Since moving to Lowell 17 years ago, I’ve found that the things that make the Merrimack Valley a great place to live and work aren’t always immediately obvious. It’s not uncommon to drive past places dozens of times without noticing them, like the mom-and-pop diner you stopped into one day that just happened to serve the best eggs Benedict you ever tried. Many of the Valley gems that I’ve discovered were recommended to me by other locals — and these, more often than not, were places I’d often seen but never considered visiting.
In October, I stayed at The Stonehedge Hotel & Spa in Tyngsborough (formerly The Stonehedge Inn & Spa), which has been under new ownership since 2014. In its former life, the hotel and its restaurant, Left Bank, had a reputation for being a “special occasion only” type of place. Its exclusive dining room, upmarket guest rooms and posh service generally catered to those with thick wallets and conservative tastes, and often deterred locals from giving the place a try.
Today, the hotel on Route 113 looks much the same as it did a few years back, but it’s an entirely different place inside.
Troca Hotels, The Stonehedge’s new owner, has reimagined both the hotel and the restaurant, which is now called NoLo (short for North of Lowell). Step into the lobby and you’re greeted by a contemporary decor rich with wood tones and natural stone. Eight of the hotel’s 30 guest rooms have been fully updated (the rest are on the way), giving them the sort of clean, modern air you’d expect to find at a fashionable urban property.
I stayed in a renovated room with a king-size bed and gas fireplace. The bed was of the variety that won’t let you get to the second page of a novel before you pass out, the bathroom spacious and pleasant with a nice selection of toiletry products. It was the sort of place I can imagine spending a winter weekend, wrapped in a blanket with a glass of wine in front of the fire.
Other additions include a new gym and a deck off the main dining room where you can enjoy breakfast with a view, or dinner under the stars when the weather allows. The guest library also has been redone and soon will be home to more than 2,000 books. Guests will be able to browse the titles using a special app.
A highlight of my stay was a visit to the spa. It offers a variety of facials, massages and other treatments, but I was lucky enough to enjoy an 80-minute classic massage that left me so relaxed that I actually tried putting my shoes on the wrong feet. The spa building is slated for renovation, so you can expect new and exciting things there soon.
Perhaps the biggest (and maybe the best) changes so far, have been at NoLo. The dining room and bar are casual and welcoming. The bar in particular has become an ideal after-work spot, offering a cool variety of seasonal craft cocktails, small plates, the game on TV, and live music on Thursday evenings.
Created by Executive Chef Mark Filteau, NoLo’s menu reflects the changing seasons. Filteau, who works with local farms and producers to source the products he uses, manages to transform simple ingredients into dishes so sublime you almost wonder what he actually does in the kitchen (try the squash ravioli or steak frites). Almost as good are the prices, which are in line with most other upscale casual restaurants in the area.
In addition to its regular menu, NoLo hosts popular craft beer and wine dinners that feature talks by brewers and winemakers — definitely a fun night out for foodies.
So, if you’re looking for a romantic weekend getaway without the traffic, a spa weekend with your girlfriends, or just a great place to hang out after work, take it from a local: Give The Stonehedge a try. You’ll be glad you did.
The Stonehedge Hotel & Spa