The Mill Hill Inn is more home than hotel. The old barn had turned into a neglected, abandoned inn when Woody Hughes walked down the hill from the Bethel Commons five years ago and fell in love with the place. Ever since, Woody and his wife, Lee, have worked to create the place of Woody’s dreams. And I am happy to tell you that they have succeeded.

From the very friendly staff, to the gorgeous old wood floors, beams and other features, to the comfortable rooms, to the public gathering room and small bar, to the tasty tapas in their downstairs restaurant, the Mill Hill Inn is one of those places we hoped to discover when Linda and I started this column five years ago. I appreciated and was impressed by their energy conservation measures including a solar array on the roof that generates one third of their electricity. They heat the entire first floor with a wood stove. Room rates are very reasonable, especially for a resort community, and they are busiest in the winter with Sunday River skiers.

After 20 years teaching at private out-of-state academies, Woody returned to teach at his alma mater, Gould Academy, in Bethel, where Lee also taught. Woody is an acclaimed potter, and his pottery decorates the inn and restaurant. He even made the dinner plates and they are beautiful works of art.

You could say the same thing about our tapas. Our server, Meagan, started us off with a thorough description of the menu. Meaghan has worked at several other restaurants and raved about how Woody and Lee treat her like a family member, not an employee. I call this fun food because they give you small plates designed to be shared. You are not rushed through dinner here, either, and Linda and I lingered at our table for two hours. We ordered a dish, enjoyed it, then ordered another. Lest you think small portions are insufficient, they also have larger portions with their entrees, including steaks.

The beer list is really impressive with choices from Kenya to Mexico to Belgium to Wisconsin and Oregon, plus plenty of Maine microbrews. I enjoyed an Atlantic Porter with dinner while Linda (no surprise here) ordered a glass of Moma red sangiovese from Italy. I enjoyed all of the tapas.


We took one of the four individual guestrooms, but they also have two large suites that sleep up to eight guests and include kitchens.


If you are looking for a charming spot in the Bethel area, the Mill Hill Inn is a real find. This hidden gem is near the Commons and close to town, but you’d never guess it once you enter their oasis of privacy. Down a sloping driveway you will find the large inn with the Studio Bistro and Bar restaurant.

What a comfortable, welcoming place this is! The main room, which includes a small bar, has high ceilings and is filled with an array of comfortable couches, chairs, woodstove, antiques, artwork and Woody’s pottery. Later that evening we saw that room transformed into a place where everyone sat where they wanted, enjoyed drinks and tapas, and visited. People actually reserve the couches for dinner. As other guests came in we heard Woody ask, “What time would you like breakfast?” It is just that kind of an easygoing, informal, genuine place.

Diners also have the option of sitting in the beautiful dining room or the porch, a portion of which is screened. Each table in the dining room is topped with a different colorful tablecloth. And its gray walls, white accents, exposed beams and lamp lighting make this a very cozy spot. This is where we enjoyed a fine breakfast of French toast and sausage the next morning.

We chose to sit out on the porch for dinner, as did many other diners on that summer evening. Their menu fits into the philosophy of “come, relax and enjoy” with a tapas-style menu. Order what you’d like, when you’d like, and share the wide array of flavors with dining companions.


We began our meal with fresh bread, served with seasoned oil, feta, artichokes, sundried tomatoes and capers. Woody told us he’d designed the menu based on what he likes to eat. “If you circle the equator you will find most of these foods,” he said. We lingered over several delectable dishes with flavors of Mediterranean, Indian and Thai cuisines. It’s a unique concept.

One of my favorite dishes was the falafel patties served on pita bread with apple slices. The demi-salad of greens, goat cheese, cranberries and spectacular dressing served with it was great. Heartier choices are the tapas with seasoned rice, and I loved the Chicken Satay with peanut curry sauce.

Our room boasted warm wall colors, old pine floors, an antique bureau and the most comfortable bed I’ve slept in for a while. It was so heavenly I didn’t get going the next day until after 7 a.m.

Lee comfortably puts guests at ease, Woody prepares creative food and both do everything else that needs to be done to run the business. This is a special place and hidden gem.

Visit George’s website — — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the “Best of Maine” section.

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