Clifton Inn: Southern Charm, History & Luxury

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. 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.

Visitors feel welcome from the moment they drive up to Virginia's Clifton Inn. Photo courtesy Clifton Inn

Visitors feel welcome from the moment they drive up to the Clifton Inn. Photo courtesy Clifton Inn

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. I felt a sense of coming home as I approached the hotel on a brisk March morning. Driving slowly up the driveway, I could see why this was such a treasured location. The online reviews had raved about the setting, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The historic Clifton Inn is the perfect blend of historic charm, modern amenities, and luxury in the Virginia countryside. Photo courtesy Clifton Inn.

The historic Clifton Inn perfectly blends historic charm, modern amenities, and luxury. Photo courtesy Clifton Inn.

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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 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 built in 1799 and rebuilt in the 1800s following a fire, reopening 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 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.

Clifton Inn is a luxury inn in the Virginia countryside. Photo courtesy Clifton Inn

Clifton Inn offers a luxurious welcome. Photo courtesy Clifton Inn

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.

Room 1 at the luxury Clifton Inn in Virginia is the Thomas Jefferson Suite. Photo courtesy Clifton Inn

Room 1 is the Thomas Jefferson Suite. Photo courtesy Clifton Inn

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 nightcap.

The bathroom in the Thomas Jefferson Suite doesn’t come with a tub. I was a little disappointed at first because I’m a 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 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 someone was always 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.

The dining room and verandah at Clifton Inn is ideal for a luxurious Continental Breakfast. Photo courtesy Clifton Inn

The dining room and verandah at Clifton Inn are ideal for a leisurely Continental Breakfast. Photo courtesy Clifton Inn

There is a turndown service each evening. Hot coffee and Continental breakfast await downstairs each morning. The complimentary afternoon tea with fresh pastries served in the living room is a lovely old-world touch. I started my visit by sipping a cup of Earl Grey by the fireplace, setting the overall relaxed yet luxurious tone for the stay.

Enjoy afternoon tea in the Living Room at Clifton Inn, a luxury Virginia Inn. Photo courtesy Clifton Inn

Enjoy afternoon tea in the Living Room. Photo courtesy Clifton Inn

You can also enjoy outdoor activities at the inn from spring through fall. 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 homegrown 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 with so much TLC, and every plate was a masterpiece. Even the cheese course featured locally sourced Virginia cheeses.

The Chef's Counter at Clifton Restaurant provides the ideal vantage point to watch the chefs at work. Photo courtesy Clifton Inn

The Chef’s Counter at Clifton Restaurant provides the ideal vantage point to watch the chefs. Photo courtesy Clifton Inn

I stayed at Clifton Inn in March, so the menu still reflected their winter offerings, although the gardens provided 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.

My beautifully plated salad from Clifton Restaurant. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

My beautifully plated salad from Clifton Restaurant. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

I followed the salad with a slightly smoky-tasting sweet potato soup, a sea scallop 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, the manager showed up with the cheese plate about an hour after I left dinner. 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, the 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.

Martha Jefferson Suite at Clifton Inn. Photo courtesy Clifton Inn

Martha Jefferson Suite at Clifton Inn. Photo courtesy Clifton Inn

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.

Written by Susan Lanier-Graham

Founder and publisher Susan Lanier-Graham has traveled the world for the past twenty years, filling a passport or two along the way. She has wandered through the jungles of Thailand, explored the mysteries of the Great Pyramids, and shared the night with a leopard in Zambia. She sailed in the Mediterranean, sipped her way through Burgundy canals and Champagne caves. She followed Rembrandt’s footsteps through Amsterdam. Susan found her center on the red rocks of Sedona and soaked up an exquisite sunset over the Indian Ocean in Bali. Susan is always looking for wow moments around the world or across the street to share with adventure lovers everywhere. She has authored more than 75 books and hundreds of magazine articles. Susan is an award-winning travel writer and member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA). She is a Certified California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). Susan is also the managing editor of North Peoria Lifestyle, a print lifestyle publication in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. Susan's work regularly appears in print and online in a variety of publications. These include various AAA publications, Postcards for Travel Leaders,,,,, Paradise Valley City Lifestyle, Scottsdale City Lifestyle, So Scottsdale, Green Living AZ, Modern Luxury,, WHERE Arizona, WHERE Traveler Phoenix + Scottsdale, and more.

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