Whenever I'm touring the Tampa Bay area I seldom miss the opportunity to spend some time strolling and snacking in the bonnie old town proudly bearing the ancient Gaelic name for Edinburgh -- Dunedin (pronounced duh-NEE-dun). It honors its name, and heritage, each spring with Highland Games, which come complete with kilted dancers, bagpipers and, of course, log-tossers. This season it's scheduled for April l.
There are two excellent restaurants: Bon Appetit at Marina Plaza, offering stunning bayfront panoramas, sunset cruises and Austrian-German culinary inspirations; and, on Main Street, Kelly's for Just About Anything, as funkily outfitted as its name indicates and featuring imaginative New American fare with select wines.
Antiques shops and eye-catching, spirit-stimulating galleries and boutiques are filled with all kinds of fascinating exotica.
There's a solid sense of belonging, of being immersed in a settlement that lays claim to being second oldest on Florida's Gulf Coast (Clearwater, six miles to the south, also contends for the honor) between Cedar Key and Key West. It was settled right after the Civil War but did not take on its old and honorable Scottish name until l878, when a pair of immigrants from the Highlands arrived -- James Somerville and John Ogilvie Douglas -- and upgraded the town's name from Jonesboro.
Douglas immediately started building a solid heart-of-pine two-story home near the center of town on Scotland Street (where else?), and he built well, as you can discover when staying in the house that was converted last year into a bed & breakfast by Sherril Claus. It's the oldest house in town.
There's a minimum of latticework and gingerbread, dictated, I want to believe, by a sparse, money-watching Scot who wanted no such nonfunctional nonsense. But there is an inviting swing-and-wicker-furnished front porch that's perfect for reading. The innkeeper screened it in and then framed her pride and joy with lush green hedges and traditional white picket fencing.
Guests can also socialize in the parlor with its cozy bay window alcove dominated by a handsome mahogany baby grand, a vintage Chickering that guests are invited to play. Sherril takes her turns at teatime. She's also in evidence during mornings in the yellow pine-paneled dining room, overseeing the expanded continental breakfasts featuring fresh fruits and freshly baked low-fat goodies, bagels, English muffins and various cereals plus freshly brewed coffee and teas. Special dietary restrictions are honored with notice.
Furnishings throughout are loyal to the Victorian spirit and contribute mightily to the sense of total immersion. Of particular interest are the mahogany organ, the beautifully restored fainting couch, the sideboard and china cabinet.
Guest rooms -- two on the second floor with private baths and queen-size beds, and two on the ground floor that share a bath -- are furnished with equal loyalty to the Victorian period. The downstairs Fireside Room has a mahogany-stained oak double bed, oversize chifforobe and marble-topped washstand while its mate, Douglas' Garden Room, which overlooks the yard, is wheelchair-accessible.
The blue and rose Victorian Rose Room upstairs is the honeymoon suite with an imposing armoire in the corner and the original claw-foot tub in the bath. The Empire Room has a decorative screen and jade artifacts.
There are no telephones or televisions in the rooms, but there is an extensive selection of CDs in the parlor, and out back there is a swimming pool with hot tub, along with a hammock and plenty of shade encouraging more in the well-tended garden.
Robert Tolf is the author of six books on country inns, including Florida Country Inns (Buchan Publications).
IF YOU GO
Getting there: From Clearwater, take Alternate 19 six miles north along palm-lined Edgewater Drive and turn right on Scotland Street a block south of Main Street and across from the marina. The inn is on the corner.
Rates: Year-round rates range from $85 to $110, including complimentary continental breakfast. No pets, smoking permitted.
Information and reservations: Contact the J.O. Douglas House Bed & Breakfast, 209 Scotland St., Dunedin, FL 34598; 727-735-9006. Web site: www.jodouglashouse.com.
A bonnie place to lie your head in Dunedin
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