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America's best country inns and hotels

The demands of modern life aren't likely to let up, but that doesn't mean you can't give yourself the gift of a luxuriously quiet weekend.
Image: The island cottage, Nassau, Bahamas
There's still a bit of old-school Bahamian hospitality left at A Stone's Throw Away Bed & Breakfast, a 10-room estate set high on a hill above New Providence's Gambier Village, 20 minutes from Paradise Island. John Running
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Has your BlackBerry become your personal dictator? Feel like you're running so far behind that you can actually see yourself up ahead? The demands of modern life aren't likely to let up, but that doesn't mean you can't give yourself the gift of a luxuriously quiet weekend. The goal is to get far enough off the track that the main road is actually a back road; cell reception is spotty to nonexistent (or at least you can plausibly tell your boss that); and your room's prime amenity is a working fireplace. Let us introduce you to some of our favorite country retreats. Each has its own feel and character, and each gets high marks for being exactly what it intends to be, from a Victorian by the sea to a haven in the mountains. Whatever your druthers, we guarantee work will not find you here. Enjoy the sound of silence.

1. The Desert Hacienda

What: Galisteo Inn
Where: Galisteo, New Mexico

The pitch: The high desert landscape around the village of Galisteo, a village 25 miles south of Santa Fe, is quintessential Wild West, or at least enough that "All the Pretty Horses" was shot here. But there's nothing rough-and-tumble about the pastoral Galisteo Inn. Resting among giant cottonwood trees, it's a 300-year-old Spanish hacienda reincarnated as an enchanting 12-room inn. You'll love the clean adobe walls and historical touches like hand-carved missionary doors and a 500-year-old Catholic confessional in the lobby (it serves as a pay phone). Southwestern decor often veers into kitsch territory, but here it's decidedly stylish, the earthy browns complemented by vibrant shades of burnt orange, turquoise, and maize yellow. Gorgeous and secluded as the inn is, you'll want to get out of doors, whether horseback riding beneath the vast blue skies, hiking Glorietta Pass, or simply having a margarita on the patio.

The details: This is the Southwest, so you won't escape the hanging cow skulls and lassos, nor the Navajo rugs and hand-woven baskets. But what seems silly elsewhere fits in perfectly with the desert setting, and three rooms have wood-burning fireplaces to keep out the winter chill. Four also have patios.

The killer app: Meals at La Mancha Restaurant & Bar, which can be either taken on the outdoor patio overlooking the pool and garden, or next to the dining room fireplace. Chef Enrique Guerrero dishes borrow liberally from Mexican, Spanish, French, and American flavors: His mac-and-cheese with orzo pasta, black truffles, seasonal mushrooms, and goat cheese is transcendental. — Jenn Anmuth

Galisteo Inn
Tel: 866 404 8200
Doubles from $105 per night, including breakfast

2. The Kitschy Crash Pad

What: Kate's Lazy Meadow Motel
Where: Woodstock, New York

The pitch: Okay, the town of Woodstock was not the site of the original concert. Even so, the name instantly evokes the '60s, and plenty of stores this town two hours north of New York City are happy to play off the association. But if you'd like to recapture the spirit of an earlier time—when the prevalent odor in the air was of apple pie rather than burning draft cards, say—this collection of '50s-era cabins at the edge of the Esopus Creek is for you. Co-owned by the B-52's frontwoman Kate Pierson, the cabins were done over in kitsch-tastic colors by designer William Stewart, who outfitted the eight rooms with vintage couches and coffee tables, "Ozzie and Harriet" kitchens, and checkered tile floors. Insert your own Love Shack joke here—but each cabin does feel like a slightly out-there home of your own. No. 8, for instance, is a duplex with a circular metal staircase, a private deck overlooking the river, and a full kitchen. If the rooms are booked, you can also park yourself in one of the Airstream trailers stationed in the meadow—each has a charcoal grill, air-conditioning, and a tiki-torch decor of its own.

The details: Slightly creepy ceramic gnomes perched around bookcases (handpicked by Kate), and a videotape collection in each room that veers toward campy C-horror flicks and musicals such as "Grease".

The killer app: The classic Catskills countryside that inspired Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle" and the landscape paintings of the Hudson River School. Enjoy quality outdoor time at Lazy Meadow itself: It sits on nine wooded acres—the perfect spot to build your own campfire, sit by the riverside, or put your feet into the water. — Jason Harper

Tel: 845 688 7200
Doubles from $155; Cabin No. 8 costs $255

3. The Seaside Victorian

What: Virginia Hotel
Where: Cape May, New Jersey

The pitch: Staying at a Victorian inn by the ocean sounds blissful, with lovingly decorated bedrooms and afternoon cookies, maybe even a friendly ghost drifting around the parlor. But the reality is often a letdown, with musty furnishings that look like they were bought at Miss Havisham's yard sale, and an owner who gives you the hairy eyeball when you trail sand onto her lace runner. The Virginia Hotel is in a different class altogether. It's Victorian, sure enough, housed in a 1879 landmark building with neat gingerbread trim, painted shutters, and a porch that's begging for postbeach cocktails. What sets it apart from its neighbors in Cape May's historic district is the second half of the name: Expect hotellike perks such as room service and nightly turndown, valet parking, and a staff who'll gladly schlep your luggage upstairs or tote your cooler down to the ocean a half block away (chairs and beach towels are provided, too). The 24 rooms are done up in breezy white and sea foam, with whimsical nautical prints and furnishings—ask for one of the two rooms with private patios facing onto Jackson Street. As for Cape May itself (New Jersey?), it's on the southern tip of the Garden State, its leafy historic district attracting a low-key, sophisticated crowd markedly different from its boisterous boardwalked cousins.

The details: Pleasant surprises include plasma TV's, Bulgari bath products, Belgian cotton linens, and, yes, central air. There's even Wi-Fi for those who can't quite tear themselves away from the office—though those people should be punished.

The killer app: In a sea of factorylike lobster houses (your table is ready when your pager explodes!), the inn's Ebbitt Room is a revelation. Chef Andrew Carthy's modern American menu (yellowfin tuna tartare, eggplant-crusted halibut) and global wine list focused on boutique producers such as Burgundy's Domaine Michel Gros make for the town's most sophisticated dining experience. — Jill Fergus

Virginia Hotel
Tel: 609 884 5700
Doubles from $265

4. The Grand Country Villa

What: Wheatleigh
Where: Lenox, Massachusetts

The pitch: To quote J.P. Morgan, "If you have to ask, you can't afford it." But if you don't have to ask, and you like your lodging a little bit country—that country being Italy or France—then you belong at Wheatleigh. Built in 1893 as a wedding present for the daughter of a wealthy financier (who was apparently willing to spend anything to get her married off), it is perhaps the most imposing Florentine-style palazzo in all of the Berkshires, and is staffed largely by impeccably mannered Europeans who seem only vaguely aware that they're no longer in Provence. The rooms are designed to soothe with understated luxury and no hint of clutter, fussiness, or chintz. And the rooms are big, although not all 19 could accommodate the piano Leonard Bernstein once carted into the two-story Aviary Suite. The four-course tasting menu in the legendarily fine dining room is a must. And the view of Wheatleigh's 22 landscaped acres, which were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, of New York's Central Park fame—that's totally free.

The details: The color of money, it turns out, is the shades of beige and brown that predominate in a decor meant to say, "Relax, Wall Street is two-and-a-half hours away."

The killer app: You are close enough to Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Pops, to walk over for a Sunday concert on the lawn—as long as you don't mind carrying your silver-plated Champagne bucket.
–Bob Payne

Tel: 413 637 0610
Doubles from $645

5. The Island Cottage

What: A Stone's Throw Away Bed & Breakfast
Where: Nassau, Bahamas

The pitch: With Atlantis Resort towering over Paradise Island, it seems nearly impossible to get away from worldly worries on Nassau (not to mention blatant commercialism and marauding children). But there's still a bit of old-school Bahamian hospitality left at A Stone's Throw, a 10-room estate set high on a hill above New Providence's Gambier Village, 20 minutes from Paradise Island. Outfitted with traditional Bahamian wood floors and ceilings, shuttered windows, and wraparound verandas on three floors, it has the feel of an informal summer house: Breakfast is served till 10 a.m., but if (and when) you oversleep, the chef will gladly whip something up and serve it poolside. That informality extends to the honor bar, where guests help themselves to cocktails noon till night. A no-children-under-16 policy ensures a welcome calm, and guests tend to spread out in the common areas, reading and quietly taking in the panoramic views of Lake Killarney and the surrounding pine forests, not to mention the visible coral reefs that protect the area's beaches. Speaking of sand, Orange Hill Beach is a three-minute walk, or opt for the 10-minute trek to the more remote "Love Beach" with a picnic basket for two (prepped by that friendly chef).

The details: The rooms are pleasantly understated, with colonial-style furniture, full bookshelves, and L'Occitane products. Although the two top-floor suites are the most private and spacious, the less expensive Ocean-View Rooms (No. 8 and 9) are the jewels, with antique teak daybeds draped in white flowing curtains situated on ocean-view verandas.

The killer app: We love a property with its priorities in order: Besides the bench located under the pool's waterfall, our favorite spot is the tiny spa. It has a surprisingly sophisticated menu, including a Hawaiian lomi lomi massage and Japanese facials to help you get your relax on. — Cathay Che

A Stone's Throw Away
Tel: 242 327 7030
Doubles from $175

6. The New England Inn

What: Deerhill Inn
Where: West Dover, Vermont

The pitch: The Deerhill is in the southernmost part of Vermont—a straight shot north from New York City and the rest of the metropolitan area. So it quite consciously caters to stressed-to-the-gills city types with the comforting air of a grandmother: We know what you need, it says: Quiet time. In the summer, that means a shaded porch facing an immaculate garden and a small, welcoming pool; in the winter, a fireplace and chessboard in the common rooms. Yes, the prototypical stuff of New England inns. But owners Stan Gresens and Michael Allen, two ex-Bostonians who bought the former ski lodge in 2002, know their audience. They've stocked the 14 rooms and upstairs library with thought-provoking books, back issues of the New Yorker, and copies of the Sunday Times. They've decorated the place in an "eclectic country" style with found items (antique rocking chairs, hand-sewn bedspreads) but manage to avoid knickknackery. And naturally, they serve up indulgent breakfasts and dinners, but not the leaden French toast or not-so-prime rib you've suffered at other B&Bs. Michael, a chef, is responsible for the walnut-and-spinach bread, sweet berry pastries, layered eggplant-and-goat-cheese appetizer, saddle of lamb in red wine sauce, and wild mint ice cream.

The details: The Tamarack room is our favorite, with a super-sized bed big enough to sleep on sideways, a gas fireplace set in stone, and a bathroom that manages to feel both New England elegant (an antique end table serves as the vanity) and indulgently modern (a rain showerhead the size of a huge sunflower). There's a TV and DVD player, too, but they're hidden in a cupboard.

The killer app: The hilltop location off a small side road. There's a sense of literally getting off the fast track here—the views of the Green Mountains help. That garden and the wooden chairs strewn about outside encourage reading or quiet contemplation. Just don't think about that Monday morning meeting. — Jason Harper

Deerhill Inn
Tel: 802 464 3100
Doubles from $155; $275 for the Tamarack room

7. The Culinary Retreat

What: White Barn Inn
Where: Kennebunkport, Maine

The pitch: Let us fill you in on a secret about Maine: People don't really come for the rocky beaches, the quaint cottages, or the quirky character of the place. They come for the food. (Admit it, you're already thinking about lobster, aren't you?) What we love about the White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport is that it handily fulfills the gustatory urge—it's a Relais & Châteaux property whose restaurant distills the best elements of Maine—and it throws in all those extras—the gorgeous beaches and outsized charm—as well. The restaurant is in a restored barn with high ceilings and so much wood you'll worry about the number of candles. The tuxedoed waiters are blessed with the ability to be at once meticulous and relaxed (and funny)—the kind of personality that comes from working happily at one place for a very long time. Executive chef Jonathan Cartwright cooks up New England dishes with a little extra panache for his four-course tasting menu—drizzling truffle vinaigrette over scallops and sweetbreads as an opener, proceeding to shrimp, lobster, and sea urchins with a hollandaise glaze, then roast duck breast with potato foam, a cartful of New England cheeses, and an apple soufflé to finish it all off. What—not enough lobster? Order à la carte: The lobster spring rolls are our personal favorite, and how can you not try the steamed Maine lobster with fettuccine and cognac-butter sauce?

The details: Guests have been staying at the inn since the 1860s, and its organic evolution is reflected in the variety of room styles. You have a choice of 28 rooms, including four garden lodgings that open onto a courtyard with a garden and pool, and three wharf cottages built along the Kennebunk River, each with patio and fireplace. If you want the showstopper, book the Loft, with its own entrance, cathedral ceilings, large Jacuzzi bath and steam shower, and private veranda.

The killer app: If you've come this far for a knockout meal, you may as well go all the way, with a private dinner in the Wine Cellar. Home to the inn's 7,000 bottles, it's constructed of warm red cedar, mahogany, and marble, and is surprisingly cozy. The restaurant can seat up to 15 guests, and the sommelier will arrange special tastings to accompany the courses. — Jason Harper

White Barn Inn
Tel: 207 967 2321
Doubles from $315; junior suites from $620