Sky High Escape

The Idyllic Iris Inn Outside Waynesboro Sets The Scene For A Romantic Getaway



When my husband Pat and I started dating 10 years ago, we were the epitome of young love. Both still in our teens, we may not have known much about how the world works or the hardships of adult life, but we were certain of one thing: we belonged together.

Now, 10 years later, on a brisk and blustery day, we’re embarking on a weekend getaway to celebrate a decade of togetherness—as well as to commemorate our last vacation together before we welcome a tiny new member into our family.

In less than three hours from our Norfolk home, we reach our destination just outside the cozy town of Waynesboro: The Iris Inn (www.IrisInn.com). The inn itself is a prestigious 12-acre mountaintop retreat overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. Our hosts, Dave and Heidi Lanford, extend a warm welcome and an even warmer invitation to have a chocolate chip cookie from their “bottomless” cookie jar. Take note: these are the best cookies in the world, and it’s not just the pregnancy talking.

The Lanfords purchased The Iris Inn in 2007 and have since done a complete renovation of each room. There are two cottages on either side of the main house, along with six elevated cabins that were added just last year. Along with upscale conveniences such as large rooms and expansive decks, the Lanfords offer special arrangements to make each stay extra memorable. “A lot of people take advantage of the couple’s massages,” Heidi notes. “We encourage people to get in the [hot] tub and get warm and relax before the massage and then take a nap afterward.” The inn also offers winter packages, including their Sip & Ski package, which includes lift tickets to nearby Wintergreen and a complimentary wine tasting in the great room, and the Sip & Spa package, where guests can taste wine at several of the 28 vineyards within 30 miles of the inn and enjoy a provided picnic lunch.

Dave hands us a key to our private cabin, and we drive down the hill to unpack our belongings. While the cabins appear simplistic on the outside, inside is nothing short of a luxurious paradise with rustic-inspired, contemporary décor and fabulous amenities.

Floor-to-ceiling glass windows allow sunlight to drench the entire cabin during the daytime—not to mention allowing spectacular views of the valley below. The bathroom features heated floors and a two-person shower, which opens to the private balcony and hot tub. As a child, I often wondered what it would be like to live in a tree house, but even the Swiss Family Robinson has nothing on this enchanted utopia in the sky.

As much as we want to bask in the serenity of our tree house-style lodging for the rest of the day, there’s much to explore beyond these windows. Our drive has made us hungry, so we head to Stone Soup Books in Waynesboro for lunch. The cozy café serves a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches and pastries along with coffee and Virginia wine and beer. Nearly every wall in the 115-year-old, two-story farmhouse is filled with books available for purchase, and some walls house local art for sale.

After lunch, we peruse Main Street and come across an adorable wine and beer shop called Market on Main. I try to keep from drooling as I wander around the store, gazing upon bottles of locally crafted wine that I won’t be able to enjoy for another few months. Pat, the beer aficionado, goes straight for the brew section and soon emerges with a bottle of something he’s never tried before.

Waynesboro is just a 20-minute drive to Staunton, and we decide to spend the evening in this artsy town. After popping in several cute stores, we end up at the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s original indoor theatre. Tonight’s showing of Romeo and Juliet couldn’t be more appropriately suited for our romantic weekend together.

Pat and I find our seats in the balcony overlooking cathedral chandeliers, and within such proximity to the actors, it feels as if they’re putting on a special performance just for us. The characters, bursting with talent, eloquently voice their parts, never missing a beat nor pausing to remember what line comes next. We’re wholeheartedly swept away in the classic romance as we hold hands and connect with Romeo and Juliet’s young love.

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