Story and Photography by Jill Gleeson
Up a picturesque country road, a stone’s throw from where General George Washington and his heroic band of citizen soldiers crossed the Delaware River, sits the Inn at Bowman’s Hill. It’s a peaceful place, nestled on five meticulously landscaped acres a few miles outside of New Hope, the historic tourist town that is perhaps Pennsylvania’s most charming. An electronic gate at the Inn’s entrance guards precious privacy, while the adults-only policy helps ensure tranquility. The serene environs, combined with the property’s gracious luxury, make the Inn at Bowman’s Hill the ideal spot for a getaway steeped in romance and dedicated to pleasure. And that is exactly what proprietor Mike Amery envisioned when he decided to transform his estate into a B&B.
After the global development company he was running went under during the 2001 financial crisis, Amery, who is British, believed “salvation” could be found as an innkeeper. “I traveled between 100 and 200 days a year for 25 years in some pretty luxurious circumstances,” Amery explains. “So I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want Victoriana, to fill a room with antiques that people were scared to touch. I wanted really modern bathrooms, and beautiful grounds that people could relax in and walk through. I wanted to create a truly romantic retreat, a sanctuary.”
Amery, who opened the inn in 2005, has succeeded. The only AAA Four-Diamond lodging in Bucks County, the Inn at Bowman’s Hill has been named five times as one of the Top Ten Most Romantic Bed and Breakfasts in the country by companies like Trip Advisor and ForbesTraveler. And, Amery notes, “Forbes had us as No. 2 – both No. 1 and No. 3 have room rates north of $1,500, so that was really nice.” (Rates at the Inn at Bowman’s Hill typically start at $405 a night and include breakfast.)
The gourmet morning meals, which feature offerings like the signature traditional English breakfast and can be taken in bed, are only one way the inn pampers guests. There is also the exquisitely maintained pool and hot tub, which overlook a rolling lawn graced by a regal fountain and gazebo. The hot tub makes a particularly glorious retreat during frosty winter nights, when stars shine brightly down from a sky so crystal clear it looks as if it may shatter, and rolling clouds of steam rising from the water further enhance the feeling of seclusion.
Other lavish touches include beautifully appointed rooms with showers and Whirlpool tubs for two, fireplaces, private decks and king-size featherbeds. Champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries and roses can all be arranged for enjoyment upon arrival, as well as an in-suite couple’s massage. While each chamber boasts its own deluxe décor and amenities, perhaps the most dazzling is the new General Washington suite, a 550-square-foot, second-floor suite with a massive veranda affording a panoramic view of the grounds. Like the opulent penthouse suite, it was added in the wake of repairs to the inn necessitated by Hurricane Sandy.
As Amery has seen, sometimes the getaway of a lifetime can actually change lives. “We’ve had men who have literally just gotten off the plane coming home from Iraq,” he muses. “Their wives have picked them up and brought them directly here. We’ve had guests going in for major surgery the next day who didn’t make it. And we’ve had their spouses come back the following year alone to remember the time they spent here together. I’ve had men who have called up, almost in tears, saying ‘I screwed up. I’m trying to rebuild my marriage.’ This is what we get – the stories are amazing of the people that come here. That’s what’s really meaningful.”
The Inn at Bowman’s Hill is located about two hours from Harrisburg. For more information, visit theinnatbowmanshill.com or call (215) 862-8090.
Visiting New Hope:
While it would be tempting to stay within the sumptuous surroundings of the Inn at Bowman’s Hill, guests would do well to venture outside its gates. New Hope, an affluent village of about 2,500, should not be missed. Rich in world-changing history – Washington is said to have slept there before his Delaware River crossing – it has also boasted a vibrant arts community since the turn of the last century.
Today, galleries, antique stores, restaurants, vintage emporiums, coffee shops and more, most located in the rambling first floors of funky old houses, line New Hope’s main drag. Down it stroll a heady mix of young families, members of the LGBT community, burly bikers and spacey hippies, all blissfully grooving on the throw-back vibe.
Don’t overlook the Bucks County Playhouse, located in a former grist mill and, since 1939, a testing ground for Broadway-bound productions.
Even in winter, New Hope’s green spaces delight. The 500-acre Washington Crossing Historic Park includes the spot where the man who would become the country’s first president led his worn and ragged soldiers across the icy Delaware, changing the course of the Revolutionary War.
Other highlights of the park are 13 historic buildings and the impressive Bowman’s Hill Tower, built in 1931 to commemorate the American Revolution. Standing 125-feet-tall, on a clear day, it allows views of at least a 14-mile radius of the Delaware River Valley. The 134-acre Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, also on the grounds of the park, is home to 800 species of native plants. Bucolic woodlands and meadows are laced with trails, perfect for wildlife watching; the preserve’s visitor center hosts a lecture series Sunday afternoons now through February.