Pennsylvania Dutch Country B&B

From coast to coast, entrepreneurs open up their homes to travelers looking for that down-home touch. Bed-and-breakfast inns are the perfect place to enjoy autumn - falling leaves, fall festivals, welcoming fireplaces - during an off-season vacation or weekend jaunt.

No one knows that better than Dawn Darlington and Greg [sic] Hesling, who run the Speedwell Forge Bed and Breakfast in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Located among the region's rolling hills, pristine lakes and natural parks, this bed-and-breakfast in the town of Lititz is filled with tranquility and history.

Built in 1760, the Speedwell Forge Mansion features original craftsmanship, seen in its hand-carved cupboards to its hardwood floors. The home sits on land that was once home to an iron forge. Massive stone walls, deep-paneled windows and high ceilings give this bed-and-breakfast a sense of stateliness. Spacious beds, romantic fireplaces, claw-foot whirlpool tubs and pedestal sinks characterize Speedwell Forge's retro appeal.

Even though the bed-and-breakfast's rooms are appointed in a design of yesteryear, modern amenities are included here. If, for some reason, you need to be connected to the world, high-speed Internet access, TVs and DVD players are available. But why would you want to sit in front of a screen when you could spend a night by a fireplace, wrapped in an Amish quilt, soaking up the atmosphere?

Top it all with eating a scrumptious three-course breakfast in the morning and you've got a perfectly relaxing trip.

Life off the fast lane

The best part about staying in a bed-and-breakfast is that you get to establish a relationship with your hosts. When you visit Speedwell, you learn that owners Darlington and Hesling moved to this bucolic setting after living life in Los Angeles' fast lane for years. Darlington, who is a Pennsylvania Dutch country native, returned to take over the mansion that has been in her mother's family for 65 years. After saving money and embarking on countless cross-country trips over an eight-year period, the couple opened Speedwell last summer.

"We got our occupancy permit July 27 and had our first guests July 28," Hesling wrote in an e-mail. "They had booked the room online and had no idea they were our first 'guinea,' I mean, guests!"

Booking online with the bed-and-breakfast is a click away at the bottom of Speedwell Forge's Web site, which Hesling maintains in addition to a number of duties around the property. The 36-year-old California transplant is handling the transition well - for a city dweller.

"Moving to a 120-acre farm in the countryside has been quite a challenge," he admitted in his Speedwell Forge blog. "I lost 15 pounds in my first month just walking around the property trying to get organized."

Getting there

The drive to Speedwell from the Atlanta metro area would take more than 11 hours. A more realistic way to get there is by flying into Philadelphia and renting a car from Philadelphia International. The drive to Speedwell is about an hour and a half from the airport.

Activities in the day


If you're scared there's nothing to do in rural Pennsylvania, think again. Hesling and Darlington are a walking encyclopedia on the area's fascinating museums and attractions.

A visit to the country store museum might put you in the mood for some sweets. Stop by the free Wilbur Chocolate Candy Americana Museum, where you can explore the history of confections by browsing a collection of early candy-making machines and marble slabs. You can satisfy your cravings by visiting the store section of the building, where they still offer free Wilbur Bud samples.

The Wheatland Mansion, in nearby Lancaster, requires a bit of a drive but is well worth the effort. This building served as President James Buchanan's estate during his last years. Also worth the drive is Columbia's National Watch and Clock Museum, known to have one of the most comprehensive collections of clocks, watches and other time related tools.

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