On a recent trip to the Finger Lakes in upstate New York, we stayed at the Idlwilde Inn in Watkins Glen. The bed-and-breakfast inn, perched on a hill above the town, provided a quiet, Victorian-style retreat. Owners Marcus and Elin Dowd offered warm hospitality and delicious breakfasts.
For us, the Idlwilde Inn ended up being near-perfect for what we wanted.
Life in the Time of the Coronavirus
When we visited, New York State still had mandatory quarantines for people coming from certain states. Check the current status before you go.
We believed that adequate precautions had been taken to address possible transmission of the coronavirus as per New York State law. Everyone must sign in for potential contact tracing. When you leave your room, you must wear a mask except when seated for breakfast.
The staff wears masks, and they maintain social distance when possible.
Breakfast is served both inside, at socially distant tables, or outside, as most people chose. You can eat on the porch with its view of Seneca Lake or at one of the tables set up in the yard.
Even though the Idlwilde Inn sits just a few blocks from downtown Watkins Glen, the location cannot be considered walkable. As Emily, who stands in for Marcus and Elin when they aren’t around, told us, “Just remember, every hill you walk down must then be walked up.” We did it twice, and we definitely got a heart-pumping workout. Don’t underestimate how steep the hills are.
Watkins Glen is one of the main towns in the Finger Lakes region, on the southmost shores of Seneca Lake. The home of the famed waterfalls in Watkins Glen State Park, it also has several restaurants, coffee shops, shops, and places to stay. You can rent kayaks, book a lake cruise, and plan a hike. Because we needed a home base for a tour of the Finger Lakes wineries, the location worked well.
The Idlwilde Inn consists of the Mansion, Carriage House, and a gazebo, plus expansive grounds. Particularly at night, when Marcus illuminates everything with his “magic” remote control, it looks like a postcard photo.
For a B&B, the Idlwilde Inn is enormous. The Mansion – what the Dowds call the main Victorian house – has fourteen rooms, and the Carriage House has two rooms. Four of the rooms in the Mansion have a shared bathroom, so if this matters to you, be careful which room you book. You can view each on the webside before deciding.
The Carriage House has two rooms, one with a queen bed and one with a king. At least from the outside, the building looks charming. It’s also where the owners reside. Dogs may stay in the Carriage House but not the Mansion.
Although we didn’t avail ourselves of the indoor public spaces, the inn has some of the largest and most welcoming spaces we’ve ever seen in a B&B. You can have your pick of board games or borrow a book.
Outside, a sizeable gazebo provides a lighted, clean, and comfortable place to hang out. You play music through the Amazon Echo or choose a lawn game from the gazebo’s collection to set up on the expansive lawn. The side yard has a water feature and small pergola.
As with all Bed and Breakfast inns, you book a specific room. We chose Room 8 in the Mansion. Although I would have preferred a king bed to the queen in this room, we had plenty of seating and space to relax.
If you’ve followed my hotel reviews, you know that I have certain pet peeves, one of which is a lack of electrical outlets, particularly next to the bed. The Idlwilde Inn had a expanded wall tap on only one side of the bed. In this day of electronic devices, even B&Bs should provide electrical outlets for both nightstands. If a wall outlet doesn’t exist, a lamp that has one should be used. We could find only one other accessible outlet for charging, on the vanity that doubled as a desk.
Although our room, with its four-poster bed, was gorgeous and comfortable, the bathroom was not. Bathrooms can be tricky in B&Bs because the original house was not built to be a hotel. (One of the B&Bs we stayed in installed the shower in the bedroom.) In our room, the bathroom was old-school and awkward. The mirror was so high that, even though it was angled downward, I could see only the top of my forehead. I had to put in my contacts using the full-length mirror on the bedroom side of the door. For toilet paper, I had to stretch backward just to reach it.
Even though the bathroom could have used some updating, the staff kept it clean and fresh.
While Marcus provides the hospitality at the Idlwilde Inn, Elin is its chef. Although she tries to accommodate special dietary needs, you don’t otherwise get a choice what they serve you. For instance, I don’t eat eggs. Instead of the scrambled egg and bean burrito they served one morning, Elin cooked me a burrito without the eggs inside.
The sausage and bacon come from a local farm, and they taste extraordinary.
If you like baked goods for breakfast, you probably won’t find them here. Elin specializes in things like pancakes, French toast, and egg scrambles.
One warning: Breakfast is served only for one hour, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. One couple slept through breakfast one day, and the owner (good-naturedly) gave them a hard time for missing it. If you don’t expect to eat breakfast, you should warn the staff the day before.
We couldn’t have asked for a friendlier staff. As with most B&Bs, cleaning consisted of making the bed and perhaps cleaning the bathroom. Sheets and towels were not replaced except on request.
We enjoyed our stay at the Idlwilde Inn in Watkins Glen. While we would have preferred a more walkable location, the residential neighborhood has its advantages. Our room had all the charm you would expect from a Victorian B&B, and our hosts provided expected warmth.
Debbie Lee Wesselmann