The name of Walnut Grove is synonymous with the "Little House On The Prairie" TV…
We have had plenty of fun tracking down unusual and fun places to stay in various parts of the world. I had expected to find it easy to find listings of unique places to stay, as we live in the age of Internet searches. Unfortunately, these searches just turned up listings from the usual suspects; Expedia, Tripadvisor etc. I love a challenge so after going through pages and pages of websites I was able to compile a list of the wacky and unusual, and wherever possible I try to factor these into our travel plans.
One place that had caught my attention was a bed and breakfast in Minnesota that had originally been a jailhouse. The Old Fillmore County Jail and Carriage House was built in 1869 and served in the capacity of a jailhouse until 1970 when the jail was relocated and the building became a private residence, still retaining many of its original features.
As we headed across the mid-West we decided to stop off in the small town of Preston, Minnesota where the Jailhouse Inn is located. There are a few different rooms to choose from but we selected the “Cell Block” where you can spend the night behind bars and get the real jailhouse experience.
Originally designed for incarceration, there were few features incorporated for the comfort of the inmates. Luckily, there have been some modifications and additions to bring a little comfort to the former gaol. They have squeezed two queen-sized beds into two of the cells, that was not really built to house a queen bed. The space was really tight, so there was no space at the end of the beds, which is a problem if you are six foot six inches tall. Oh well, sleeping on the diagonal it is! Other comforts included a TV, a couple of high back chairs and a substantial bath with jets. I don’t suppose a hot tub was in the original specifications for the jailhouse!
After a night in the cells, we rose in the morning totally refreshed. Pleased to find the doors to the cell house were not locked, we headed to the breakfast room. The food that the host’s Marc and Jeanne had cooked up was beautifully presented, so much so that it seemed almost too good to eat. But we managed to gobble it down and at the same time engage our fellow prisoners in some jolly banter. Like us they were not of this land, having travelled from Canada.
To be honest, apart from the tasty breakfast Preston does not have much to offer in terms of culinary delights. The previous night we had sought sustenance and it turned out that Preston is almost totally bereft of anywhere to eat. We ended up at the Branding Iron Supper Club, which is more or less the only game in town.
Anyway, we had not travelled here with expectations of Michelin star restaurants. What Preston does have to offer is some beautiful, rural countryside. During our stay, we were blessed with excellent weather and to make the most of our time we decided to go out cycling to explore the area. After several false starts, to pump up tires, fix seats etc we set off on a planned trip from Preston to Harmony, some 14 miles away. As well as having a pleasant name Harmony is the centre of the Amish community in the area, so it sounded like the place to head for. The country trail route took us all the way between the two towns, initially running along the banks of the Root River. On leaving Preston the river takes a path away from the roads and you soon find yourself in the depths of the southern Minnesotan countryside – with endless fields dotted with the occasional cow chewing the cud with some of its colleagues. Jack’s bike was not performing too well and he and Emily were starting to feel tired. At this time we had only gone 4 miles or so – and there was a long way to go still. Karen, Jack and Emily decided to turn around, but I decided to carry on alone, with a plan to meet up with them in Harmony. Which amazingly happened. Harmony was a bit of disappointment, so it was not long before we kissed Harmony goodbye and returned to chaos.
Overall, we adored the Jailhouse Inn. The stay in the cell house was an experience and the breakfast was amazing. It is a lovely place to head for a quiet, romantic weekend getaway.