Clifton Inn is a historic hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia. Set in picturesque and historic Albemarle County, the inn is a short drive from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. In fact, the hotel sits on land that once belonged to President Jefferson. Today, you can stay at the elegantly remodeled Clifton Inn, with history and luxury surrounding you during your stay.
Clifton Inn’s History
I grew up in the countryside not too far from Clifton Inn and was thrilled to be asked to spend two nights there compliments of the owners. As I made my way toward the hotel on a brisk March morning, I felt a sense of coming home. Driving slowly up the driveway, I could see why this is such a treasured location. All of the online reviews had raved about the setting, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The stately home, with its wide front porch and tall columns, looks out across the rolling Virginia hills that Jefferson called home. The 100-acre estate passed to Jefferson from his father, then passed to Jefferson’s daughter Martha when she married Thomas Mann Randolph, a Virginia governor and US Congressman. The inn wasn’t a stately home during Randolph’s years. It was originally built in 1799, and rebuilt in the 1800’s following a fire, as a trading post. Randolph spent most of his time at Clifton while his wife helped her father during his presidency. The structure changed hands many times over the years until the current owners bought it in 1983 and transformed it into the luxury inn you see today.
The Inn’s Accommodations
Meticulously remodeled, today’s Clifton Inn offers luxury with a real sense of place. I fell in love the moment I walked inside. There are 17 rooms and suites spread out over the main building, the carriage house, a honeymoon cottage, and nearby Collina Farm. The owners have seamlessly blended history with refined luxury and modern conveniences.
Every room at Clifton Inn is different, decorated with American antiques and fine arts. Despite the rich historic surroundings, you won’t give up modern amenities. Every room offers either King or Queen beds, fine Mascioni linens, and plush robes. Showers have spa jets and rainwater shower heads. Amenities are by Molton Brown. Modern technology is at your fingertips, with in-room WiFi, flat-screen televisions, and Bose sound systems.
Because every room is different, you can find varying amenities, depending on which room you book. Some have fireplaces, while others offer soaking tubs, private patios, lofts, high ceilings, or sweeping views of the Virginia mountains. I had Room 1 in the main house, also known as the Thomas Jefferson Suite. I didn’t want to leave that room. It had a lovely four-poster King bed, beautiful hardwood floors, a lovely little writing desk, and a gorgeous bathroom. One of the very cool touches found in every room is a decanter of Jefferson’s favorite Madeira wine, which makes for a perfect night cap.
The bathroom in the Thomas Jefferson Suite doesn’t come with a tub. I was a little disappointed at first because I’m a huge fan of hot bubble baths, but the shower was so amazing, with spa jets and rainwater showerhead, that I didn’t even miss the tub. I slept so well the two nights I stayed at Clifton Inn and I really didn’t want to leave. When I think about a place to go that is relaxing, luxurious, but comfortable, I immediately think back to Clifton Inn.
Experience World-Class Service and Amenities
I loved that there was always someone on hand to answer my questions during my stay. While it has the feel of a country inn, Clifton Inn offers all the services of a world-class hotel. Looking for something to do in the area? No worries. The staff can help you make all of the arrangements.
There is turndown service each evening. Hot coffee and Continental breakfast await downstairs each morning. A lovely old-world touch is the complimentary afternoon tea with fresh pastries served in the living room. In fact, I started my visit by sipping a cup of Earl Grey by the fireplace and it set the overall relaxed yet luxurious tone for the stay.
From spring through fall, you can also enjoy outdoor activities at the inn. You can wander along the lakeside trails, play tennis on the inn’s clay court, take a dip in the infinity pool, try your hand at a game of croquet, explore the chef’s garden, or simply sit outside and enjoy the beauty of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
Dining at Clifton Inn
The small but fully stocked bar at Clifton Inn is open all day for coffee, tea, beer, and drinks. The real treat, however, is dining at the inn’s restaurant, Clifton Restaurant, which serves dinner in the dining room, on the enclosed verandah, or on the patio (in season) from 5:30 to 9 p.m. daily.
Clifton Inn serves dishes made from locally sourced and mostly home grown ingredients. The menu changes seasonally to take advantage of the area’s freshest ingredients. My dinner was exquisite. I had a seat at the Chef’s Counter, which is available for parties of up to seven people and gives you a bird’s eye view of the kitchen from a beautiful white onyx counter. The food was served up with so much TLC and every plate was a masterpiece. Even the cheese course featured locally sourced Virginia cheeses.
I stayed at Clifton Inn in March, so the menu still reflected their winter offerings, although the gardens were providing some fresh baby greens. One of the most beautiful and tasty dishes was the salad of seasonal vegetables with Appalachian cheese and garden herbs. I watched the sous chef prepare it, adding three different purées as a base, then using large tweezers to place every component of the salad in an exact spot on my plate. It must have had a dozen different ingredients, including some dried woodsy-tasting Maitake mushrooms.
I followed the salad with a slightly smoky tasting sweet potato soup, a sea scallop that was seared to perfection, and whole wheat pappardelle with thyme butter, braised greens, and pork. The dry-aged rib-eye steaks looked and smelled amazing, each served with sautéed greens, prepared only the way you can get them in the South. I had wanted to try the cheeses, but I was too full. To my delight, about an hour after I left dinner, the manager showed up with the cheese plate. I munched on Virginia cheese, nuts, and dried fruit for the perfect end to a perfect day.
Your Stay at Clifton Inn
Clifton Inn is a beautiful luxury inn in the Virginia countryside, about 10 minutes from downtown Charlottesville, University of Virginia, or Jefferson’s beloved Monticello. If you can pull yourself away from your room at Clifton Inn or the quiet solitude of the private lake, there are vineyards, cideries, and restaurants just minutes away that give you a unique look at Virginia’s lush countryside and its plentiful bounty.
Clifton Inn is located at 1296 Clifton Inn Drive (east of Charlottesville just off I-64 on a ridge above the Rivanna River), Charlottesville, VA. For more information, call 434.971.1800 or visit online at Clifton Inn.