What’s going on in Lyme is nothing short of a renaissance for a little Upper Valley village living in the glow of its friendly neighbor, Hanover, NH just to its south. Lyme is only 10 miles due north up Route 10 from the Dartmouth College campus, and most people know this little town for the Dartmouth Skiway in winter, or for a fine Italian restaurant called Stella’s Italian Kitchen & Market. Yet, of late, there’s become much more to this little village with it’s pristine Town Common and down-home New England atmosphere than meets the eye. It’s more than a quick stop for a cup of coffee on the way to points north or south, or zipping by on Interstate 91 which is just a couple miles west in Thetford, VT.
So, what’s all the commotion? Why even write an article about Lyme, the town without a traffic light that sits between you and the White Mountain National Forest, or between you and points south, north, east, or west from wherever you are? Well, because there’s plenty to do and see in and around Lyme that many people simply have not yet explored or discovered.
For starters, there’s the newly renovated Lyme Inn at the east end of the Town Common. It’s a wonderful place, completely new inside and out, from the clapboard to the individually and elegantly decorated guest rooms thanks to Peter Williamson, a benefactor, long-time resident and great fan of Lyme. It was his intention and vision to renovate the Inn to its former stately prominence and operate it as a gift to the Town insofar as a well-run inn would help bring guests from near and far. Now, under the watchful eye of newly-installed innkeeper and co-owner Jack Elliott, who shares Pete’s vision, the Lyme Inn is truly a delight for an overnight, a special event, a quiet dinner out in one of the Inn’s beautifully appointed dining rooms, or a burger and beer in it’s comfortable Tavern where many of the locals play live music on Thursday nights.
Just across the Common, on it’s northern side is Stella’s Italian Kitchen & Market which has made its mark among foodies throughout the Upper Valley and beyond for it’s sumptuous dinner specials, lunch-time panini sandwiches, delicious NY-style pizza (trust me on this, I’m from New Haven, CT, so I know a good pizza pie when I taste one!), tomato-basil bisque, calamari served with marinara sauce, and the ever-attentive owners, Bob and Denby Coyle, and their staff who are always there with a smile to greet and serve you. Plus, you can see a rotating art exhibit as you dine thanks to their neighbor right next door, Long River Gallery and Gifts which features a local artist’s work, new every few months, in the annex gallery at Stella’s. Works in colorful and vibrant cut-paper collage by artist Annie Santa Maria of Windsor, Vt. currently grace the annex gallery’s walls for Summer 2015.
While we’re on the topic of art, let’s venture into Long River Gallery & Gifts, situated behind a bright yellow front door in the Mascoma Bank parking area on Main Street, and named by Yankee Magazine as a “don’t miss” shop to visit. Newly-added parking spaces in Lyme's Park ‘n Ride lot next to Long River offer free and easy parking for all visitors be they artists, art aficionados, browsers, shoppers or gift seekers. Long River offers an array of fine local work from more than 100 local artists and craftspeople living in and around the Upper Valley/Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee regions of New Hampshire and Vermont. This is fine art and fine craft, locally-made the way it should be, ranging from stunning and unique jewelry to gemstones, furniture and pottery, to prints and paintings. Sculpture, scarves, and socks. Tapestries, hand-blown glassware, vases, fiber art, books, and hand-hewn boards and baskets. Fine photography, the finest in VT-made chocolate, hats, candles, and sleigh and dog-collar bells grace the Long River shelves and walls. There are natural skincare products, salves and hand creams, bug spray, candlesticks, ornaments, and, well, more than there’s space to tell here. This is Lyme’s and the Upper Valley’s “hidden gem” without which many local artists and craftspeople simply would not have a local spot to show and sell their work. It’s unassuming from the outside, yet filled with beautiful art, craft and gifts on the inside. An artist is almost always on hand to answer questions and chat. Long River, named for the Algonquin word “Connecticut,” is wonderfully curated and well worth a visit.
Oh, and don’t miss the Lyme Country Store, owned and operated by the Pippin family for many years. This is a wonderful place to find a hot cup of coffee or a home-made sandwich, plus just about anything you need from their well-stocked shelves of canned goods, coolers of everything from milk and beer to soda pop and juices, plus lots of snack items. They also offer soft-serve and scooped ice cream in a broad and delicious array of flavors all summer long. They’ve now added new organic produce, freshly made Thai food on Fridays, and a meat section that’ll make your mouth water for a red-hot grill to fire up and get cooking. Or, just stop in to say “hello” after you’ve filled up with gas and you’ll be greeted with a smile every single day of the year.
As if all of the above isn’t enough, Lyme has a terrific hardware store with its Lyme Home and Hardware, just behind Stella’s and next to the U.S. Post Office. With two floors of goods ranging from pet products to plumbing supplies, even screen repair and paints mixed to your color palette’s needs, Lyme Home and Hardware is THE place to come for hardware, propane, tools, pet foods, and all sorts of bolts, screws, nails, and the helpful and knowledgeable advice from Seth, the store co-owner and manager, and his staff that will make whatever project you hope to accomplish much more manageable. They seem to have everything for every project, plus the know-how to help you figure it out.
Still, there’s more. The Dowds’ Country Inn, run by Tami Dowd and her family, has gone through it’s own renaissance of late. Tami’s son, Patrick, is now helping run the family’s New England Country Inn with his easy and affable nature, and ready-to-help-anyone personality. They’ve recently done some renovations to floors, and they have plans to build a tavern. With comfortable rooms, and really, truly extraordinary breakfasts for overnight guests, this Inn is one not to be missed. It’s a prime destination for weddings and other events throughout summer and fall given the sheer natural beauty of their grounds and views of the hills of New Hampshire that surround them. And, their breakfast room is a lovely place to find a nook and enjoy a cup of coffee with pancakes or eggs hot off the griddle, which, if you’re in luck, Tami will have the time to prepare for you. She’s a great cook, too!
Lyme sits between you and lots of outdoor fun all seasons of the year. It seems there’s more conserved land in Lyme with beautiful hiking, walking, biking, skiing and snowshoeing trails than anyplace else around. The Dartmouth Skiway is a cherished resource where the Lyme town children, Dartmouth College students, friends, and families all ski in an atmosphere that’ll take you back to the good-old-days of skiing, even as high-tech lifts move you quickly up the mountain and the food in the lodge café is top notch. The Appalachian Trail makes its way through Lyme, just downhill of the The Skiway on Dorchester Road with a trail head hike up to Holt’s Ledge that offers stunning long-range views at the top. And if you’re car topping a canoe or kayak, there’s even a little-known spot on Lyme’s River Road just southwest of town where you can quietly and easily drop in your small boat from a car-top launch area that’s tucked in and out of sight. It’s a great way to explore a powerful river where flora, fauna, and aquatic life abound.
Just across the river in Thetford is Isabel’s Café that’s open for breakfast and lunch. There, you’ll find a bottomless cup of coffee and a menu that’s sure to please. Bev, the restaurant’s owner is always there to be sure you’re getting enough to eat of her and her husband’s delightful fare. I always have soup and corn bread when it’s on special, and my son loves their burgers and pancakes. Also, due north from Lyme, I’d be remiss not to mention Peyton Place and Ariana’s Restaurant, both on Route 10 in Orford. These two fine restaurants offer cuisine in comfortable country surroundings. Try them and you’ll see what I mean. A bit farther north, on Route 5 in Newbury is the Newbury Village Store where you’ll find an array of items, and their food that is, as they say on their website, “a cut above” for breakfast and luncheon fare at their Thistle Café and luncheon deli. Crossing back over the river to Route 10 in Piermont, is The Robie Farm where you can find locally-raised organic beef and take home some of their fine, farmhouse cheeses and pints of ice cream all made right on the premises. All of this is to say that Lyme is a great jumping-off point for a day trip or a longer stay at one of its two great inns. Let’s make that three, even four great places to stay overnight!
I won’t forget Breakfast on the Connecticut on River Road just north of Town, the bed and breakfast that lives up to its name, hosting guests from near and far and serving up breakfasts and hospitality to write home about. Nor will I neglect to mention the venerable and long-standing Loch Lyme Lodge which opens its doors to vacationing guests in late spring, throughout the summer, and into early fall. Located on Route 10 just a bit north of town, this comfortable Lodge is situated on Lyme’s lovely Post Pond, a natural resource that allows for fishing, sailing, swimming, and all kinds of water-related activities. Loch Lyme is the kind of vacation place where families have been returning again and again for generations. They now also serve dinners to the public who can call in advance to reserve a table. It’s a special place, run by Jay and Amy Kelly, who seem never to tire of making each guest’s time truly special and memorable.
Is that all there is to Lyme? Happily, no. It’s a place you can visit again and again, finding new great areas to explore, even if that means just a stroll on the Town Common to hear the regionally-known Lyme Town Band play, or a walk along the Big Rock trail preserve just south of Town. Lyme Hill is a wee bit farther south of town with its parking area on Route 10. Lyme Hill has had its trails to the top upgraded and made more visible thanks to recent efforts by land conservation volunteers. You can’t miss the parking area with a sign heralding this newly established Lyme outdoor resource. Along with a great library, two churches, a real estate office and the Lyme School for children in grades K – 8, there’s much more to Lyme than meets the eye. Believe it or not, there’s even an outdoor art exhibit on the Lyme Town Common for Summer/Fall 2015. Contributors include Lyme School art students alongside the Long River Gallery professional local artists whose works show not just in Lyme but also around the globe. From woodblock printmakers Matthew Brown of Lyme and Sabra Field of VT and now NH, to cut paper artists Annie Santa Maria of Windsor and Barbara Newton of Lyme, to extraordinary artists like Jean Gerber of Thetford, Carl Mehrbach of Lyme, Liliana Paradiso of Woodstock, Winkie Kelsey and Gillian Tyler of Fairlee, Bruce Peck of Topsham, and Louise Hamlin of Norwich, there’s much to see and experience in the gallery at Long River and outdoors on the Common. There are fifteen jewelers represented, and nearly as many potters and glassblowers combined. Andrew Pearce of Bethel, Vt. displays his bowls and boards, right alongside Barbara McAllister’s hand-carved and hand-painted folk-art sculptures of the farm animals and birds that surround her on her farm in Canaan, NH.
So, that’s the news from here in Lyme. There’s much more to tell, but you now know that it might just be your time to visit Lyme this summer and on into the fall and winter months to step into the world the way it should be lived—among friends who care to show you around and make you a part of their special community. Do come visit. Bring family and friends. Stay for a day, a night, or longer. You’ll delight in having discovered the “hidden gem” of the Upper Valley!