A rus­tic respite close to Austin

Sage Hill Inn of­fers ideal week­end get­away.

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - TRAVEL - By He­len An­ders

KYLE — Sa­vor­ing a bite of per­fectly medium-rare duck with huck­le­berry gas­trique, I looked around the Sage Hill Inn din­ing room at hand-hold­ing cou­ples who seemed to feel at home.

“A lot of them have been here be­fore,” the waiter con­fided. So why wasn’t I aware of this trea­sure of an inn just half an hour from my Austin home?

“They want to keep it to them­selves,” the waiter said. “They don’t talk about it.”

Well, al­low me to talk about it, be­cause it’s a re­ally sweet get­away for a cou­ple seek­ing a few days’ es­cape from the won­der­ful but re­lent­less Cen­tral Texas spring fes­ti­val sea­son.

Kyle doesn’t spring to mind when you think about a ro­man­tic respite, but this rus­tic yet well de­signed and com­fort­able inn fits the bill on the very cusp of the Hill Coun­try. The land is just start­ing to un­du­late west of In­ter­state 35, and the 88-acre prop­erty’s drive­way off FM 150 (get off I-35 at exit 215) winds be­neath live oaks, past prickly pears and clutch af­ter clutch of thriv­ing cen­tury plants, many of their stalks shoot­ing sky­ward. The blue­bon­nets should be out soon, too.

Built in 1994, the inn of­fers 16 ac­com­mo­da­tions, one a three­bed­room house but most guest rooms and suites, ei­ther in two grace­ful stone main build­ings or in nearby cab­ins. I wouldn’t quite call it a full-out lux­ury sit­u­a­tion, but it’s def­i­nitely high-end, with first-rate beds and bed­ding and fur­nish­ings and lovely bath­rooms. Mine, the Kyle room, in­cluded (as many do) a fire­place and large, invit­ing soak­ing tub. Fresh flow­ers stood on the cof­fee ta­ble, and wa­ter and even mos­quito re­pel­lent were pro­vided.

Spring rates start at $299 a night and in­clude an ex­cel­lent three­course din­ner (more on that in a mo­ment) and hearty break­fast, along with free Wi-Fi. A re­cent

ren­o­va­tion added a new pool deck, a 14-per­son hot tub and a lovely four-room spa cot­tage near a but­ter­fly gar­den that sets the tone for re­lax­ation. If you don’t see the but­ter­flies right away, shake a bush.

Sage Hill of­fers good hik­ing ter­rain, and my main quandary was whether to take a hike be­fore or af­ter my mas­sage. I chose af­ter, head­ing down to Onion Creek, past the new pool, just in time for sun­set over the hills to the west. Five trails wind through the grounds, from .16 to 2.5 miles, some with gen­tle el­e­va­tion, but noth­ing dif­fi­cult. I passed some invit­ing ham­mocks and a fire pit along my stroll, too.

Then it was time for din­ner. I bought a glass of crisp rosé to en­joy with the food, which, as I men­tioned, is part of the room rate. I was knocked out by my choice, a ten­der duck breast swathed in huck­le­berry gas­trique with a side of creamy mush­room risotto. I truly was too sat­is­fied to take on dessert, so the waiter sug­gested I carry a crème brulee back to my room to en­joy later. That worked.

I gazed at the stars a bit, then set­tled into my cloud­like bed for a good night’s rest in a co­coon of si­lence, some­thing in short sup­ply in my Cen­tral Austin neigh­bor­hood.

Speak­ing of si­lence, I didn’t see any chil­dren dur­ing my visit, and I wouldn’t con­sider this for a fam­ily week­end. In fact, only chil­dren 16 and older are al­lowed here (un­less you book the en­tire prop­erty for a fam­ily re­union, wed­ding or sim­i­lar), and I’m not sure it’s per­fect for teens, ei­ther. It’s a quiet, grown-up place.

Cof­fee was set out early the next morn­ing in the li­brary, and I en­joyed a cup be­fore walk­ing across the breeze­way to the din­ing room. Break­fast changes ev­ery day. I en­joyed a lovely veg­etable and cheese quiche, along with yo­gurt and lo­cally picked berries. Thus for­ti­fied, I was on my merry way home.

I peg this as a per­fect week­end get­away, with enough menu va­ri­ety that I chose to stay on prop­erty and re­lax. But if you’re of a mind to wan­der, Salt Lick (the orig­i­nal) is just about a 15-minute drive away, and a few winer­ies are close by, as is the town of Wim­ber­ley for shop­ping.

In fact, I chose to drive back to Austin in the slightly longer di­rec­tion through Drift­wood, back­ing into the city along roads that (ex­cept for the dreaded Ben White Y curve) are far less an­noy­ing than I-35. I wanted to hang onto the rest­ful mind­set as long as pos­si­ble.

CON­TRIB­UTED BY HE­LEN AN­DERS

On the way to the spa cot­tage at Sage Hill Inn in Kyle, walk through the but­ter­fly gar­den, where the flow­ers are filled with wings.

PHO­TOS CON­TRIB­UTED BY HE­LEN AN­DERS

There are plenty of places to see the sun­set at Sage Hill Inn in Kyle, but the pool is cer­tainly one, of­fer­ing an ex­pan­sive view of the rolling hills to the west.

A fire­place at Sage Hill Inn in Kyle will keep you warm if it’s chilly, and you’ll find mos­quito re­pel­lent supplied in case the bugs are bit­ing.

Sage Hill Inn sits in the western part of Kyle, at the cusp of the Hill Coun­try. Trails me­an­der through the prop­erty, and walks are es­pe­cially lovely at sun­rise and sun­set.

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