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Great Escapes

Visiting Newport’s Castle Hill Inn, a Matouk Signature Property

[Edited version - originally posted on July 14, 2016]

Newport, Rhode Island, also known as America’s First Resort, has pretty much everything a visitor could hope for — diverse history, stunning architecture, and a charming downtown district replete with distinctive shops and restaurants. And Newport′s seemingly endless coastline of wide-open beaches and rocky shores also meets waters favored by the world’s yachting elite. Overlooking it all is Castle Hill Inn, a gracious 1874 shingle-style mansion that sits atop the southwestern tip of the city on a private 40-acre peninsula that overlooks Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Originally built as a summer home for Harvard marine biologist and naturalist Alexander Agassiz, the mansion later housed naval officers while functioning as an impromptu base during World War II. In the subsequent peacetime, the home became a summer hotel, hosting Hollywood royalty including actress Grace Kelly and Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and playwright Thornton Wilder. Today, Castle Hill Inn reflects the rich patina of a historic home blended with classic, coastal charm. Part of the Relais & Chateaux family – an international network of properties that demarcates excellence in hospitality – Castle Hill is year-round luxury retreat.

Matouk is honored to partner with Castle Hill as a Signature Property, joining an esteemed collection of luxury hotels scattered across the map. In addition to the charms of the ocean and Newport, Rhode Island, guests of Castle Hill can also look forward to sleeping on the signature collection of sateen bedding that Matouk created specifically for Castle Hill guests. We had the opportunity to speak with Brian Young, managing director at Castle Hill, and here's what he had to say about hospitality, Matouk, and visiting Newport.

Tell us about the inspiration for the guest room decor. What is the mood you want to evoke?
The property’s history inspires the hotel’s decor. Each guest room in the Agassiz Mansion, which was originally built as a residence, reflects the Inn’s lineage. Appointments can be compared to those used by Newport’s high society in the late 1800s — luxury meets comfort. The Harbor Houses and Beach Cottages, which were built in the 1940s, are less formal; they evoke a more casual New England feel. Although the flavor is historic, the decor itself is eclectic and timeless, inspired more by the native beauty of the surrounding property — coastal, rugged, and romantic. It’s where sandy feet, sea glass, and a sip of Champagne collide.

What is your approach to making guests feel comfortable and happy?
Put simply, we strive to treat our guests with genuine kindness. We like to say that we are in the business of helping highly successful people relax; every interaction our team has with our guests will either raise or lower their blood pressure. Exceptional, kind, consistent service guarantees the latter. That’s our goal at Castle Hill.

Any special touches you use to prepare rooms at bedtime?
We want to be sure each room is a restful haven to which guests can return after a full day. We draw the curtains, dim the lights, turn down the beds, and place robes and slippers within easy reach. We also refresh towels, turn on soft, classical music, and place mineral water on the nightstand alongside locally made chocolates and house-made cookies. There’s nothing better than a Castle Hill chocolate chip cookie as a bedtime snack.

Why did you choose Matouk bedding for Castle Hill Inn?
We are delighted to feature Matouk bed linens in all of our guest rooms. We’re thrilled to partner with Matouk not only because the company exhibits the same commitment to luxury as Castle Hill, but because Matouk linens are produced locally, just 45 minutes north of Newport in Fall River, Massachusetts. We hope to soon feature terry products and dining linens too.

How did the Matouk partnership come to be?
The partnership developed through a friendly and respectful relationship between [Matouk President and CEO] George Matouk and Paul O’Reilly, President and CEO of Newport Harbor Corporation, which owns Castle Hill Inn. Paul has always had great admiration for George’s talent in partnership building, his respect for his employees, and his intense dedication to his product quality and brand. Paul recognized that the high quality of Matouk matches that of Castle Hill and felt that guests who enjoy the luxuries of Castle Hill would also enjoy the luxury of Matouk linens. Also, similar to Castle Hill and NHC, Matouk is a multi-generational company that believes in holding on to its roots and building a strong business foundation on time-tested and high quality products, rather than chasing trends. Both Paul and George felt that this common ground between the two companies presented a perfect opportunity to collaborate, and the partnership between Castle Hill Inn and Matouk was born.

What are your favorite spots in Newport? Please share!
Here are our favorite Newport spots. We hope you love them too.

Marc Allen Clothiers (142 Bellevue Avenue) for menswear; Farmaesthetics Apothecary (144 Bellevue Avenue) for organic skin care products; Angela Moore (190 Bellevue Avenue) for women’s clothing and accessories.

The Lawn at Castle Hill for alfresco dining with the best view in Newport; The Dining Room at Castle Hill for locally sourced cuisine (Forbes magazine gave us four stars); 22Bowens (22 Bowens Wharf) for the best steaks in Newport; The Mooring Seafood Kitchen & Bar (1 Sayers Wharf) for its raw bar and seafood; and Smoke House (31 Scotts Wharf) for barbecue. [All are part of Newport Restaurant Group, also owned by NHC.]

Live music at various restaurants on Broadway, a favorite spot among locals.

Arts & Culture:
Atelier Newport (200 Bellevue Avenue) for contemporary artwork; Jane Pickens Theater (49 Touro Street) for indie movies and streaming of live theater events; National Museum of American Illustration (492 Bellevue Avenue) for work by American artists; Newport Preservation Society (424 Bellevue Avenue) for tours of historic mansions; and Newport Jazz and Folk festivals for music.

Stroll along the Cliff Walk; tour a Newport Mansion or two; sail on a 12-meter yacht or take a lesson at Sail Newport; view Fort Adams, which guards the entrance to Narragansett Bay; visit the Norman Bird Sanctuary for hiking and bird watching.

Castle Hill’s own private beach, for guests of the Inn only; Gooseberry Beach on Ocean Drive; Second Beach in Middletown for waves; Third Beach in Middletown, especially in the wintertime.

All images courtesy of Castle Hill Inn.

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