HOLMES COUNTY Charm abounds in farm country
An Amish stronghold, the county is also known as Little Switzerland.
By REBECCA SLOAN
No other place in Ohio can capture the wholesome beauty of Buckeye farm country quite like the rolling hills of Holmes County.
During the peak of summer, at the highest knoll on a winding back road, the landscape unfolds, picture perfect.
Golden oceans of wheat gleam and sway under the noonday sun and give way to green fields of waist-high corn and grassy meadows thick with dairy cattle.
The Amish farmhouses that dot the hillsides between every field and fence line are easily identified by damp laundry whipping on clotheslines, black buggies parked in the drive or a windmill spinning near the barn.
Holmes County is home to the largest Amish population in the world, and during a visit, tourists will encounter many of these "plain people."
Shops that specialize in Amish-made furniture and restaurants that specialize in down-home, meat-and-potatoes-style Amish cooking seem to be around every bend in the road.
One of the largest and most delectable of these types of eateries is The Amish Door Restaurant at 1210 Winesburg St. off scenic U.S. Route 62 in Wilmot.
Famous for its slow-roasted beef, real mashed potatoes and scrumptious baked goods, this spacious, beautifully decorated establishment is the perfect place for hungry travelers to fill their bellies.
A stone's throw from the Amish Door Restaurant is the elegant but countrified Inn at Amish Door.
Here guests can enjoy complimentary use of an indoor pool, hot tub and fitness room and relax in comfortable rooms, each with its own breath-taking view of those trademark rolling hills.
Holmes County is also full of charming bed and breakfasts for tourists who prefer lodging at a smaller inn.
Besides Amish cooking, visitors to Holmes County can also sample a bit of Swiss cuisine.
Known as The Little Switzerland of Ohio, it's impossible to travel through Holmes County and not see a Swiss restaurant or a building that resembles a Swiss chalet. There's even a Swiss cheese factory where the well-known Guggisberg Baby Swiss cheese in manufactured.
Located at 5060 State Route 556 in Millersburg, the Guggisberg Swiss Cheese Factory rests in the lush Doughty Valley and has been in operation for almost 50 years.
Here visitors can sample cheeses, watch cheese being made, shop for cuckoo clocks and Swiss chocolates, stroll through a flower garden with a miniature replica of the Swiss Matterhorn and dine in a restaurant that serves up schnitzel, bratwurst and fondue to the beat of live Swiss music and yodeling.
If you just want to shop, Holmes County will definitely not disappoint you.
The county is chock full of charming little towns whose main streets are crowded with antiques shops, craft shops and Amish specialty stores.
Berlin, at the junction of U.S. Route 62 and state Route 39, has the Berlin Antique Mall, Berlin View Woodcraft, Berlin Village Gift Barn and Gramma Fannie's Quilt Barn, just to name a few.
Millersburg -- smack dab in the middle of the county at state Routes 39 and 83 -- offers the Antique Emporium and Three Feathers Pewter, and the pretty little town of Winesburg has the Winesburg Craft House and the Winesburg Antique Mall.
Since nearly every mile of state and federal highway in Holmes County has been classified as an Ohio Scenic Byway, the drive to and from the shops is just as enjoyable as the shopping itself. Bring your camera to capture some of the beautiful scenery and don't worry about driving a little bit slower to enjoy the view.
If you decide to visit Holmes County during late summer or early autumn, call the county's chamber of commerce for a list of festivals and special events taking place.
For example, at Yoder's Amish Home, a 110-acre farm in Walnut Creek where kids can pet animals and the whole family can go on a hayride, they'll be making apple butter Sept. 21 and 28.
There's a bluegrass festival at Whispering Hills Aug. 22 through 24, and the Holmes County Antique Festival is set for Oct. 5 and 6 in Millersburg.
Another attraction worth a look in Millersburg is the Victorian House Museum, which will be decked out for the holidays during November and December. This museum features 28 rooms of Victorian splendor and is listed in the National Registry of Historic Sites.
XFor more information on Holmes County and on any of these events, call the county's chamber of commerce at (330) 674-3975.