The first year I traveled to South Bend for the Sunburst Marathon, I procrastinated about making plans and didn’t decide until the last minute that getting a hotel room was a good idea given the time difference between South Bend and Chicago and the nearly two-hour drive. (Not sure what I was thinking?!)
I searched all over the internet and made several calls and found every hotel room within walking distance to the race start line was booked.
I’m not even sure how I stumbled across the Innisfree Bed and Breakfast but given my limited, or rather, lack of options I called and booked the last two rooms available. Since then it’s become a yearly tradition to stay there for both me and my friends.
The Innisfree was named after the island off the coast of the Northern Ireland village of Maghery. The house is a circa 1890 Queen Anne style Victorian home that is a registered National Landmark. (I’m not really an architecture aficionado. I love it, just not that knowledgeable about it, so I pulled this info from the website)
Cindy Lewis purchased it in 2004 after it had been abandoned by the original owner back in the 1980’s and had fallen into disrepair. Seeing the home now, it’s hard to imagine the home anything but the beautiful house it is today. Cindy really put her heart and soul in the renovations to make it feel like a century old estate but with modern amenities.
Cindy is as gracious of a host as you would find in any small Irish Village. She welcomes each guest with a warm smile, lively conversation and truly makes every effort to ensure you feel like her own personal guest as opposed to someone just renting a room.
Every room in the house is warm and inviting and the beds are surprising comfortable given they look like antiques. Both times I’ve stayed at Innisfree have been the night before the Sunburst Marathon, whose start line is just a 10 minute walk away. That said, I’ve missed out on having a proper breakfast as I can’t eat a heavy meal before a race. But in an effort to accommodate her guests, Cindy always asks what each guest’s pre-race eating rituals are so she can provide the necessary nourishment. For me it was hard-boiled eggs, yogurt and granola. My friends had fresh fruit, cereal and coffee.
I’d love the opportunity to visit on a non-race weekend not only to have more time to enjoy the house but also to explore downtown South Bend which, just like the starting line of the race, is only a few short blocks away.
Just since 2006 when I first ran Sunburst, a lot has changed in downtown South Bend. There weren’t a lot of dining options and parts of downtown just seemed like a ghost town four years ago This year I noticed several new restaurants and a downtown that seemed quite bustling. There was even a wine bar/restaurant called Sangria’s where we had a delicious lunch after the race.
But if enjoying a glass of wine is your thing, you may also consider buying a bottle to go. One of my favorite spots on the Innisfree property is the garden out back (Cindy is also quite the gardener). It’s the perfect spot to unwind after a long day with a bottle of wine which is exactly what my friends and I did during our stay there in June to relax the night before the race.
There’s a Gaelic word, craic, meaning fun times. My last stay at the Innisfree in June was good craic, indeed.