Marylanders can expect fabulous foliage this fall because of our cool, wet summer, or so the weather experts are predicting. This may be the year to slip away for a peaceful weekend at a country inn or bed and breakfast, with nothing more exciting on the schedule than a game of croquet.
You don't want to spend your weekend driving, so we've chosen six places that are all less than two hours away by car. Be sure to make your reservations early. With only five or six guest rooms each, these appealing inns fill up quickly, particularly on the weekends. (Ask for details about accommodations: "guest room" may mean a single or a suite, with or without a private bath.)
Blue Bird on the Mountain
14700 Eyler Ave., Cascade, 800-362-9526, 5 guest rooms, $105-$130, includes continental breakfast, full breakfast on Sundays
The former summer home of Walter Taylor, an aide to Robert E. Lee, is now a B&B; in Cascade, a quiet mountain town northwest of Thurmont. The house's sunny, comfortable rooms are decorated with cozy furnishings, quilts, wicker and painted furniture. Two rooms have fireplaces. In front is a pleasantly overgrown garden (with a hot tub!), while in back the acre and a half of rambling lawn is filled with trees. For spectacular leaves you can also visit nearby Catoctin Mountain Park or take a fall foliage train tour.
Don't miss: The Rose Garden suite on the second floor. Its enclosed porch with windows on two sides gives you a wonderful view of sunsets and the peaceful backyard.
Possible turnoff: Blue plush wall-to-wall carpeting on the stairs and throughout the upstairs hall has a decidedly non- historic feel.
Beyond foliage: Stress-reduction massages are available but must be scheduled two days in advance.
954 High St., Chestertown, 800-742-3236, 5 guest rooms, $65-$140, includes continental breakfast
At the end of the winding driveway is a late-19th-century gingerbread house with eclectic architecture so strange and wonderful you can't stop looking at it. The pleasant shabby chic interior, while comfortable, doesn't have the same impact. One of its drawing cards, though, is that this really feels like a home, with a comfortable parlor and, yes, a croquet set for guests to use on the rolling lawn.
Don't miss: The parklike vista from the screened porch or hammock under the trees. Deer sometimes come to graze.
Possible turnoff: Lauretum isn't situated in Chestertown's pretty, historic section.
Beyond foliage: Nearby Rock Hall is getting positively trendy, with lots of intriguing shops.
214 Goldsborough St., Easton, 800-223-7290, 5 guest rooms, $100-$120, includes full breakfast
If you think you have to head to Western Maryland to see spectacular fall color, you haven't been to the Eastern Shore this time of year. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and Pickering Creek Environmental Center are an easy drive from the small town of Easton. Or you can stay in this clapboard and gabled house in the heart of Easton's historic district, never leave the front porch and see plenty of autumn foliage. Its small yard has several huge, beautiful trees.
The rooms combine romantic Victorian furnishings -- lots of lace and frills and working fireplaces -- with air conditioning, cable TVs and whirlpool tubs.
Don't miss: Innkeeper Diane Laird- Ippolito's collection of vintage hats, which decorates the hall on three floors.
Possible turnoff: New this year are phone jacks for computers in each room, so you don't have an excuse not to check your e-mail.
Beyond foliage: Rent a bicycle. Talbot County has flat terrain and great cycling routes.
Yellow Turtle Inn
111 Springdale Ave., New Windsor, 410-635-3000, 5 guest rooms, $85-$155, includes full breakfast
Some B&Bs; go all out to provide the total romantic Victorian getaway. The rooms here, for instance, have names like the Queen's Chamber; and the staff serve breakfast in period costume. What set the Yellow Turtle apart from other B&Bs; are the New Age elements and the Zen-like emphasis on serenity and tranquility. The inn, which sits on three acres of rolling countryside, is about as pastoral as you're going to get less than an hour away from Baltimore.
Don't miss: A meditative walk in the labyrinth
Possible turnoff: New Windsor isn't exactly the ends of the earth when you want to get away from it all.
Beyond foliage: Maryland wineries are nearby.
Antietam Overlook Farm
Porterstown Road, Keedysville, 800-878-4241, 5 guest rooms, $115-$165, includes full breakfast
Few inns so relatively close to Baltimore are as peaceful and private as this 19th-century-style farmhouse, built by the owners to be a bed and breakfast. Each room has the modern conveniences of a hotel, plus a fireplace and its own screened porch. The ridge-top property comprises 91 acres -- that's a lot of trees and a lot of gorgeous foliage.
Don't miss: The scenic view from the back of the house, which includes Antietam Na-tional Battlefield and the fields and mountains of four states.
Possible turnoff: The red octagonal sign at the end of the driveway says "whoa" instead of "stop."
Beyond foliage: Visit the Civil War battleground. It will be one of the most moving tours you've ever taken.
7945 Worman's Mill Road, Frederick, 800-400-4667, 5 guest rooms, $75-$105, includes continental breakfast
Staying here is like stepping back in time -- the real past, not the sentimentalized version some country inns specialize in. The imposing brick house, circa 1880, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Aficionados will be fascinated by the Gothic Revival architecture and authentic Victorian furnishings; others may want something a bit cozier.
Spring Bank's grounds include acres of maple, poplar and black birch trees. When the leaves turn, the view from the 10-foot-high windows is spectacular. Want more leaves? Nearby are a national forest and two state parks.
Don't miss: The double parlors and the original hand-stenciling on the billiards room ceiling.
Possible turnoff: The traffic from nearby Route 15 can be noisy.
Beyond foliage: Frederick's historic district and numerous antiques shops are only a few miles away.