HOCKING HILLS, OHIO — If you’d like to find a wee bit of Scotland not too far from home, simply drive a little more than 2 hours north of Charleston (123.3 miles, to be precise) to Ohio’s Hocking Hills. There, you’ll find the Glenlaurel Inn and its savory flavor of the Scottish Highlands.
Pulling into the driveway near the reception area, I got my first glimpse of the inn’s signature architecture. Both the Manor House and nearby Carriage House sport stucco walls with rock and dark timber accents reminiscent of what you might find in Scotland. It was a cozy beginning to a Scottish-themed visit.
After checking in at the Carriage House, I made sure I picked up one of the inn’s DVDs for late evening viewing in the comfort of my room. The inn has opted out of television viewing and Internet reception is spotty. It’s all part of what innkeeper Melissa McConnell calls “disconnecting from a busy world and reconnecting with others.”
McConnell might also add reconnecting with nature, because the inn lies on 140 acres and includes the pristinely beautiful Camusfearna Gorge, whose name is taken from the Scottish phrase “it is the will-of-the-wisp that I have followed here.”
Glenlaurel itself is derivative of the Scottish use of the word glen, meaning a secluded, narrow valley, and laurel, an evergreen found in abundance on the property. Laurel Run also winds its way through the gorge, and the property is located in Laurel Township.
The inn offers a variety of 22 accommodations including rooms, suites, crofts (a Scottish name for small farmhouses) and large cottages. As I drove to my own cottage, I noticed that others had names taken from clans or Scottish history like Elliott, McLeod and assorted surnames that begin with Mac.
All of the accommodations in this adults-only, luxury inn come with private baths, some gas log fireplaces, small refrigerators, microwaves, Keurig coffee makers, bathrobes, king and queen beds, central air and more. The cottages and crofts also have hot tubs and private decks.
Soon after unloading my luggage and looking around my digs, I headed for the gorge, stopping to pick up one of the walking sticks provided free of charge near the Manor House. It proved a handy aid while walking along the gorge, whose rim gets quite steep in spots.
The well-marked trail takes about an hour to finish, out and back, and it skirts the gorge where rivulets and waterfalls add to the beauty of the place. Along the way, several benches and picnic tables dot the landscape. To make the walk even more pleasurable, guests can ask the kitchen staff to prepare a lunch to enjoy during an outing.
Another hike, which I didn’t take, along what’s called the Thistle Bluff Walk, is a shorter course lined with ferns and trees that ends with a special gnome and troll collection.
After my hike, I stopped at the Manor House, refreshing myself with a cup of tea and some of the delicious complimentary coffee cake featured that day.
Relaxing in a comfy chair by the large stone fireplace, where the words “How can I warm thee if thy heart be cold” is carved into the mantle, I looked around and found two kilts mounted behind Plexiglass along a wall. Near the staircase leading down to the Loch Ness Pub, I spotted a replica of Robert the Bruce’s sword gracing the entryway.
There’s more to the Scottish theme. While I’m no golfer, those who indulge in the sport might want to challenge Glenlaurel’s eight-hole course. It’s played with original hickory shaft clubs on a Scottish links course with sand tees and golf balls designed to go shorter distances. It’s a style of golf that aims at replicating how golf was played over 100 years ago.
Those wanting more gentle recreation can try their hand at horseshoes, bocce ball or croquet. Off site, the Hocking Hills also offer kayaking, canoeing, fishing, rock climbing and rappelling, zip-lining, antiquing, glass blowing demos and art workshops.
A foodie destination now on the Select Registry of unique inns and B&Bs, Glenlaurel is known for its six and seven course (on Saturdays only) gourmet dinners. At 6 p.m., inn guests meet in the pub for social hour, conversation, complimentary appetizers and their favorite beverage.
During my stay I counted 12 single malt scotches and an wine menu that includes selections from one of the owner’s private collections. To keep things in theme, you might want to try a Scottish Mule before dinner. It’s a combination of gin, Prosecco, lime juice and a splash of sweet syrup.
Dinner is optional and begins at 7 p.m. in the St. Andrew’s Dining Room with a short recitation of poetry. On Saturdays, a call to dinner is led by a bagpiper, and the parade of courses begins with an appetizer, followed by a soup, salad, sorbet, entrée and dessert.
“Diners can pick between one of two proteins [meats], and the chef changes the other courses depending on what is in house,” McConnell said. ”If the feature isn’t chosen, the diner may order vegetarian, chicken, salmon, pork, or filet mignon with an up charge for the filet.”
The three course breakfast is included in the room charge. It begins with a piece of freshly baked scones, butter and jam, followed by a rich porridge sweetened with brown sugar and a dollop of cream. The third course on the day of my visit was a Yukon gold potato quiche, served with sausage and a fruit cup.
Many visitors fall under Glenlaurel’s charms and become repeat visitors. That’s one of the reasons why management inaugurated its Anniversary Club, which gives members a discount for lodging when they return each year on their anniversary.
For even more of the Scotland theme, reserve a spot for the inn’s Robbie Burns dinner, held near the great poet’s birthday in January. It includes a kilt-wearing bagpiper and a toast to the haggis.
Glenlaurel, a Scottish Inn and Cottages, is located at 14940 Mount Olive Road in Rockbridge, Ohio 43149. For reservations phone 800-809-REST (7378) or www.glenlaurel.com.