Late Summer Weekend Trip to Newfound Lake
Those lazy days of late summer are perfect for a weekend of exploring New Hampshire’s secret lake
The natural beauty of Newfound Lake
Photo by Stillman Rogers
When we stopped for dinner at Kathleen’s Cottage, at the south end of Newfound Lake, we hadn’t expected to step into the middle of a céilidh. Every Friday evening, this Irish pub hosts traditional Irish music, which might feature any combination of guitar, banjo, bodhrán, penny whistle and vocal. The menu features a few Irish favorites, and we chose a shepherd’s pie of rosemary-scented lamb with diced carrots topped by creamy mashed potatoes, and Guinness beef stew — chunks of lean beef braised in Guinness Stout with herbs and vegetables. They have more than a dozen beers on tap and the state’s largest selection of Irish whiskeys.
If the sunlight hadn’t roused us from the contemporary sleigh bed in the Blue Room at Six Chimneys & A Dream, the tantalizing fragrance of something baking in the kitchen below would have. Our B&B at the north end of Newfound Lake in Hebron has a long history of welcoming guests — it began as a stagecoach tavern in 1799 — and current owner Juli Pruden welcomes hers with a delicious breakfast. After hot muffins and plates of fresh fruit, she presented fluffy cinnamon-pecan French toast with raisins. It looked like a dessert, and tasted even better.
We’d reserved a spot on a Newfound Eco-Tour, and boarded the pontoon boat at Grey Rocks Conservation Area, also in Hebron. As we cruised, our guide told us about Newfound’s history and ecology, and we learned that it is one of the deepest and clearest in the state. To prove it, we took turns using the instruments to measure its clarity and temperature. The latter was just right for a quick dip at Wellington State Park beach. On the ride back we savored the views, along with ice cream from The Mill Fudge Factory — and knew instantly where we would have lunch.
Riverside dining at The Mill Fudge Factory
Photo by stillman rogers
We drove down the western shore, and into Bristol, where we found The Mill Fudge Factory in a cluster of old mercantile buildings. We tore our eyes off the list of ice cream varieties on the blackboard to focus on lunch, settling on a chicken salad sandwich (big flavorful chunks with nuts and grapes), and a Chicken Bella Tuscana with smoked mozzarella and basil pesto. We ate these at a café table on the porch overlooking the millpond and falls, and agreed that this place deserved its 2014 “Best of NH” award.
After browsing in the antiques shop across the street, we drove back through Hebron, a postcard-worthy ensemble surrounding a green, to Groton and Sculptured Rocks Geologic Site. If Newfound is NH’s secret lake, this is certainly its secret natural wonder. Perhaps the double-fudge chocolate cone I devoured after lunch was still in my mind, but to me the gorge’s granite walls look as though they’d been carved with a giant ice cream scoop. Alongside these huge potholes scoured out by ancient glacial waterfalls are curving channels and chutes that the rushing little Cockermouth River continues to carve as it tumbles through and swirls in its whirlpools.
All this water and scenery reminded us that we still hadn’t gotten our kayaks wet, and the north shore seemed a perfect place for a sunset paddle. We put in from Bean Nature Conservation Area, farther downstream in Hebron, where the 9.5-mile Cockermouth forms a delta as it enters the lake. We explored some of the shallow channels, listening to the bobolinks and enjoying the late afternoon light on the grasses, then followed the wooded lakeshore east to watch the sun drop behind Bear Mountain.
A churning cauldron at Sculptured Rocks
Photo by stillman rogers
Dinner at Pasquaney Restaurant
The pink sky still reflected on the water as we took our seats by the window at Pasquaney Restaurant, and we watched lights come on around the lake as we nibbled on peel-and-eat shrimp, oysters, little necks and steamed mussels from the raw bar. For entrées we chose veal served Cordon Bleu-style with prosciutto and provolone, and the chef’s signature Mediterranean haddock, encrusted in panko in a white-wine lemon sauce with fresh tomatoes, onions and peppers, enlivened by capers and dill.
It was such a beautiful morning that we took Juli’s suggestion and had breakfast outside overlooking her perennial garden. After finishing the ham and cheddar frittata, we browsed in her shop, where she shows the work of several local artists and quilters. Although we’d passed it from the road and the water, we hadn’t yet stopped at the Newfound Audubon Center. We browsed the interactive exhibits in the Nature Center, then walked the trails through the lakeside woods and along the shore, where they rent kayaks and canoes.
We stopped at the Hebron Village Store for picnic makings en route to Wellington State Park, where we hiked up the Elwell Trail, opposite the park entrance. The rewards for the climb up Little Sugarloaf and Sugarloaf Mountains are almost immediate, and we ate our lunch on the ledges overlooking the lake. The trail stays pretty level as it crosses a long ridge, but we stopped short of Bear Mountain itself, and returned to the park for a swim before heading home. We had to go through Bristol, so stopped once more at The Mill Fudge Factory for some take-home fudge — just to be absolutely sure they deserved that Best of NH.