Although train and bus services around the Berkshires are pretty comprehensive, a car is a necessity for cruising the rural roads from hamlet to hamlet. Make sure you've pocketed the keys to a convertible in summer months, a 4x4 for winter. There are plenty of car hire outlets at Bradley International, NYC and Boston Logan - try www.hertz.com.
Direct flights from the UK arrive at Boston's Logan Airport, two hours or so from the Berkshires, and New York City's JFK Airport (three hours away). Internal flights from major US cities (as well as Toronto, Montreal and Amsterdam) touch down at Hartford's Bradley International Airport (www.bradleyairport.com), an hour and a half away by car.
Amtrak's (www.amtrak.com) Vermonter route snakes from St Albans to New York and Washington via Massachusetts and Connecticut. The Metro-North Railroad from New York (www.mta.info) runs from Grand Central to Waissac in Massachusetts, where a summer weekend express bus connects with Great Barrington.
US: +1; the Berkshires spans two area codes: 418 and 518.
Herman Melville penned sprawling whale-tale Moby Dick in pretty Pittsfield. Edith Wharton's haunting Ethan Frome is based on an incident she witnessed in Lenox and is set in the fictional New England town of Starkfield. Equally haunting (what is it with New Englanders?), The House of the Seven Gables by local author Nathaniel Hawthorne touches on witchcraft in the Berkshires in the mid-19th century.
Do go / Don't Go
The Berkshires is a four-season destination. Summer bring in the theatre fans and nature lovers; autumn draws the daytrippers who come for the spectacular fall foliage; and winter marks the arrival of skiers and snowboarders. The mild (and potentially wet) spring may be the quietest time to go - but even in the busiest of seasons rural roads of the Berkshires can feel sleepy.
Traditionally, New England dishes have placed a strong emphasis on seafood and dairy produce, but the Modern North American cuisine served throughout the Berkshires caters to every palette, from gastro-pubs and bistro fare to Thai, Indian and Italian. Farm-fresh vegetables from roadside stands are abundantly available in the Berkshires, many chefs focus on locally grown organic produce. The Slow- Food movement has a strong hold on the region's restaurants. Seasonal wines and beers are bountiful.
Cabs are neither much user nor widely available on the country roads of the Berkshires, but Abbott's Limousine and Livery Service (+1 413 243 1645; www.abbottslimo.com) will take you anywhere your heart desires 24 hours a day - and will happily ferry you off you a guided tour of Berkshire County.
When in doubt, tip. 15-20 per cent is standard in the majority of establishments.
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The high terrain ensures even midsummer evenings can cool down to jumper-worthy temperatures, so come prepared. An umbrella will protect you from any brief but energetic thundershowers that may strike. And, if you an outdoorsy type, be sure to bring your outdoorsy gear for tramping the Appalachian and Mohawk Trails.
Visual arts are high up on the cultural agenda. Located on the grounds of an old factory, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts (www.massmoca.org) is known for its cutting-edge (and sometimes controversial) exhibits. The largest centre for contemporary visual art in the country, the museum's buildings also host films, dance, and music performances. The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge (www.mrm.org) holds a huge number of the celebrated artist's most famous illustrations.
Tanglewood is synonymous with the Berkshires. The estate is the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and each summer hosts a sonic extravagnaza of opera, classical, pop and jazz concerts from June to early September. For something special, pack a picnic breakfast and enjoy a rehearsal ($17 a ticket) and you'll feel like they're playing a concert just for you.
If you're on the hunt for arts, rustic crafts or farm-fresh foods, you couldn't choose a better spot - Pittsfield, Great Barrington and Stockbridge, especially. For hand-thrown and glazed stoneware inspired by the scenery, try The Berkshire Pottery off Route 23 in Hillsdale (+1 518 325 4567; www.berkshirepottery.com). Joel Hotchkiss, owner of the whimsical Hotchkiss Mobiles Gallery & Café (+1 413 232 0200; www.artmobiles.com) on Centre Street in West Stockbridge, creates the delciate, colourful mobiles you can buy in the New York Guggenheim. Also in Stockbridge, the vibrant Origins Gallery (+1 413 298 0002) on Main Street sells unusual art and antiquities from around the world, including African art, Chinese furniture, and Mexican processional statues. Great Barrington's Yellow House Books (+1 413 528 8227) is a local institution - not only does it sells a fabulous selection of used books and monographs, but it also boasts an in-house band, who regularly perform on the store's porch.
If you've a head for hikes, there's nowhere better for admiring that unmistakable New England landscape than Squaw Point on Monument Mountain, located just outside Great Barrington. There are three miles of trails, but it's worth the exertion for the spectacular tree-canopy panorama from 1,680-feet. If all this talk of feet is tiring you out, opt instead for a train tour of the Berkshires on the the Berkshire Scenic Railway (www.berkshirescenicrailroad.org) in a 1920s era passenger car.
For a dance-themed day out, visit the world-renowned School at Jacob's Pillow (www.jacobspillow.org), where you can observe classes in progress, admire the dance exhibitions in the school's Blake's Barn, attend pre-performance talks, or conduct a self-guided tour of the 163-acre grounds.
June-July Dramatic events Each summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival (www.wtfestival.org), when three stages' worth of boards are trod every night, supplemented by cabaret shows and other thespian events. Mid-July More drama, but with and oddball flavour at the cutting-edge Berkshire Fringe, at Simon's Rock College, which focuses on new plays and emerging artists (www.berkshirefringe.org). August For decades the Berkshire Crafts Fair has been the area's premier showcase for contemporary designs and traditional works. (www.berkshirecraftsfair.org) Late November Celebrated thesp troupe Shakespeare and Company don their jerkins and honour the bard for a three-day Shakespeare Festival (www.shakespeare.org).