The scenic Route 32 runs through the gently rural Bucks County, in the heart of Pennsylvania but only 25 miles away from Philadelphia and 75 miles from New York City. I’d love to take Route 32 by horse and buggy but as second best a scenic drive along its quiet, leafy byways was a perfect contrast to my busy explorations of the arts and culture of Philadelphia.
The founder of Pennsylvania – William Penn – started the fashion for weekend retreats in Bucks County back in 1683 when he created a country estate here beside the Delaware River.
I picked up my hire car in Philly booked from home through car hire comparison search engine carrentals.co.uk and was on the road.
Driving along beside the Delaware River the road passes through Washington’s Crossing State Park, site of a famous turning point in the American Revolutionary War. George Washington led troops across the icy and swiftly-flowing river here on Christmas night 1776 to surprise the Hessian troops at the battle of Trenton and Americans re-enact the crossing every year.
Next up was the cute little village of New Hope, which has two claims to fame – art and ghosts. Artists started a community here back in the 19th century and there are now dozens of galleries and charming cafes. A prestigious arts and crafts festival is held every September with over 125 artists presenting and selling their work.
New Hope is also home to the Bucks County Playhouse – established in the 1930s in an old grist mill that was about to be demolished but has seen stars from Grace Kelly to Robert Redford and Jessica Tandy tread the boards.
Ghost tours of New Hope are run by Adele Bamble by lantern-light through what is said to be the most haunted town of the region. There’s a phantom hitchhiker who may appear in the moonlight, and a Revolutionary soldier haunting the Logan Inn.
I was just a little too early but you should try to visit Bucks County, PA during the height of Pennsylvania’s stunning display of fall (autumn) foliage. A great way to experience this is on the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad.
Elegantly restored 1920s vintage passenger coaches trundle along a 35-mile, two-and-a-half-hour round trip, pulled by a 1925 Baldwin steam locomotive.
I stopped for lunch and some shopping at the Peddler’s Village shopping enclave, built to look like an 18th century village set amid pretty gardens and the focus of Bucks County festivals at Halloween and apple harvest time.
For more nostalgia, Bucks County has 12 covered bridges dating back to the 19th century, carefully preserved and there’s no doubt they sold me on the charm of Pennsylvania’s Bucks County.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you driven Route 32 through Bucks County, PA?