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Weekender: The Litchfield Hills, Connecticut

Touring the Towns

The Litchfield Hills possess a seemingly endless array of attractions. Browsing the one-of-a-kind shops is a constant pleasure—chain stores have made little headway here. As a historic region settled in the mid 18th century, the county has dozens of Early American houses and churches on its village greens. And there are more hiking trails than an athletic walker could cover in a year.

Salisbury, Sharon, and Lakeville—all in the northwestern corner—are relatively quiet oases where prestigious prep schools, prime dining, and some of the region's best hiking and biking trails can be found. Locals also love Harney & Sons Tea Tasting Room (11 Brook St., Salisbury; 860/435-5051), purveyors of fine tea. Samplings are served daily and dozens of rare varieties (as well as interesting accessories) are for sale.

To the east is secluded Norfolk, a warm-weather destination for the wealthy since the 1850's. Stanford White designed the fountain on the village green, and residents are equally proud of their three state parks and the Greenwoods Theater, where plays are staged and classic films are shown. Summer brings international chamber musicians to the shingled 1908 shed at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival/Yale Summer School of Music (Ellen Battell Stoeckel Estate; 860/542-3000), a space known for its superb acoustics.

At the center of the county is the town of Litchfield, an Early American enclave that has been called the finest unrestored Colonial town in America. A prominent commercial center and the site of the nation's first law school (its first class, in 1773, included Aaron Burr), Litchfield has always been the realm of the upper crust. The grandest of the many lovely houses in the historic district are on strollable North and South Streets, just off the green. The Litchfield Congregational Church on the Green is one of the most photographed churches in New England.

Old money also settled farther south, in Washington, a town with two prep schools, a green that dates from 1741, and three historic districts. In preservation-minded Washington, even the drugstore is in a historic building. Tucked away in the hills outside town is the Institute for American Indian Studies, a museum with a re-created 17th-century Algonquin village.

The township of Washington also comprises tiny New Preston, known for its cluster of antiques shops, and part of scenic Lake Waramaug, eight miles around, ringed with wooded hills.

At the southern end of the county is Woodbury, Connecticut's antiques capital. More than 40 shops line its Main Street, as well as four Early American churches with photogenic cupolas and weather vanes. Woodbury also lays claim to the historic Glebe House—credited as the birthplace of the Episcopal Church in America—and its Gertrude Jekyll-designed garden.

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