By Hope S. Philbrick
Want to feel like a celebrity, minus the paparazzi?
Head to Keswick Hall.
I arrived shortly after sunset one cold winter evening, strolled in the front door followed by a gust of wind, and was greeted by the concierge/front desk receptionist, “Good evening, Ms. Philbrick.”
I still can’t figure out how she knew my name. I’m no starlet and it’s not like I was the only person checking into the hotel that evening.
Expect a very high level of service from the friendly staffers here. Every time I entered the lobby, someone greeted me by name, offered me a bottle of water, and asked me if I needed anything else. It was a little disconcerting: There are times at home when I can’t even get that much conversation out of my husband.
But trust me, this is the service level you deserve and will appreciate. When Forbes Travel Guide recently announced its Star Awards for 2015, Keswick Hall & Golf Club was named one of only three Five Star Hotels in Virginia.
Stay here and you will feel the Five Star treatment: Every guest is pampered at Keswick Hall, which has hosted some bonafide stars including Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward (who favored Room 9), Lady Margaret Thatcher, Mick Jagger, Morgan Freeman, Bill Murray, Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, John Grisham and many more. Plus, Keswick Hall has appeared on the big screen twice, in Giant starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean, and The Four Seasons starring Alan Alda, Carol Burnnett and Rita Moreno.
Villa Crawford, the historic wing of Keswick Hall, was a private home for 35 years (from 1912 to 1947) and during that time passed through five different owners’ hands. It was then a country club for about 40 years during the mid- to late-20th Century. In 1990, after the building weathered a period of neglect, Sir Bernard Ashley, widower of designer Laura Ashley, purchased the now 600-acre property and transformed it. Keswick Club opened in 1992 and the 48-guestroom Keswick Hall opened in August 1993.
The décor is exquisite: In photographs it can appear museum-like, but in reality is as welcoming as it is elegant. Guestrooms are spacious and outfitted to ensure comfort. From the huge tub to the soft-yet-supportive bed, from the spectacular view to the cozy chairs, guestrooms offer multiple invitations to relax.
Keswick Hall is the sort of place you won’t want to leave, even in pleasant weather. Fortunately, you don’t have to.
Fossett’s Restaurant at Keswick Hall
Named to Forbes’ list of Four Star Restaurants, Fossett’s Restaurant at Keswick Hall is named to honor Edith Fossett, who was Thomas Jefferson’s head cook during the 16 years of his retirement at nearby Monticello.
Fossett was one of Jefferson’s slaves. She was trained under a French chef at the White House and was considered an exceptional cook: Daniel Webster wrote that the meals at Monticello were “in half Virginian, half French style, in good taste and abundance.”
She cooked with local ingredients—which is trendy now, but essential then. What distinguished Fossett’s cuisine was her skill at applying classic French techniques to local, seasonal ingredients. At Monticello, she had ready access to local fish, game, produce and cheeses and featured these often.
These key ingredients still appear on the seasonal menu at Fossett’s, which opened in 2004. The menu honors her signature blend of Southern ingredients with classic cooking techniques and French influences while appealing to contemporary palates. From eggs benedict to peanut butter parfait, the menu offers a diverse selection of temptations such as battered quail, crab cakes, bison ribeye, succulent rabbit, and much more. She is also honored with signature wine.
The level of service at Fossett’s is high; staffers are attentive yet not intrusive. The dining room has a relaxed, quiet atmosphere with white tablecloths and a wall of windows that overlooks the golf course—though on cold winter evenings you’ll want to snag a table closer to the fireplace than the windows. At breakfast, though, sit angled to appreciate the view of rolling hills fronting the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Fair warning: If you come to Fossett’s for breakfast or brunch, you’ll want to return for dinner. So plan an itinerary that lets you savor at least a few meals at Fossett’s.
- Resort fee of $37/day includes valet or self parking, high-speed internet access, daily newspaper, and several resort activities including croquet, bocce ball, archery, bicycling, sledding, fitness facilities and classes, nature trails, tennis and history tours, and more. Check the activities calendar for specific options available during your stay
- In-room temperature controls
- Three swimming pools, two of which are salt water and one of which is adults only—21 Plus Salute!
- Flat-screen TV with DVD player (movies available to borrow from reception)
- In-room safe
- Robes available for each guests’ on-site use
- Personalized stationery provided to guests
- Oversized clawfoot and soaking bathtubs
- Heated towel racks in guest bathrooms
- Access to Keswick’s library for borrowed, on-site reading
- The Keswick Club golf course was designed by Pete Dye; the Audubon-certified course is designed so players can choose a leisurely or challenging game of golf (e.g., holes are 4,700 to 7,000 yards, depending on where you tee off)
- There are 7 wood-burning fireplaces throughout the hotel
- Odds of Encountering Children: Slim but not impossible. For the best odds, visit when school is in session. We saw none during our January stay. Children under age 12 are not permitted in the fitness center or spa.
What To Do…
Since Keswick Hall offers a golf club, spa, restaurant, and range of activities, you don’t need to leave the property. But it’s near the Blue Ridge Mountains, Presidential homes, the University of Virginia, dozens of wineries and cideries, and more in nearby Charlottesville.
701 Club Drive
Keswick, Virginia 22947
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion. Thanks to Visit Charlottesville for hosting my visit.