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Enjoy a Historic Stay at the Talbott Tavern

The Talbott Tavern has been a mainstay of Bardstown, Kentucky's downtown since 1779. In a town recognized as the Bourbon Capital of the World, the tavern has seen its share of famous and not-so-famous guests over the years. Travel there with PullOverandLetMeOut to learn about an enjoyable stay at the historic Talbott Tavern.
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Hi, I’m Anna Marie. I’m a wife, mother, Irish dancer, and pug mom living in North Carolina. I also love to travel. Come along for the ride! If you see something you like, don’t be afraid to say, ‘Pull over and let me out.’

Staying at the Old Talbott Tavern in Bardstown, Kentucky, is a one-of-a-kind experience. Built in 1779, the tavern has been a fixture on Court Square in the heart of downtown Bardstown for close to 250 years. The tavern has welcomed an array of visitors over the centuries providing food, lodging, and beverages to travelers. And with those travelers comes a legacy filled with fascinating stories that make staying here a historic adventure. I spent a couple of nights at this charming inn while exploring the Bluegrass State.  Here is what you need to know to enjoy a historic stay at the Talbott Tavern in Bardstown, Kentucky.

the front entrance door to a historic old tavern
The historic Talbott Tavern in Bardstown, KY

The Talbott Tavern

The Talbott Tavern has stood at the crossroads in Bardstown for centuries. Founded as a haven for pioneers traveling west, the Talbott Tavern has offered respite and cheerful refreshment ever since.

Although there have been multiple owners and names, a terrible fire, and the building has undergone various renovations over the years, it continues to be a steadfast reminder of Kentucky’s early days.

A description of the building on their website states it as such, “The thick Flemish bond stone walls, the deep window casings, heavy ceiling timbers and built-in-cupboards strongly remind one of the Warwickshire Inns in England.”

Arriving at what is reputed to be the oldest western stagecoach station in America, one can easily see its rich history. From the stone façade to the creaky wooden floor boards to the old-style architecture, this inviting tavern has an air of history that is palpable. I find myself transfixed from the moment we arrive.

a street view of a historic tavern.
Talbott Tavern is said to be the oldest western stagecoach stop in America.

Checking in at Talbott Tavern

Visitors planning to spend the night have choices. Firstly, guests can choose to stay at the Talbott Inn which is a renovated building built in 1913 that sits adjacent to the Tavern and has 15 guest rooms.

Or, like us, guests can stay at the Talbott Tavern. At the tavern there are six guest rooms that are renovated and decorated in period furnishings. All of the favorite contemporary amenities, such a TV, coffee maker, mini-fridge, hair dryer, and WiFi, are included in every room.

The six rooms bear the names of famous or infamous people who spent time at the tavern. We were in the General’s Quarters named for two well-known generals who checked into the Talbott Tavern; American Revolutionary War General George Rogers Clark and WWII General George S. Patton. General Clark left without paying and a suit was filed for collection. Times must have been tight for the General.

The spacious room features two comfortable queen-sized beds, a private bathroom with a walk-in shower, and a view of the crossroads outside the tall windows.

two queen sized beds in a hotel room
The General's Quarters is a spacious comfortable room.
a man opening a door that has a sign over it that says "General's Quarters."
Checking into the General's Quarters.

Famous Guests

Talbott Tavern boasts an extensive list of famous and infamous guests who have signed the guestbook. Big names including Andrew Jackson, Henry Harrison, Daniel Boone, exiled King Louis Phillippe and his two brothers, and outlaw Jesse James have all visited while in Bardstown.

There are also plenty of stories about guests who have checked in that never check out. Ghostly encounters have been reported. The two most notable are an otherworldly figure named the lady in white and the ghost of Jesse James. Tales of objects moving by themselves, inexplicable balls of light, and the like are part of the lore of the Talbott Tavern.

Imagine our surprise when we return from dinner to find a small ghost tour standing outside of our room. The guide informs us we have “the fun room” and proceeds to tell us that the ghost of Jesse James has been seen in the room. She then shares pictures on her phone of an apparition that sure looks like Jesse James standing by the fireplace. “Don’t worry, he doesn’t bother anybody, but take your phone in the bathroom with you. He likes to cut the lights off,” is her advice. I am happy to report Jesse didn’t show up during our stay.

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By downloading the 15-minute self-guided audio tour, you can travel back in time to the Talbott Tavern of days gone by. This tour gives outstanding detail and insights that you might otherwise miss. It is available for download on both Android and Apple devices. You can also buy mementos of your trip from the excellent gift shop located inside the tavern. I got a cute Christmas ornament made of a bourbon barrel bunghole. The perfect souvenir of Bourbon Country!

a fireplace with an old mural on the wall around it
The Mural Room on the second floor of the Tavern.

The Mural Room

On October 17, 1797, exiled King Louis Phillippe, his two brothers, and his entourage arrived at the Talbott Tavern as a stop on their visit to explore the west. While visiting, it is believed that one or possibly more of his entourage painted a mural. The mural was discovered when it was uncovered during renovations in 1927.

Several bullet holes were also found at the same time. Legend has it, outlaw Jesse James left those behind to mark his stay while he was in town visiting his uncle, Donnie Pence, the sheriff of Nelson County. Today, the mural and bullet holes are part of an exhibit on the second floor of the tavern . Regardless of whether you’re staying at the tavern or not, this is definitely worth checking out.

The Abraham Lincoln Connection

Abraham Lincoln was born not far from Bardstown and there is a Lincoln connection to the tavern. In fact, after his grandfather’s death, his estate was administered in Bardstown and young Abraham stayed at the tavern during the proceedings in October 1813.

There is a framed history on the second floor of the tavern that is a gripping read detailing this and other Lincoln connections to the tavern and Bardstown.

Bourbon Capital of the World

Due to the number of distilleries in proximity to Bardstown, the name Bourbon Capital of the World has been bestowed and rightly so. 11 distilleries are within 16 miles of downtown Bardstown. Consequently, bourbon aficionados from around the world travel to Bardstown. The Talbott Tavern is a popular stop along the bourbon trail.

Visitors can enjoy a tipple in the tavern or make it a hub for touring the various bourbon distillers nearby. We enjoyed a delightful bourbon encounter at the  Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience. Mere minutes from the downtown area, our tour taught us the intricacies of bourbon whiskey and we were able to sample the famous Kentucky elixir. We even learned that early owner of the Heaven Hill property, William Heavenhill, was a frequent visitor to the Talbott Tavern.

These and many other ties to the Bardstown bourbon scene all have a unique connection to this grand old tavern. Talbott Tavern does a wonderful job of preserving this bourbon heritage that is so integral to the town’s history.

a framed history of Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln stayed at the tavern as a young boy.

Nearby Attractions

In addition to the famous bourbon trail and its distillers, there is a range of tourist options when visiting Bardstown. From the Kentucky Railway Museum to the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto Cathedral to My Old Kentucky Home State Park and more, you won’t run out of things to do and see in Bardstown.

During our stay, we drove about a half hour away to Hodgenville and the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Park. After all, this is Lincoln country, and the park does a superb job of telling the tale of the early years of the sixteenth president.

If you’re looking for fun things to do in and around Bardstown, be sure to stop in at the Visitors Center which is conveniently located across from the Talbott Tavern. You’ll find a full listing of things to do and see as well as places to dine.

old courthouse in Bardstown KY
Stop at the Visitors Center for tourist tips.

Tips for Planning Your Stay at the Talbott Tavern

According to their website, “During the weekend the Talbott Tavern becomes a spirited place with live entertainment in the world’s oldest bourbon bar until 12:00 am.” That’s their nice way of letting potential guests know that if you’re staying above the tavern, you can expect it to be a little loud. So, if you’re not opposed to a little nightlife buzz, you’ll have no problem staying on the weekend. You may even wish to join the fun.

That being said, if you’re looking for a quieter stay, the Talbott Inn next door may be a better choice. Regardless, keep in mind, this tavern is in the heart of downtown. Having arrived here after a relaxing rural stay at Rosecrest Farm in Paris, this was a more lively setting. I was a little worried it might be too lively, but we quickly adjusted to this vibrant atmosphere and its extraordinary history.

Room prices are quite reasonable, but it’s best to book well in advance to assure you can get your room of choice. Reservations can be made on line or over the phone and payment is due at time of check-in. Check-in time is between 4 pm and 8 pm and check-out is at 11 am.

Due to its age and location, the tavern was constructed before large parking lots were common. As such, parking is mostly on the street and catch as catch can. That being said, we had no problem finding a spot and were always just a short stroll from the tavern.

Bed and Breakfast

This is an inn that’s technically a bed and breakfast. Breakfast is included and it’s delicious. Plenty of good food and hot coffee. Likewise, the tavern serves an evening meal, which is not included and is open to the public. Thanks to its history and setting, the tavern is a popular dining destination thus, reservations are strongly suggested.

an old-fashioned love seat in front of a window.
The Talbott Tavern is decorated in period pieces harkening back to olden times.
scrambled eggs, bacon, and a biscuit
A hearty morning meal at the Talbott Tavern.

What I Liked

Bardstown, Kentucky is a charming historic town with a lot to do and see nearby. The town embraces its past and caters to tourists and visitors while maintaining its small town character.

I was thrilled to find the Talbott Tavern because it is such a unique accommodation. It also made a fantastic hub for visiting Lincoln’s birthplace, discovering Kentucky bourbon, and learning about what was once the American western frontier. 

Is this a place for everyone?

Absolutely not. However, if you love history and want to immerse yourself in a location, the tavern lets you. I love the feeling of staying in a historic place. I especially appreciated the friendly staff, the comfortable room, meeting fellow travelers, and spending time sitting on the balcony overlooking downtown.

I even liked the ghost stories. Although, had I met a ghost I’m not sure I’d say that. I am thankful Jesse James never appeared, but I did bring my phone to the restroom with me just in case.

The Talbott Tavern was what I refer to as a “wildcard” reservation. I knew very little about it before booking our stay, and that’s always a travel risk. Nonetheless, having spent two nights here and immersing myself in its ambiance, I can say– it was delightful. I will gladly stay at the Talbott Tavern again and hope to do so one day soon.

a horse and carriage on a city street
Tour downtown Bardstown in a horse and carriage.

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Enjoy a Historic Stay at the Talbott Tavern

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