A road trip through the Brandywine Valley offers a taste of American aristocracy.
In the Brandywine Valley, Routes 100 and 52 loop through scenic château country where the present-day residents resolutely protect the pastoral views. The narrow, twisting roads that trace the river force slow progress through lanes shaded by overarching branches of tulip trees and oaks. Wildflowers, not billboards, line roadsides. The 12-mile (19-kilometer) stretch of the Brandywine Valley from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, southeast to Wilmington, Delaware, may seem brief, but it takes a few days to truly enjoy.
Begin at Longwood Gardens
From the Philadelphia airport, take I-95S to 322W to U.S. 1. In 45 minutes, you arrive at Longwood Gardens, about three miles (five kilometers) northeast of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Pierre du Pont, who reshaped the family company for the 20th century, found spare time to personally design Longwood Gardens. The property includes forest rambles and walks in Italianate gardens. The conservatory, with 4.5 acres (1.8 hectares) under glass, nurtures 5,500 kinds of plants, including a room of orchids. In the 1930s, Pierre created fountains that still leap and sway with an evening light and music show.
Leaving Longwood, head for U.S. Rte. 52/Kennett Pike, the National Scenic Byway that meanders through the heart of the Brandywine Valley, providing glimpses of country estates hidden in the trees. After 7 miles (11 kilometers), turn left on Kirk Road. Check in at the big gray barn at the Inn at Montchanin Village. Eleven structures, some stucco-and-frame, were built between 1799 and 1910; they once housed workers of the DuPont Black Powder Mills. Now 28 rooms pamper guests with four-poster beds, gas fireplaces, and private gardens filled with lilies.
Learn all about where the du Pont story began at the stately Hagley Museum, less than a mile away from Montchanin. Take Rte. 100 south and turn left on Rte. 141 to the spot where E. I. du Pont built his gunpowder mill. After seeing DuPont innovations from nylon stockings to NASCAR race cars in the museum, you may wander on your own or tour in a bus with a guide to see the small stone buildings of this early American industry. Eleutherian Mills, the first du Pont home in America, sits on the cliff above the powder works. The three-story Georgian home reflects family life through memorabilia of five generations of du Ponts. Its barn shelters old vehicles, including the 1928 roadster manufactured by E. Paul duPont. Employees’ homes and a schoolhouse provide a view of 19th-century life.
The museum sits in the midst of the Brandywine Conservancy, straight north on Rte. 100, just ten minutes from Montchanin. The museum occupies three floors in a 19th-century brick gristmill surrounded by wildflowers. The collection of American art features works of the Wyeths, who lived and painted in homes and studios nearby. N. C. Wyeth’s illustrations for classics like Treasure Island join works by his son Andrew and grandson James.
To stave off the pressure of development, Lammot du Pont Copeland and his wife created a hilltop island of nature that surrounds their former home. You can get to Mt. Cuba Center via a tangle of country roads that wind through woods, but it might be best to take the easy way and go south to Rte. 141, then northwest to 3120 Barley Mill Road. Knowledgeable guides introduce guests to Mt. Cuba’s woodsy preserve by reservation only (call ahead). From Mt. Cuba, leave Barley Mill Road and pick up Rte. 141, jog north to Rte. 52, and then head southeast into Wilmington.
In this pleasant small city, the largest city in Delaware and home of the DuPont company, stroll along the riverfront and give your credit card a workout—tax-free—at the Shipyard Shops. An overnight at the Hotel du Pont at 11th and Market Streets, features the best of everything, from the Bösendorfer piano in the lobby to a collection of original paintings by regional artists including N. C. and Andrew Wyeth. The hotel’s over-the-top amenities include a Broadway-size theater that features touring shows.
The perfect wine tour with Celebrity Worldwide Transportation
The views of the Brandywine Valley can be picturesque year-round, though the gardens at Longwood and Winterthur are at their best in the warmer months so why not book a chauffeured service to enjoy the views without worrying about the parking or the traffic.
Brandywine Valley Wine Tours by Celebrity Worldwide Transportation understands the key elements of a successful tour. A beautiful vehicle and a well-planned itinerary executed by a knowledgeable chauffeur guide. You can count on us to provide the little extras to enhance your wine touring experience.
The Brandywine Valley Wine Trail allows you to experience award-winning wineries, located within a 50-mile radius, within easy driving distance of each other. Each winery has its own distinct personality for you to discover as you tour the vineyards, taste wine in their cellars, picnic on their grounds or visit the gift shops and learn about the unique characteristics of the Brandywine Valley wine district. Visit one or Visit all! Wineries are open year round for your enjoyment.
Also published on Medium.Tags: wine tours