There’s nowhere quite like the DeWitt Oak Hill, which isn’t at all surprising when the creekside dove-grey guesthouse is filled with handpicked antiques. The flea-market fiends responsible are the affable owners, Dorothée and Diane – known in the collectibles world by their trading name, ‘French and Scouser’. The four bedrooms have individual charms (vintage snowshoes in one, 70s memorabilia in another), while the social-hub Great Room features a curving Hollywood Regency velvet sofa, retro record player and baby grand piano – all beneath an art-laden minstrels’ gallery and the double-height ceiling.
Noon, check-in from 3pm; both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £137.47 ($189), including tax at 8 per cent.
Rates include a three-course breakfast to fuel outdoor adventures; expect farm-fresh ingredients and a menu inspired by French and English breakfast traditions.
Dorothée and Diane list their latest antique acquisitions in their online shop, French and Scouser. At Christmas, the DeWitt hosts a pot-luck party, with Durham residents invited to bring dishes to a community dinner and donate to the local food pantry. Then it’s off around the houses, for a merry carol singalong. The record shop next door occasionally hosts dance parties; they’re always good-natured and DeWitt guests are very welcome. The DeWitt occasionally hosts wellness escapes, meditation workshops and sunset yoga classes by the creek.
The DeWitt shuts up shop for whole of April, when the snows are gone and spring has not yet sprung.
Room 48 looks over the creek at the back of the building, and features hand-painted walls by Steve Willis and vintage tributes to Joyce DeWitt, who starred in the 1970s sitcom, ‘Three’s Company’. Trust us, it works. For a creative retreat try Room 47, with its mid-century reading chair and writing desk ready for its next bestseller.
Leave space in your case – almost all of the DeWitt’s trinkets and treasures are up for sale.
A local therapist can provide massage treatments in your room, or in the guesthouse living room; ask in advance to book. Unfortunately, the rooms are not accessible for wheelchair users.
Very much so. Romeo (a Boxer), Toby (a mutt), Dolly, and three Brussels Griffons are frequent visitors, and they’re always out to make friends. Free dog-sitting is offered; book in advance and your hound can be groomed, too. See more pet-friendly hotels in Upstate New York.
The hotel is best suited to children aged eight or over; but if requested before your stay, younger children can stay too, subject to availability. (Toddlers and antiques are arch-nemeses anyway.)
The overriding ethos is to reuse and recycle, and much of the interior decoration is made up of restored furniture and salvaged wood. Food comes from local farms and compost is used to cultivate a budding vegetable garden at Diane's house just 10 minutes away. With the Catskill Creek running past the back garden, the owners take extra care to use non-polluting cleaning products; bathroom soaps and shampoos are locally-sourced, organic and animal-friendly.
Choose a seat at the communal breakfast table and swap stories with fellow city-escapees.
Now’s the time to flaunt vintage threads and flea-market-fresh accessories.
There’s no formal restaurant, but a scrumptious three-course breakfast is rustled up daily by the owners, both kitchen whizzes. First, a fruit course (which might be a grapefruit brulée, banana split, or pineapple with jalapeño honey); then a seasonal savoury (for example, shakshuka, avocado toast with smoked salmon and poached eggs, or an asparagus frittata); and finally, a sweet (perhaps a home-baked marmalade brioche, Kenyan mandazi passionfruit doughnuts, or good old-fashioned crêpes Suzette). It’s served in the Great Room, or outside in the garden on warm summer days.
Breakfast is officially served from 9am until 11am in summer, 8am to 10am in winter.
On special occasions, if you ask nicely, the owners will bring you breakfast in bed. The best accompaniment to a lazy DeWitt lie-in.
Oak Hill is a hamlet on the banks of the Catskill Creek in rural Greene County, NY. It’s 140 miles north of New York City, in the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains.
The largest international hub in NYC is JFK Airport, but Newark and LaGuardia are slightly closer to the hotel – two and a half hours away, instead of three. Alternatively, fly into Albany Airport (one hour from the hotel by car), or take advantage of Norwegian Air routes from regional UK and European cities into Stewart International Airport (an hour and a half away by car).
The nearest Amtrak station is Hudson, a good-looking town around half an hour away by car – Diane or Dorothée can pick you up from the station, if they’re available. The train journey from Penn Station in Manhattan takes two hours, and you get some lovely Hudson Valley views.
For international visitors, the best place to hire a car is at the airport – they often have the best deals, and you won’t get tangled up in Manhattan. There’s plenty of parking at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
As tempting though it may be to stay snugly put at the DeWitt, that would be doing a great disservice to your Catskills surroundings. Outside your window lies a 700,000-acre forest preserve, filled with outdoor activities: take a dip in natural swimming holes, hike to Kaaterskill Falls, ride horses at Ravine Farm, or say “weeee” all the way down the mighty New York Zipline. If you’re feeling French-and-Scouser-inspired, sniff out a bargain at Livingstonville antiques fair (every Sunday from April to November), stop by collectibles store I. U. Tripp, or pop into Hort and Pott, which presents horticulture and ceramic wares made by local craftsmen. In winter, hit the slopes at Windham Mountain – Dorothée or Diane can drop you at its base and provide a discounted pass for the ski lift.
Follow the creek-side road downstream for 10 minutes and you’ll reach the 19th-century clapboard-constructed Ruby's Hotel (3689 County Route 67), in the village of Freehold. Chef Ana Sporer – a veteran of the NYC restaurant scene – now plucks the best local and seasonal produce to make a menu of hearty, homey dishes. In nearby Greenville, Mountain View Brasserie (10697, Route 32) has the look and feel of a family home, and chef Max Suhner is the kind of relative you wish you had; the Maryland crab cakes and the house risotto are two favourites, and you can’t go wrong with the New York strip steak. The half-hour drive to Hudson is worth it for Wm Farmer & Sons (20 South Front Street), especially if you’re in the mood for buttermilk fried chicken or Appalachian trout.
You can’t miss the aptly-named Yellow Deli (7771, Route 81), two doors down from the DeWitt; the converted opera house serves wholesome sandwiches and smoothies in a treehouse-style interior, and has a garden terrace backing onto the creek. Farm-to-table cuisine is the only option at Heather Ridge Farm (989 Broome Center Road, Preston Hollow), where the grass-fed meat is reared on the sloping pastures outside. Veggies and anyone who made a little too many friends on the farm tour can opt for a brunch of this-morning’s eggs on home-made skillet cornbread, plus an apple cider doughnut… or three.
On balmy summer nights, pull up at Drive-In 32 for classic films and Projectionist’s Club cocktails; or dance the night away with a live DJ and Brooklyn’s creative set at Preserved Instincts, the record-shop-turned-music-venue next door to the DeWitt.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this boutique hotel in upstate New York and unpacked their hiking boots and ski goggles, a full account of their country break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside The DeWitt Oak Hill in the Catskills…
Welcomes don’t come much warmer than at the DeWitt Oak Hill. The first one to greet you will probably be Dolly – a lovable Brussels Griffon – but the other in-house pups will want to say/woof “hello”, too. Their owners, antiques enthusiasts Dorothée and Diane, are not to be outdone. Dorothée, a brilliant baker, might present a batch of fresh-baked madeleines sporting perfectly-formed humps, while Diane, who's a dab hand at savouries, might break off from restoring furniture to pour an accompanying cuppa or cook up something tasty. You might choose to retire to your vintage-styled room or sprawl in a sunny spot of the creek-side garden, but the best advice is to settle down on the Great Room’s velvet sofa for a good old natter. It won’t take long to realise that everything here – from the baby grand to the china tea sets – has a story. By the time you leave, you’ll have one too.