Alligators, about four feet long, Hmm, maybe six feet for this one, with heads at least a third of their bodies, hang out on the edge of the waterways. They lay on the grassy lagoons basking in the sunlight. Tom and I were strolling by, shocked to see alligators in this place that is supposed to be a hotel/Inn on the bluffs of the Ashley River in South Carolina. I began to walk closer to get a good picture, but I felt a hand on my arm pull me back. “You don’t want to get too close, do you?” asked my hubby Tom. But as I persevered, the alligator picked up his head, and I jumped back. But like lightening, it was gone as it dropped into the water. They didn’t seem as though they were interested in eating us, or anyone else for that matter. At least no one has gone missing . . . yet.
On the bluffs of the Ashley River, The Inn at Middleton Place, is nestled amongst old pines and centuries old oak trees, trees that are at least eight-hundred years old, with a girth of thirty-three feet, and steps away from the country’s oldest landscaped gardens. It was like being in summer camp, in the South, where alligators prevail. A camp like no other I remember. There are no paved roads or walkways. What appears to be a dense forest at the edge of the river, climbs up to level walkway, I guess that would be called the bluffs.
The organization of the architecture is most unusual in its boxy appearance created by the tall walls of windows, divided by bold, dark grids in each bank of buildings. The buildings appear to be tall boxes juxtaposed to each other. I think the idea was to create an environment of informal elegance.
In the interior, the floor to ceiling windows bring into every room views of the pastoral woodland setting sweeping views over the meandering Ashley River, where the rice plantation culture, not the cotton culture that prevailed in the South, flourished more than 200 years ago.
The stable yard is fascinating. It’s filled with ducks, white geese, peacocks, chickens, roosters, milking cows and horses of all sorts. And soaking in a water pond, two water buffalo, one white, one black, hang out. They follow you with their eyes as you walk by and appear very serious about soaking in the pond. If you happen to be around the stables when they feed the chickens, all the birds come running. It’s hilarious to watch the feathered fellows gather and squawk within their clans, and push their way in to get their share.
The inn is on the property of the Middleton family’s 18th century plantation and is about thirteen miles northwest of Charleston. It feels very secluded, but just outside the property is busy US 61 with several condominium neighborhoods and the Magnolia Plantation just up the road. People from the wintery North are moving to the sunny South to escape the harsh winters. Hmm, tempting.
Middleton Place was established in 1741. Four generations of Middletons’ occupied the estate. Days after the fall of Charleston in 1865, the Main House and flanking buildings were ransacked and burned by a detachment of the 56th New York Regiment on February 22nd. The ground was strewn with books, paintings and other family treasures. William Middleton restored the South Flanker. What was left of the Main House and North Flanker toppled in the Earthquake of 1886.
According to the words of the ads, the inn offers guests a unique, hands on approach to experiencing the LowCountry of South Carolina. This secluded inn is the perfect place to reconnect with nature and history while being a short drive from the culture and beauty of historic Charleston. Ground tours include the Middleton Place Gardens, house Museum, and stable yards.
Within this luscious landscape, a five-star restaurant resides. We did indulge, why not? We were a captive audience, and who doesn’t enjoy good food? And drink of course. Plenty of wine choices and beverages of all kinds. Have you ever heard of a Bloody Mary and “sweep the kitchen”? It’s spiced tomato juice with veggies, and liquor of your choice or not.
Why not visit? Wouldn’t this place make a fascinating setting for your next book? Especially you history buffs?
Scroll down for a picture show.