I’ve always had a fascination with the Amish because of their distinct lifestyle, discipline and commitment to a simple life without the complication and entrapments of modern living. Drawn from principles outlined in their Christian faith, the Amish are reluctant to embrace modern technology to varying degrees, and their seemingly more ‘back to basics’ existence focuses on the practices of rural living, manual labour and raising families.
The States of Ohio and Pennsylvania house the largest population of Old Order Amish and over 35,000 settlements lie within Lancaster County, Pennsylvania alone. Whilst the Amish retain a reputation of being fairly insular and wary of outsiders, it became clear to us from visiting Lancaster that not only are Amish people extremely friendly towards non-Amish, but are in fact very accommodating towards tourists also. Amish-made merchandise, baked goods, tours and even buggy rides are easily stumbled upon in some of the more built up areas of Lancaster County. We only had one day in the area which happened to be a Sunday, so as you can imagine most attractions were closed. However we still managed to get our Amish ‘fix’ by staying with the Riehl family on their working Amish dairy farm.
I couldn’t believe my luck when I happened upon a website that enabled you to book a stay with the Amish. Beacon Hollow Farm Guest House, nestled in the heart of Amish Country, can be reserved by telephone or online through a booking agent who will provide details for your check-in. Typically this involves paying in cash upon arrival to the property, as was the case here. A quiet cottage on the grounds was our home for the night, complete with all the sounds and smells you expect from a farm, and somewhat surprisingly – electricity! The cottage was quaint and it felt like we had stepped back in time by about a hundred years (in a good way). Taking a pleasant evening walk around the farm meant that we were able to observe some of the animals, farm equipment, and crops growing in the fields. I will never forget sitting outside our cottage as the sun went down, a most serene moment, with nothing but the sound of crickets chirping happily in the grass. Somehow, it felt like home.
After an amazing night’s sleep in a creeky old bed, interrupted only by the falling rain, we were woken to Mrs Riehl knocking on the door with some fresh eggs from the farm, some homemade bread and a delicious strawberry smoothie. I struggle to think of enjoying a heartier breakfast at any other point on our trip. She offered us a tour of the cow shed whilst they did their morning chores, but sadly time was short and we had to hit the road again.
Perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, a stay on this fairly remote, rural farm offered us a tiny glimpse into the way of the Amish. Seeking simplicity and quietness was high on my agenda but what I found was much more fascinating. We were made to feel welcome in a most unassuming and gracious way by a family from a culture so different from ours. I felt truly humbled to have shared in a small piece of their peaceful existence and gained a deeper understanding for what it means to be Amish .
Top tip: Unless you’re into heavily processed, greasy food (as was our experience at a local restaurant) I would recommend a trip to the local store and using the kitchen in the cottage. You will want to maximise your time here anyway, as words cannot express how tranquil it is.
Check out the nearby quaint village of Bird in Hand which I’m told is worth a trip (not on a Sunday as everything is shut) if you are interested in all things Amish.
Feature photo courtesy of Clark Young/Unsplash