The Bee and Thistle Inn & Spa; Old Lyme, CT


Many ship captains built grand houses in Old Lyme, which is on the Long Island Sound at the mouth of the Connecticut River. The community hosted one of the nation’s first art colonies, from 1899 to 1937 and today, the town remains committed to supporting the arts and preserving its quiet charm. The Bee and Thistle Inn follows this tradition by featuring artwork from local galleries, as well as individual pieces from area artists.

There are plenty of ways to spend a relaxing vacation, but one way is to just “let go” and step back in time. If that is what you had in mind this summer, The Bee and Thistle Inn & Spa just happens to be a solution to that vacation plan.


The Inn is set on more than five acres of beautifully landscaped property in Old Lyme, Connecticut, bordering the Lieutenant River. There are nine guest rooms that will take you back to an era that many of us have never known…simple refinement. Each room, as well as the entire property, reflects the gentle and elegant nature of its innkeepers, Linnea and David.

The Inn dates back to 1756 and was, like so many others Inns, a private residence to a local judge.  The house originally sat a few miles away in Saybrook, but was moved to its current location at the turn of the century by another family. The sunken garden, porches and back portion of the house were then added. It wasn’t until 1930s that the home was turned in a business. It was owned by Henrietta Greenleaf Lindsay, a widow, who followed the advice of her actress friend, Elsie Ferguson, and opened it as an Inn to the public. The name, Bee and Thistle, is the Ferguson clan emblem in Scotland. Fast forward to today and you still find lovely accommodations (all with private baths), spa services offering unique treatments that reflect the area, and superb dining.


The Inn’s restaurant, The Chestnut Grille, is so much more than the average gourmet restaurant. It is the gathering place of locals for cocktails and light food after a long day’s work, as well as a gastronomical retreat for those visiting from far and wide. You may even be as lucky as my husband and I were and hear a song from the multi-talented Linnea. Strolling around the porch dining room with her house singer and guitarist, she joins in and truly charms everyone there. I was blown away to be in that setting with that food enjoying her warmth and good nature.

Days after our visit, she and David vacationed with their friend, world-acclaimed French Chef Jacques Pepin. These are folks that enjoy, appreciate and serve great food and their obvious love of the culinary arts must have fostered such a comfortable relationship with Pepin.

After a long day of hiking, golfing, kayaking or sailing on the river, or shopping at the many antique and specialty stores in town, head to the Inn’s nicely-appointed spa room to unwind. Services such as the Bee Yummy facial or a relaxation massage are provided by therapists from a local spa and are a wonderful splurge in one of the Inn’s Spa rooms It’s great to wander back to your room in your robe to enjoy a nap!

Just a short distance from the Inn are local museums, including The Florence Griswold Museum, right next door. It is billed as the home of American Impressionism and is certainly worth a visit. However, Old Lyme and the neighboring towns of Essex and Old Saybrook hold much to offer with galleries galore, great places to eat and more beautiful vistas then any set of eyes can take in. In the summer months, you can enjoy the Midsummer Festival and many outdoor concerts.

Just a short drive away is the town of Mystic, home to the Mystic Aquarium, a great place to take the kids. And of course, for those more daring, there is Foxwoods Casino in Masantucket or Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville.

For more information on the Bee and Thistle Inn and Spa visit .