Black Sheep Inn & Spa in Hammondsport is a True Finger Lakes Retreat
January 31, 2024
Historic architecture? Check. Friendly, welcoming innkeepers? Check. Thoughtful amenities? Check. Great location, vegan food, and plant-based toiletries? Check, check, check. Black Sheep Inn & Spa in Hammondsport is a beautiful historic inn overlooking Keuka Lake. Nestled in between the famous wineries and breweries of the Finger Lakes, it’s the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
Thank you goes to Explore Steuben and Miranda & Simon for arranging my stay at Black Sheep Inn & Spa so I could share my experiences with you.
The History of Black Sheep Inn & Spa
Driving along Pleasant Valley Road near Keuka Lake, it’s impossible not to notice the historic octagon house sitting upon a hill. It always catches my eye when I’m visiting the breweries and wineries in the Finger Lakes. So I was delighted when I was able to stay there this past weekend.
The house was originally built in 1859 by Timothy Younglove. At the time, Timothy was the land surveyor in Hammondsport and octagon houses were the popular style of homes. The fad was fueled by the 1848 book “The Octagon House: A Home for All” by Orson S. Fowler. Residents loved the amount of sunlight that octagon houses were able to catch with all the exterior wall angles. The design also promoted air movement throughout the house. Two additions (wings) were added in 1882.
Timothy loved the octagon style so much that many of the outbuildings on the property were also octagonal in shape. Unfortunately, all but the main house has been destroyed over time due to flooding. The only outbuildings that remain are – alas – rectangular in shape: the two-story barn where the innkeepers live and the large wooden shed.
Timothy went on to be one of the founders of Pleasant Valley Wine Company, the oldest winery in the Finger Lakes. The house remained with the family until the 1960s, when it fell into disrepair.
In 2002 the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Wanting to give the building the TLC it needed, the property was purchased and historically renovated to operate as an inn. Those owners moved on and sold the Black Sheep Inn to Miranda and Simon in January 2020.
Meet the British couple who operate a vegan B&B in the Finger Lakes
Before moving to Hammondsport and opening up an inn, Miranda and Simon had spent years visiting the United States. Each trip brought them to a different corner of the country, but they really fell in love with the Finger Lakes region. So when their plans to open a bed and breakfast in their home country of England fell through, fate brought them to Keuka Lake.
Miranda and Simon took over the Black Sheep Inn & Spa from the people who had renovated the property. Timing was a bit unfortunate, as they moved in right before the global pandemic shut down the world in March of 2020. Nonetheless, the couple was resilient and made the most of their new adventure.
Now, the couple operates one of the most thoughtful inns you could ever visit. Either one of them would love to strike up a conversation with you on your visit. And you’ll be sure to have a hilarious and wonderful conversation.
Apart from taking care of the inn, Miranda spends her time creating delicious vegan recipes, including several flavors of granola. Meanwhile Simon is a proud part of the brewery next door, and helps bartend and brew.
I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and other types of lodging around the world. And I have to say that Black Sheep has some of the most thoughtful amenities. The first thing you’ll notice is the inn’s dedication to veganism. All of the cleaning products they use and the toiletries they provide are made without animal products or animal testing.
Additionally, the full breakfast they provide every morning is completely plant-based. The table is set with a variety of freshly-baked pastries, homemade granola, and fresh fruit. Either Miranda or Simon will take your order for the hot portion of your breakfast. Choices include pancakes, French toast, a breakfast sandwich, or (of course) a full English breakfast. All vegan. All delicious. Non-vegan folks wouldn’t know the difference. (Seriously, those chocolate chip muffins were phenomenal.)
We were also pleasantly surprised to find complimentary champagne on the dresser and chocolates on our pillows. Supporting local businesses is just as important to the couple as it is to me. Unsurprisingly, the champagne is from Pleasant Valley Wine Company, while the chocolates are from Hedonist Artisan Chocolates. There were also two jugs of water and glasses in our room.
Guests also have access to the main living areas, where you’ll find period-appropriate furniture and an assortment of books to read.
Miranda and Simon have also carefully curated additionally amenities that guests can add on to their stay. This includes a massage at the on-site spa, homemade chocolate truffles, flowers, chauffeur services to local breweries and wineries, and even snack bags for lunches. They also provide a card for folks staying at the inn that gives them access to special discounts at 20 local establishments.
Guests are encouraged to contact the inn to make these arrangements before arrival.
Commonly asked questions
Is the Black Sheep Inn & Spa haunted?
Miranda was quick to tell me that the inn is NOT haunted. In fact, I hadn’t even asked! (Yes, I was planning to ask about it though.) But so many guests ask about ghosts, that she had anticipated the question.
Was the Black Sheep Inn & Spa on the Underground Railroad?
Before I checked in at the inn, I was chatting with some locals about my upcoming stay. They told me that the inn is rumored to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. I got so excited, given my passion for telling folks about the history of the Underground Railroad in New York. Given the time period in which it was built and the unique architecture, it seems very likely to be true. But when I inquired about it, Miranda told me that it is just a rumor. She and Simon have done a lot of research on the history of the house and have never found records to support the theory, nor have they found any spots in the house where people could have hid.
Is Black Sheep Inn & Spa kid-friendly?
Children 12 and older are invited to stay at the inn.
Is Black Sheep Inn & Spa pet-friendly?
Unfortunately, your four-legged friends will need to stay home for this trip. Given the historic importance of the property, do dogs are allowed inside the home. But you may catch a glimpse of Miranda and Simon’s cats wandering the property outside. And there’s a good chance you’ll meet Uno, the neighbor’s peacock.
Activities around the Black Sheep Inn & Spa
Visit breweries, wineries, and distilleries
Undoubtedly the Finger Lakes is best known for its wine. But in the past couple decades, the brewing and distilling industries have made themselves known. The easiest spot for a drink is at Brewery of Broken Dreams, which is literally two buildings away from the inn. Simon also helps out there, so he can give you some great recommendations!
Last but not least, if you’re looking to do a series of breweries and wineries in the area, consider the Crafts and Drafts Passport. A combination effort between Yates and Steuben counties, the digital passport gives you access to discounted tastings at 9 breweries and 2 distilleries in the area. You can purchase a 1-day, 3-day, 5-day, or an annual pass depending on how many stops you want to visit.
Go for a hike
It’s no secret that the Finger Lakes region is filled with beautiful lakes, waterfalls, and gorges for you to explore. Choose whichever one suits your fancy – you can’t go wrong.
Learn about the history of Steuben County
Right in Hammondsport are two museums dedicated to transportation and the unique innovations made by folks in the area. The Finger Lakes Boating Museum explores the various watercraft used in the Finger Lakes throughout history. Additionally, the Glenn Curtiss Museum is dedicated to the engineering entrepreneur who made innovations in motorcycles, airplanes, boats, and more.
Explore the Village of Hammondsport
Just down the road from the inn you’ll find the village of Hammondsport. And like all of the other towns and villages in the Finger Lakes, it is oozing with charm. Spend an afternoon wandering through the shops in town and then grab dinner at one of the local restaurants.