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INNside Skinny: The new Cliffside Inn

A fire is lit in the firepit at the Cliffside Inn each night that weather allows.
A fire is lit in the firepit at the Cliffside Inn each night that weather allows.
Photo provided by Cliffside Inn

By Marti Mayne

From the moment you spy the sign, you know you're in a wonderful Newport, RI inn.
Photo b Marti Mayne.

The Cliffside Inn has a new look. Actually, the total renovation of the Cliffside was complete nearly two years ago, but I only recently had the chance to see the impressive transformation. The Cliffside Inn has been restored to its original grandeur. Once home to artist Beatrice Turner whose original artworks still hang on the walls, the “new” Cliffside Inn is just as impressive now as it was in its Victorian heyday. Probably even more striking, I’d venture to say.

I visited the Cliffside Inn in April 2010 just prior to the sale of the inn from Win Baker to Bill and Nancy Bagwill. After their purchase of the Cliffside, Bill and Nancy spent more than nine months gutting the interior of the inn down to the studs and restoring the common rooms and guest rooms one by one with elegant new bathrooms, carpeting, tiling, artwork, furniture, fixtures and more. The result – nothing short of astounding.

Upon entering the inn, the scent of fresh flowers is the first indicator of the attention to detail here. Indeed, I enjoyed fresh flowers throughout the common areas, hallways and in my own guest room too. The woodwork shines and the tiling sparkles. From the parlor’s deep blue walls to the crackling of the fireplace in the library, to the wonderfully whimsical powder room authentically outfitted with a Thomas Crapper Co toilet, sink and “Crapper” biographies to read, the first impression I had upon entering each room was a resounding “WOW”.

I had the chance to tour a number of the guest rooms and learned that the WOW-factor did not end in the common rooms. From two-room suites overlooking the water to guest rooms with steam showers complete with a variety of fragrances and mood-changing colors, it is clear that a keen sense of design and understanding of what guests want was poured into the renovation of the Cliffside Inn. I stayed in the Blue Room, and enjoyed sitting on the expansive window seat while the fire flickered in the private fireplace beside me.

The inn’s cottage is home to three suites with views of the water, a sitting room with a fireplace and expansive bathrooms which share the fireplace. In fact, of all the changes at the Cliffside, it seems that the bathrooms are the most impressive. Each guest room offers gorgeous tiling, huge showers and in some cases whirlpool tubs. Many showers offer two or more showerheads and ample room for two. For me, the bathrooms were a focal point in most of the guestrooms and suites.

The one time the home of artist Beatrice Turner, who painted more than 3000 oils, the inn was originally built by Maryland’s governor, Thomas Swann, as a second home. Walk into the Cliffside and you’re transported to a time when the Vanderbilts and Astors shared elegant afternoon tea, a tradition that remains today (Note: on Wednesdays a beautiful afternoon tea is served with a variety of sweet and savory treats; on every other day guests are invited to a complimentary relaxed wine and hors d’oeuvres reception from 5-6pm). So special are the tea cups, an unusual set of shelves in the parlor displays the inn’s eclectic tea cup collection.

The Cliffside Inn is literally steps from Newport, RI’s famous Cliff Walk. A must-try for all guests, you won’t want to miss strolling by Newport’s mansions and taking in the beautiful ocean views. For hearty walkers, great restaurants are within about a 1.5 mile stroll, and a five minute drive.

Every corner of the Cliffside Inn conveys attention to detail and a keen sense of hospitality. From the homemade granola at breakfast (you must try it!) to fresh flowers throughout the inn, inngoers agree this is one beautiful inn. It’s no wonder that the Cliffside Inn enjoys the #1 spot among Newport B&Bs on TripAdvisor. You go, then add your review. You’ll see.

When You Go
Cliffside Inn, 2 Seaview Street, Newport, RI 02840, 800-845-1811 401-847-1811 Innkeepers, Nancy and Bill Bagwill offer kind and welcoming hospitality with assistance from their lovely staff including Koty, the inn’s mascot who’s “smile” you can’t miss because he’s so happy to see you!

Just 1.5 hours from Boston, it’s a perfect one-tank getaway. You’ll be transported from the urban streets of Boston to the seaside appeal of Newport in no time, ideal for a Rhode Island weekend getaway or the perfect hot date night!

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