and its separate buildings, the rooms, suites and cottages allow a lot more privacy than a typical bed and breakfast. Even the breakfast experience veers a bit away from the traditional B&B offering, as breakfast is served in an entirely separate building and offered at private tables. Really it’s more like a restaurant.
With trails outside the door, trees and views of the hills in every direction and the sound of the gurgling creek below, Country Willow is peace incarnate.
Ashland is a city that holds appeal for both those who want to get away from it all and those who are searching for a cultured get-away somewhere with a little bit of a ‘scene’. With its small-town feel (and compact downtown center), well-maintained parks and beautiful surrounding mountain views, Ashland offered me a welcome respite from the large, traffic-filled cities I’d previously traveled.
The city’s vibrant theater scene rivals the entertainment options in many metros thanks to Ashland’s long standing eminent status as home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The fact that you can go and see a spectacular theater production almost every night of the year is amazing in such a small city — and it’s just another reason why Ashland is so unique and beloved.
Thanks to Ashland’s growing popularity and cultural scene, it is only natural that the city boasts many good restaurants and bars.
Armed with the recommendation of my innkeeper (based on my description of what I like), I decided to dine at the bar at Larks Restaurant, housed in the posh Ashland Springs Hotel, for wine and appetizers.
Larks is a great mixture of high end and a friendly local spot. Waiters are professional and knowledgeable but also warm, friendly and humorous rather than stuffy. The wine list offers a pretty extensive selection of Oregon wines by the glass and, fantastically, makes ordering a few tasting size portions of wine pretty much the same price as ordering a glass of wine. This makes it easy (and fun!) to try different wines without paying double the price. I tried a Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley and then a GSM (Grenache-syrah-mourvedre blend) and a Tempranillo from the Rogue Valley. The cost of my three tastes (equivalent to a glass of wine) was an extremely reasonable $10.
The food at Larks was well prepared and well presented. They are just innovative enough without being different for the sake of being different. This is not a place you’ll find puffs of foam or ‘deconstructed’ dishes. You will, however, find a lot of locally produced foods used in their dishes (such as veggies from local organic gardens and locally made cheeses) and reasonable portion sizes.