The southwestern corner of Vermont, known as The Shires of Vermont, is defined by the Taconic Mountains on the west and the Green Mountains on the east. This region has the distinction of having two shire towns, or county seats, in Bennington and Manchester.
The Shires of Vermont region offers a sampling of everything that makes Vermont special — picturesque small towns with village greens, whitewashed steeples, quaint bed & breakfasts, cows at pasture alongside wonderful old hay barns, a multitude of farms providing fresh produce to local restaurants, and charming covered bridges.
Visit Manchester and choose from historic inns to modern boutique hotels to family-friendly motels. Refresh and relax at Ye Old Tavern, built more than 200 years ago. A favorite haunt of the Green Mountain Boys, you’ll see history in every floorboard and fireplace. Explore history further at Hildene (the Lincoln Family home), shop Manchester Designer Outlets or unique Vermont shops. For the outdoor enthusiast, enjoy hiking or biking on local trails or skiing at nearby Stratton or Bromley. Or try your luck at fly fishing the Battenkill, one of the premier trout fishing rivers in the northeast. Don’t know how to fly-fish? Visit the Orvis flagship store in Manchester and sign up for a lesson. A visit to the nearby American Museum of Fly Fishing may inspire you. For the golfer, choose from a number of different courses offering variety in terrain and challenge. Make your visit really special by planning around a exceptional event. For example, the ITVFest, the Independent Television and Film Festival, takes place October 11-15, 2017. Or consider a visit August 25-27, 2017 to participate in the Manchester Food and Wine Classic 2017.
To the north of Manchester, lies the town of Dorset. In 1785 the first marble quarry was established in Dorset and the town grew. Dorset marble was shipped throughout the northeast and used for many notable buildings including the New York Public Library. As early as the 1870s Dorset became a summer destination for nature lovers (the trout-rich Battenkill actually starts in Dorset and flows south to Manchester) giving rise to the quaint bed & breakfasts that still occupy the town today. Summer visitors since 1929 have flocked to the Dorset Theatre Festival for professionally produced summer theater, and East Dorset also hosts the Vermont Summer Festival, a month-long horse show. East Dorset is also the birthplace of Bill Wilson, co-founder of AA, and his former home is now a charming country hotel.
Head south out of Manchester and you come to the town of Arlington tucked in the valley between the Taconic Mountains and the Green Mountains along the Battenkill. The capital of the Vermont Republic (before Vermont became a state), Arlington was home to a number of the Green Mountain Boys. A more contemporary notable is Norman Rockwell, painter and illustrator, who moved to the town in 1939 with his family. As a reflection of his life in Arlington, the subject of his work began to focus on small-town life.
Next, head to Bennington, the other shire town in the region, and take in the panoramic view from the top of the Bennington Battle Monument, the tallest man-made structure in Vermont. Visit the Bennington Museum to see Grandma Moses’ fascinating artwork. Home to both Bennington College and Southern Vermont College, Bennington exudes small-town charm with its quaint shops, restaurants, and lodging choices. Visit Robert Frost’s grave in the Old Bennington Cemetery which dates back to the Revolutionary War. For a visit to Frost’s home, now the Robert Frost Stone House Museum, you must travel to Shaftsbury, the next town north of Bennington. Bennington is also the home of Bennington Potters, beautiful handmade pottery since 1948. Visit the pottery works to see it made and browse the neighboring store to view the vast selection of colors and styles. Bennington is host to a number of art festivals throughout the year, but is best known for the Garlic and Herb Festival each fall.
Travel through the Shires on the three specially designated scenic byways in the region. You can head north along the Shires of Vermont Byway which begins at Vermont’s southern border and follows Route 7 and 7A to Manchester. Along the way, stop off at the Lake Shaftsbury State Park for a day of water sports (boat rentals are available), hiking, or picnicking. Head out of Manchester along Route 30, the Stone Valley Byway, to explore a countryside perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and other outdoor pursuits. Visit the Emerald Lake State Park in East Dorset for swimming, fishing, or camping. Or travel the Molly Stark Byway between Brattleboro and Bennington along Vermont Route 9 near the southern border of the state. Here you find the Woodford State Park, the highest elevation park in the state, with rental boats, camping sites, and hiking trails available.
The Shires of Vermont are easily accessible from New York and New England, making the area a popular, year-round tourist destination.
The Shires of Vermont. “So Vermont. So near.”
Events in The Shires of Vermont include:
Manchester Food and Wine Classic 2017
Vermont Summer Festival
Dorset Theater Festival
Garlic & Herb Festival