Back in 2006, we visited The Lodge at Glendorn. Having never heard of the place, we didn't know what we were in for.
Well, we loved it. All of it. From the swanky accommodations and sumptuous dining to outdoor recreation and forest setting. The champagne and 'smores by Skipper Lake reeled us in hook, line and homemade marshmallows.
At the time, we found Glendorn to be a place where the outdoorsy "roughing it" types and their "cultured" (translation: I'll hike but don't make me sleep in a tent) counterparts could literally come together on common ground.
Hearing Glendorn is under new ownership (but still a Relais and Chateaux property), we decided to reinvestigate and discovered a few welcome additions and changes.
This historic retreat sits smack dab in gorgeous forest a mere 90-mile drive from Buffalo. Over the next two years, $5 million in changes are planned. Along with cosmetic upgrades, a new conference center, wine cellar and dining area are complete. An onsite spa is planned for spring.
But it's the invisible changes that make Glendorn more accessible to us "regular folks" with average bank accounts and wardrobes (the dress code is now "resort/mountain casual").
One of the biggest differences is the option to stay overnight without purchasing the meal plan (although treat yourself if you can, as the dining is world-class).
Previously, the cost of staying at Glendorn (a pretty hefty tag) included all your meals; and while visitors can still book this way, it's not a requirement. Guests can design their own plan, or head into Bradford to eat. Special packages, multiple-night discounts and midweek discounts for the budget conscious also offer more flexibility.
With prior arrangements made well in advance, visitors can also enjoy Glendorn for a day. For instance, you could skeet shoot in the morning and then have lunch.
In short, you have more choices than ever, but the most important aspects of Glendorn remain intact -- the unique experience and a chance to pretend you are Duke or Duchess of Buffalo enjoying your Pennsylvania country estate, if only for a couple days. Here are some other things to discover (or rediscover) about Glendorn:
*Traditional "sportsman" activities -- skeet shooting, fishing and hunting -- are Glendorn's forte. Glendorn is also in the process of obtaining its outfitter license to escort guests on excursions (like fishing and hunting) in the Allegheny National Forest. (For a fee, Glendorn also secures Pennsylvania hunting and fishing permits for guests.)
We loved the shooting despite never having fired a gun before. A few instructions on how to use the "bead" and we were yelling "pull!" like an old pro. Cost for skeet shooting is $35 per round.
For avid hunters, Glendorn can arrange trips for grouse, pheasant, white tail deer and spring gobblers. Glendorn's own Maddie (a darling Llewellin setter with black/gray ticking) is used to rustle up and retrieve birds. Deer hunting is $250 plus tax per day/per hunter for guests staying at the lodge. Nonguests pay $350 plus tax; prior arrangements must be made due to the limited number of spaces and guides.
Fly-fishing is a big deal at Glendorn, an Orvis-endorsed fly fishing operation. Guests can partake in private lessons or a few hours fishing on the property's Fuller Brook, or take a daylong driftboat trip on the Allegheny or Clarion rivers that includes a gourmet lunch. Ice fishing is available on Glendorn's lakes. Costs range from a $50 casting lesson to half- ($225) or full- ($400) day fishing trips (excludes licensing fees).
>New at Glendorn
For almost 20 years the Glendorn's stables sat empty, but now horseback riding is available year-round for overnight guests. Horsewoman Tanya Okerlund and her husband, Dave, conduct complimentary daily rides through the spectacular woods. While any season is beautiful, Tanya says she enjoys winter rides most. For larger parties (like an overnight corporate group), Glendorn's giant Percherons can pull a carriage or sled around the property at a cost of $250.
Glendorn's stunning setting sparkles during winter. Overnight guests can partake in cross-country skiing, outdoor ice skating, sledding, snowshoeing, ice fishing and -- the best -- curling. Who wasn't mesmerized during the Olympics (and who understands it)? Try for yourself at Glendorn.
Snowmobiling on Glendorn's 1,200 acres is another big winter attraction. Guests can bring their own vehicle or use one of Glendorn's.
Overnight downhill skiers get a free, one-day pass to the private Holimont ski club in Ellicottville (about 30 miles away). Glendorn also offers drop-off and pick-up excursions to Holiday Valley, also in Ellicottville, for a fee.
>The cozy indoors
For less "outdoorsy" types, a crackling fire with a good book, a game of Scrabble and a gal-pal movie night are perfect ways to keep warm. Until the new spa is built, services are now available in the privacy of your room or cabin.
Dining at Glendorn is an experience itself. Dinner comes as a five-course wine tasting ($105 per person) or a three-course ala carte meal ($75 per person). Breakfast runs $15 per person, lunch $29. Executive chef Joe Schafer brings his experience from other prestigious Relais and Chateaux properties (the Lake Placid Lodge and Montana's Triple Creek Ranch) to the kitchen at Glendorn.
Who wouldn't want to start their day with Grand Marnier French toast and end with a dinner of Celeriac Soup with Black Truffle, Duck Breast with Red Cabbage and Fingerling Potatoes and Poached Pears with Honey, Goat Cheese and Pecans? A dad himself, Schafer also offers a children's menu.
>Allegheny National Forest
There are added adventures to do on your own in the Allegheny National Forest -- scenic drives, hiking, snowmobiling and even skydiving (see Web site below).
The forest contains 96 miles of the North Country National Scenic Trail. A trailhead is located along Route 346 west of Bradford. Also off Route 346 is the Marilla Bridges Trail, which features a covered bridge, three wooden trestle bridges and a gazebo -- ideal for practicing photography skills.
A simple hike for families is the Timberdoodle Flats interpretive trail, with a shorter "Bluebird Trail" that is also wheelchair accessible. Named for the American woodcock (nicknamed timberdoodle) the trail is popular with bird enthusiasts. The trailhead is on Route 59 west of Bradford.
For a dramatic, more challenging hike, the Rimrock Overlook provides stunning views of the Allegheny Reservoir and massive rock formations. The two-mile trail is along Forest Route 454.
If you choose to venture off Glendorn for a meal, here are a few suggestions in Bradford.
The Option House Restaurant, 41 Main St. (www.theoptionhouserestaurant.com; 814-368-4780); oil was traded here during the 1880s as "option contracts."
Beefeaters, 27 Congress St. (thebeefeatersrestaurant.com; 814-362-9717)
John William's European Pastry, 20 Mechanic St. (814-362-6637)
Or, take a 25-minute ride to Westline, Pa., and the Westline Inn (www.westlineinn.com; 814- 778-5103), located on the Kinzua Creek in the Allegheny Forest. The lodgelike appeal (mounted stuffed animals) and artifacts from the Inn's history are part of the charm.
If you go:
The best way to book your trip at The Lodge at Glendorn is to call (800) 843-8568 so you can arrange everything from your accommodations and dining to activities; also check out www.Glendorn.com.
To visit the Allegheny National Forest or learn more about activities offered, go to www.visitANF.com, or call (800) 473-9370.
To get to Bradford, follow U.S. 219 south from Western New York.