Autumn in Loudoun County
It’s easy to fall in love with the Virginia piedmont. Though the region has four-season appeal, nothing says autumn quite so much as a trip through Loudoun County. Located in the heart of northern Virginia hunt country, Loudoun’s character is multi-faceted. Equestrian pursuits figure largely in the Loudoun County landscape, and the culture is inextricably linked to fox, hound, horse and hunt.
In Loudoun County you’ll find stunning fall foliage, country stores, pumpkins, local apple cider, shops with seasonal goods, film festivals, antiques, farm markets and equestrian events, peppery wines from local vineyards, engaging boutiques and distinctive autumn and holiday-themed events, including the Christmas in Middleburg event and its popular Horse & Hound Hunt Review Parade.
What follows are excerpts from my own 3.5-day mini-holiday in Loudoun, but the friendly and efficient staff at VisitLoudoun.org will happily customize an experience to meet your specific requirements whether you’re a wine aficionado, a Civil War buff or someone who simply wants to savor scenic byways via car or bike.
The Goodstone Inn, Middleburg
There are several exceptional bed & breakfast destinations in Loudoun, but I selected The Goodstone Inn for this stay largely because the multiple lodging options are set among 265 acres of exceedingly lovely Middleburg pasture and woodland. Eighteen guest rooms and private suites are situated in six carefully restored cottages and residences, each interior thoughtfully styled to reflect the original use of the structure. At the Goodstone, there are both wide open spaces and intimate niches so guests can balance sociability with opportunities for solitary relaxation.
My suite adjoined the Carriage House courtyard, and after a visit to the National Sporting Library and Museum, I came back just in time for a late lunch. I requested a salad and was presented with crunchy, mini-baguette slices and a lovely seasonal beet salad created with herbs, micro greens and produce from Goodstone’s gardens.
The French-inspired menu reflects Chef John Leonard’s farm-to-table ethic (one of his culinary influences is Alice Waters). John grew up in the area, so his bond with regional meat and veg producers is closely knit: “My goal is to involve the community in our kitchen at every opportunity so we can continue to build our menu around what local farms are producing during each season. On our own grounds we have laying hens, vegetable and mushroom gardens, herbs and cut flower beds, and this year we’ve bottled the first honey from our apiary.” Dinner was something special. I had another delightful salad and a perfectly cooked filet of beef with potatoes au gratin—all accompanied by wine from Virginia’s Greenhill Winery and Vineyards.
Each evening, I looked forward to returning to my comfortable suite to unwind and plan the next day’s activities. At The Goodstone you can schedule a spa treatment, travel the estate’s marked trails on foot or by mountain bike, schedule a riding lesson or swim in the heated outdoor pool. Even if you don’t stay the night, stop by The Goodstone Inn & Restaurant for a meal. No extra charge for the view.
Morven Park, Leesburg
Morven Park is much more than a Greek Revival mansion on a hill. Surrounded on all sides by Leesburg’s steadily expanding range, it is 1,100 acres of precious green space, an oasis of woodland, pasture and lawn. The estate is home to three distinctive museums and wide-ranging outdoor spaces, including athletic fields, an equestrian center, picnic areas and hiking trails. The former residence of Governor Westmorland Davis and his wife Marguerite, the estate is a hub of activity, carrying forward the governor’s civic-minded philosophy.
Morven Park is home to the Museum of Hounds and Hunting and the Winmill Carriage Museum, where an amazing collection of more than 40 horse-drawn vehicles and fixtures are on display, including a meticulously restored dairy truck, a haunting funeral carriage and an early version of a firefighter’s cart.
The Red Fox Inn, Middleburg
Famished after touring Morven Park, I headed back to Middleburg for an early supper at The Red Fox Inn. The Inn is included in the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. Lodging accommodations are available in the original structure, and in two adjoining historic properties. Breakfast is relaxed and casual, and the dinner menu emphasizes classic technique and seasonal, local produce. In the main dining room, with its authentically low ceilings and warm, intimate atmosphere, I enjoyed a starter of peanut soup, followed by a nicely prepared cut of beef and crispy fingerling potatoes. Enjoying a meal or a stay at The Red Fox Inn is a not-to-be-missed Middleburg tradition. Reservations for dinner are recommended.
The Snickersville Turnpike/Beaverdam Creek Historic Roadways District
Driving along the Snickersville Turnpike on my way to Bluemont Vineyard was one of the highlights of my trip. The historic turnpike known as Virginia Scenic Byway Route 734 runs from Adie to the Bluemont Historical and Cultural Conservation District. I pulled on a favorite wool sweater, locked my cell phone in the glove box, picked up a bag lunch from the Little Apple Pastry Shop in Aldie (ask for the Thanksgiving turkey sandwich) and headed northwest.
A stop by the family-friendly Great Country Farms complex and a late afternoon glass of wine, warm baghette and cheese tray at Bluemont Vineyard capped off my day. Great Country Farms is an autumn wonderland for children. The kids can romp in the 5-acre play area, pumpkin patch and corn maze. The adults can browse selections from the farm market and take a wagon ride. There are marshmallow roasts and cider tastings on the weekends. Try the apple cider slushies and the cider doughnuts. If farms are your thing, the fall Loudoun Farm Tours event takes place the third week in October.
I also took time out to drive along sections of the Beaverdam Creek Historic Roadways District—a good move on my part. You can’t travel the county properly if you insist on sticking to more than a vague agenda.