Vermont – paint tray of the gods

Lonely Planet tells us that, nestled in the northeast corner of New England, Vermont is the region’s only state without an Atlantic coastline, but the Green Mountains that give the state its name (from the French verts monts) more than make up for this lack of ocean playground. Each year, crowds flock to the celebrated slopes of Killington, Mt Snow and Stowe for the finest skiing and snowboarding on the East Coast. These same mountains help form the Long Trail, a hiking path that courses the length of the state and lures countless repeat visitors – especially during the autumn months, when the state erupts in a blaze of spectacular foliage.


Much of Vermont is serene farmland, yielding up the state’s famous maple syrups and cheeses as well as the fresh produce that make it home to some of the nation’s finest restaurants. This attention to quality can also be savored at Vermont’s microbreweries; their fine craft brews help stoke the nightlife in bars up and down the state.


But above all, Vermont is home to the eccentric and the unexpected. From a puppet museum lurking in a massive barn and an old mill converted into a first-class restaurant; to llamas grazing in the backyard of a rural bed-and-breakfast and the only state capital without a McDonald’s. So, arm yourself with a good map, leave the main roads to the masses, and find your own charmed back-way along the capillary network of dirt roads that hug the banks of squiggling rivers, lead through tunnels of trees and lure you to unexpected discoveries.


Vermont was home to the indigenous Abenaki peoples when the first French explorers appeared in the 16th century. In 1609 Samuel de Champlain claimed the region surrounding the lake that now bears his name as part of New France, naming it les Verts Monts (the Green Mountains). More colonists soon arrived from France, as well as from Britain (settling further south in Bennington and Brattleboro).


Unsurprisingly, the French and Indian War (1754–63) exacerbated tensions between the two, including two battles at the French fort of Fort Carillon – renamed Fort Ticonderoga after the British victory in the second skirmish in 1759. Britain received Vermont as part of the Treaty of Paris four years later.


As British settlers poured into the territory, it was claimed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Province of New York and the Province of New Hampshire. In 1741 King George II invalidated Massachusetts’s claim, but the conflict between New Hampshire and New York persisted. In the 1770s the Green Mountain Boys were formed by Ethan Allen to fight for the rights of the New Hampshire settlers against the New Yorkers and, ultimately, the British.


While the sole battle of the American Revolution to take place in Vermont was the comparatively insignificant Hubbardton in 1777, Vermonters played a very major role that same year in the Battle of Bennington, which actually took place over the border in New York. A major victory, it was a significant turning point in the war. In 1791 Vermont became the 14th state of the new Union.

Because Vermont has such varying elevations and terrains, it’s hard to generalize about its climate and how it might affect your trip. But there are a few things that a traveler can count on. In the winter expect bitter cold and a number of snowstorms that drop at least 5in in one fell swoop. Freezing rain is common. Springtime is fleeting and doesn’t really arrive until well into May. Summertime is glorious, and although it can be hazy, the humidity is rarely oppressive. Autumn, when leaves turn ablaze with color, is the peak season – with blue-sky days followed by (hopefully) crisp nights.


Fly into New York and take a car north up route 91 via Brattleboro (great shopping and eating and an interesting area to explore) and Bellows Falls, Springfield and Hanover to Montpelier (a very small town) and across west to the largest city, Burlington, which is also quite small. The white churches and inns of southern Vermont give way to historic town and forested mountains, with lakes and waterways in the north west.


Our favourite is an autumn break to see the changing leaves.




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