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The Clifton Inn

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Hi, friends! I’m back with more from our Virginia minimoon. (Check out last week’s post on the Jefferson in DC here!) After an hour or so spent exploring Luray Caverns (have y’all been??), which is about halfway between DC and Charlottesville, we arrived at our lodgings for the evening – the Clifton Inn!

Prior to our visit, I had heard many wonderful things about the Clifton Inn from several friends. In fact, my buddy Meredith actually texted me earlier this summer while she was staying at the Inn, suggesting that John and I look into it if we hadn’t finalized our minimoon plans. Little did she know that we had already made arrangements for our September stay! (You can read her excellent review here!)

Happily, all of the hype turned out to be well-deserved. This was our first time visiting Charlottesville, and we now can’t imagine staying anywhere else!

We arrived around 6pm in drizzling rain — not the best conditions, but they did make the Inn look even warmer, cozier, and more welcoming in contrast! I loved that Clifton doesn’t really have a traditional check-in center, just two wooden desks tucked into the parlor next to the front door. With only 17 rooms and suites, they don’t exactly need to be worrying about a flood of guests, and I loved how homey and casual this made things feel!

A little bit of history: the property that the Clifton Inn sits on was originally owned by Thomas Mann Randolph, a governer of Virginia, member of the US Congress, and son-in-law of Thomas Jefferson. The original 2400 acres changed hands and were sold off over the years, until the current owners purchased the remaining 95 acres in 1983. It opened as a bed and breakfast in 1985 with five rooms. Outbuildings on the property were restored over several years, and a restaurant was opened in 1991.

The main room of the Inn, where we stayed, now houses just three guest rooms (I believe) in addition to the dining room, parlor, living room, and main hallway/entry. It really does feel like you’re in someone’s (very nice) house, in the best way possible. We were given a brief tour of the house, including the available-24-hours-a-day cookie jar in the kitchen (!), before being shown to our room. We stayed in the Monticello suite, and it was lovely! I apparently didn’t take any photos of our room, so here’s a little collage from the Clifton site:

We absolutely adored the sitting room, and the bed was also extremely comfortable. While I loved the design of the bathroom (and the water pressure in the shower, and the darling claw foot tub!), it was a bit on the small side. I think that has to be my only drawback to the entire property, though, so I’d still say they’re doing pretty well!

Moving on to food! It was our GREAT pleasure to dine at the Chef’s Counter that night. And it was a pleasure, indeed: in fact, I would rank that meal as the coolest dining experience of my life. To start, here was our view for the evening:

Yes, at the Chef’s Counter, you are literally sitting in the kitchen!! There were three chefs at work that evening, and we chatted with them throughout our meal, asking them any question we could think up. They were all delightful! The Clifton’s menu is made up of small plates, and they recommend guests order four, which includes one sweet course. We followed their recommendation, and here’s just a small peek at some of the deliciousness we sampled!

In addition to the courses we ordered, we were brought little treats throughout the night — just bites of things they were preparing for other guests, or samples of things they thought we might like! For example, we mentioned that John loves anything pickled, and so one of the chefs made him a whole plate of pickled things to try as he was packing up for the night. So nice!!

Everything was beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. Also, it was so neat to hear about how they source food, and their commitment to local farms and resources. For example, the AMAZING treat below (on the rock — yes, a real rock) is sprouts and greens gathered from just outside the kitchen door and presented together with lettuce mousse and cocoa dust. Blew my mind!! In addition, the chefs forage their own mushrooms a few miles away, along Skyline Drive!

If you visit the Clifton Inn, be sure to request a seat at the Chef’s Counter — it serves the same menu as and is no more expensive than the restaurant, and is available on a first come, first served basis!

The delicious food continued in the morning, with breakfast on the back porch. The continental breakfast is included, and on this morning, it included overnight oats with stone fruits and berries, and an assortment of muffins, breads, and pastries. Yum!

After breakfast, we had a little time to walk around the property, and despite the rain, everything was picturesque. I’m just sad we didn’t get a chance to swim in the pool!

Ah, well, I’ll just count it as extra motivation to make a return trip oh so soon. I can’t recommend the Clifton Inn highly enough for a romantic getaway or a wedding celebration. Be sure to check out more information about both on their website!

Tell me: Have you ever stayed at the Clifton Inn? Did you adore it as much as I did??

emily Written with love by Emily
9 Comments
  1. avatar Meredith @ Map & Menu reply

    This post makes me so happy – I wish I was enjoying breakfast on the porch at Clifton right this moment!

  2. avatar Annie reply

    Love this post! Your pictures make me want to plan a Virginia getaway right now. My husband and I actually had our rehearsal dinner at the Clifton Inn and it was fantastic. The staff did the most wonderful job. We haven’t stayed over yet, but hopefully we’ll get the chance for a future anniversary trip.

  3. avatar amanda reply

    I love Charlottesville and after seeing Mere talk about the Cliffton and then you, it’s definitely on my bucket list! It looks fabulous!! That food looks SO devine!!! The pool area is stunning, for sure! Next time you should stay longer and visit the vineyards. Definitely a dreamy honeymoon!

    • avatar Emily reply

      You’ve got to go! I think the room rates are actually surprisingly reasonable, compared to similar properties. And yes, the food is amazing! We were hoping to get to the vineyards/orchards, but the weather was not cooperating. Next trip!

  4. avatar Sarah reply

    Great post Emily! My fiance and I are considering having a Charlottesville wedding, and the Clifton Inn is on our list of potential spots! We are headed there next week after a visit to the Inn at Little Washington to celebrate our engagement and birthdays. Virginia has so many lovely little spots to offer, and I love being reminded that I don’t even have to leave my state to find gorgeous scenery and peaceful relaxation! (On your next visit you may enjoy the Goodstone Inn in Middleburg (horse country)…we had a wonderful stay there earlier this year.)

    • avatar Ashley Sharp reply

      Sarah: We were married at the Clifton Inn almost three years ago. It was one of the best decisions we have ever made. We reserved their Collina Farmhouse for our entire bridal party for the weekend of our wedding and were married on a Sunday afternoon outside on their terrace. We only have 35 people but they treated us as if we were the biggest wedding they had booked all year. They took care of every single detail for us. We basically showed up and had a wonderful and relaxing weekend and wedding. The service, food, atmosphere – all incredible. I cannot say enough good things about our experience there! We also stayed in the Carriage House for our honeymoon for three nights and it was so special. It is really great that we can go back to the very place where we got married and honeymooned anytime we want to. Best of luck planning your special day!

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Ashley! So fun that you were married at Clifton! I’m so glad your experience was superb, though I find it hard to imagine it could have been anything else!

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