In 1699, Barnstable’s Ashley Manor was built up on a hill, tucked away as its own lavish retreat. In its 300 years, the walls of Ashley Manor have witnessed defining historical moments. Early on, the home was a safe house amidst the Revolutionary War, harboring soldiers within its walls, behind fake bookcases and trap doors. Today, Ashley Manor sits back off of the picturesque Route 6A, and lies in the caring, talented hands of Keith and Allison McDonald. Owners since January 2020, the couple is passionate about maintaining the property’s historical integrity while adding their own modern flair. In just their first year of ownership, the McDonald’s have enriched the inn and its amenities amidst the pandemic’s unpredictability. Named Bed & Breakfast of the Year Cape Cod for 2021 by LUXlife Magazine, Ashley Manor’s goal is to continue being an industry leader in the coming years.
The McDonalds both have over 50 years of experience in the hospitality and restaurant industry in California, working with luxury brands like the Ritz Carlton, St. Regis, and JC Resorts in Laguna Beach, where they first met. In 2017, the couple decided to embark on their own adventure, dreaming of owning an inn and working together in a smaller setting. That summer, they set out along the east coast, starting in Connecticut and exploring up through Maine. “It was very resort oriented in California. Being near the water was important to us. We found that back East, there was more of a culture for bed and breakfasts and inns,” Allison shares. The couple searched for the right fit by staying in various properties on the market. On a subsequent visit to the Cape, their agent convinced them to look at Ashley Manor. “I knew as soon as I walked in that this was the place. It reminded me of an old Victorian with grand scale rooms. With the guest rooms, the public areas, library, living room, and the feel of the house, I thought, this could work,” Keith says.
“Our rooms are unique, they’re grand scale and have wood burning fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs. I was able to picture ourselves here,” Allison says. The couple liked the idea of the owners’ cottage providing a bit of separation from their work and began to envision life at Ashley Manor. “The cottage is a little bit more modern with the high ceilings. We also have a tennis court and we both play tennis,” she adds.
The inn can accommodate 13 guests within six guest rooms, four of which are considered suites. Each suite is equipped with a wood burning fireplace and an oversized jetted Jacuzzi tub. The inn has nine total fireplaces, enhancing its historic New England feel throughout the living and dining areas. On the exterior, the gardens, gazebo, and 44-foot French-inspired patio are beautiful havens to wander and relax.
The McDonalds officially took on the project in January 2020. Come March, the world shut down, but the McDonalds chose to get moving. “We made the situation into an opportunity,” Allison shares. “We knew that we were going to be closed in March regardless, because the previous owners always closed in March. So, we got to work, and then March became April, May, and half of June. That gave us the time to really put our finger print on the property. We wanted to set our brand,” Keith adds. The extended time frame offered an opportunity to do the work themselves and understand what worked best stylistically.
The McDonalds have paid close attention to upholding the history and character of the home while weaving in modern amenities. Keith describes their style as “eclectic and elegant”, with a simple approach to design. The couple has brought in new furniture to refresh the space, keeping with fewer, larger pieces. They have also painted and updated flooring and lighting for a modern feel. With comfort a priority, the inn feels approachable and more like a home for their guests.
Their attention to detail is evident in their bespoke collection of handmade textiles featured throughout Ashley Manor. “They are all one-of-a-kind, hand knit/sewn pillows with fabrics that have been sourced from around the world. Our curated collection has grown to 60 pieces and includes French linens, Japanese silks, Hungarian hemps, and hand spun vintage natural fibers,” Keith describes. Allison also loves incorporating fresh greenery and plants, an additional touch their guests appreciate.
While renovating, the pair planned out how to maximize privacy and safety for reopening. One key decision was to create individual dining rooms with two separate seating times. In the warmer months, the French-inspired large patio offers an outdoor dining space overlooking the gazebo and gardens. The guests responded well to their own table and personal serving by Keith and Allison, who take sanitation guidelines very seriously. Aside from giving space, the separate seating times allow the food to be prepared “à la minute”, or to the minute. “Everything is fresh, warm, plated and served. We take a lot of pride in our food, which I think sets us apart. We think about what guests prefer and work hard on that,” Keith says.
The kitchen’s creations are a team effort and something that Ashley Manor takes pride in as a distinguishing service. Everything is truly made from scratch, from the bread, to the pancake mix and waffle batter. Ingredients are primarily local and organic, and the McDonalds serve vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, and dairy free options to guests with diet restrictions. “Right after meal service, we sit down and talk about the next day’s menu and what we need,” Keith says.
The couple is hoping to host more micro weddings on the property after successful events this past year. Currently, Ashley Manor is offering one-night stays to accommodate last minute travelers or locals who need to get out of the house, understanding the stresses of this year and their opportunity to provide a place of relaxation. “Our luxury at Ashley Manor lies within the experience. We have luxurious towels, bedding, and furniture, but I think the true luxury lies within the quality of the guest experience,” Keith describes.
“It’s an amazing year, too, because people are so grateful to get out of the house. To be pleasantly surprised by Ashley Manor, our service, and the experience we’re providing is touching,” Allison says. “We get to take care of a home that’s over 300 years old. It’s pretty amazing. We’re very lucky,” she adds. Down to the slightest details, the McDonalds are tending to Ashley Manor and their guests to create a sense of home and repose. After one stay, you will absolutely be yearning to return.
Visit AshleyManor.net for more information.