I first visited Virginia while I was a college student at Howard University. For Spring Break, five or six of us would pack into my friend’s Volkswagen Jetta and drive to Virginia Beach to blow off some steam. Those were fun times and we still share stories about our adventures.
In my later college years, I befriended, Larry, who was from Roanoke. During one of our holiday breaks, he invited me home with him so I wouldn’t have to be alone in the dorm.
Roanoke was unlike the cities I was used to. The small town was nestled in the valley surrounded by majestic mountains. The scenery was breathtaking. People were actually friendly.
“I have to show you the star,” he said one morning after breakfast.
“Okay,” I said. “Let’s see this famous star.” Larry was always bragging about the Roanoke Star – the world’s largest freestanding illuminated man-made star.
We drove to the apex of the mountain where the star resided. Larry sprinted ahead of me to find a spot that would give me the best perspective.
When I finally caught up with him, I noticed the massive star rising up from the top of the mountain. Larry could tell that I wasn’t really impressed.
“It looks better at night,” he said with a hint of disappointment at my lack of enthusiasm.
Despite the star situation, Roanoke became one of my favorite places to visit because of its laid-back vibe and proximity to the mountains.
After I graduated from college, I moved back to Houston. However, I couldn’t quit Virginia.
I was transferred to a project in Northern Virginia a month after I started my first job. My territory spanned from Crystal City down to Dulles Airport. I liked that I had easy access to D.C. while still being able to find a bit of tranquility in the suburbs.
Although I’ve moved back to Texas, my love affair with Virginia continues.
I recently discovered the beauty of Loudoun County, Virginia. With its farmlands, wineries, and scenic views, Loudoun County is a great destination for people who want to enjoy life at a slower pace.
About Loudoun County Virginia
Loudoun County, located in the northern part of Virginia, is the state’s third-most populous county.
The county is comprised of 23 cities, towns, and Census Designated Places (CDP including Leesburg (country seat), Ashburn, South Riding, Sterling, Brambleton, Broadlands, Stone Ridge, Landsowne, Sugarland Run, Cascade, Lowes Island, Countryside, Purcellville, Belmon, Dulles Town Center, University Center, Lovettsville, Oak Grove, Moorefield Station, Arcola, Round Hill, Middleburg, Hamilton, and Hillsboro.
Loudoun County was established in 1757 from Fairfax County. The county is named for John Campbell, Fourth Earl of Loudoun, and governor general of Virginia from 1756 to 1759.
Although Loudoun County has always been well-known for its agricultural innovations, the area experienced major growth in 1962 when the Washington Dulles International Airport was built in Sterling, VA.
Since then, Loudoun County has experienced a high-tech boom mostly in the areas of agri-tech.
Where to Stay When You Visit Loudoun County
If you plan to visit Loudoun County, you must stay at The Salamander Resort & Spa.
Just 20 miles from Dulles Airport and 40 miles from Washington, D.C., The Salamander Resort is in the quaint town of Middleburg, VA.
With its dedication to preserving local history and culture, this charming town has been home to many well-known personalities such as the Kennedys, Elizabeth Taylor, and Robert Wagner.
As the driver pulled into the resort’s entrance, I marveled at the sprawling estate.
Stately trees stood tall along the winding driveway and rolling hills faded into the horizon while majestic horses grazed in the green pastures.
As a Texan, I was most excited about the resort’s equestrian activities. If you are into horses, you should try the Countryside Trail Rides or the Mindfulness Trail ride. Both will allow you to commune with nature and take in the beauty of the Virginia countryside.
I checked into my room and discovered a calming oasis. The sumptuous bed featured plush linens and a mattress that makes you want to schedule extra naps throughout the day.
The room was also furnished with an expansive sofa, an executive desk, and a dining table. My room had a patio that offered a gorgeous view of the property.
But what I liked best about the room was the bathroom that included marble floors, a shower with body jets, and a pedestal tub.
Although I wanted to stay in the room for the duration of my trip, I decided to venture to the pool to relax a bit before dinner.
The infinity pool was nestled between a dense wall of trees. I felt as if I were on a tropical island paradise as I sipped a glass of white wine while watching the clouds roll by. A gentle breeze danced across my skin as a closed my eyes and felt all of my stress melt away.
After about an hour at the pool, I returned to my room to get dressed for dinner.
I met a few colleagues at the Gold Cup Wine Bar inside the resort. We sampled Low Country BBQ Chicken sandwiches, Pork tacos, Salamander Burgers, and house garlic fries (my favorite). Our meal was paired with an assortment of Virginia wines.
If you’d like a more formal dining experience, you can try Harrimans instead. In the restaurant’s relaxed yet refined setting, you can enjoy elegant meals that feature fresh, seasonal ingredients, while overlooking sweeping views of the Virginia countryside and Bull Run Mountains range.
If you’re a serious foodie, you can also sign up for classes at the Cooking Studio. The Studio also offers a wide range of cooking classes for children and adults and includes specialty cooking such as vegan, vegetarian, low-fat, and low sodium.
Book a room at The Salamander Resort & Spa on Travelocity.
What to Do When You Visit Loudon County
Earlier I mentioned horseback riding. Loudoun Country seems like the perfect place to travel by horseback. But if you can’t secure a horse, the winding country roads are also perfect for driving.
If you choose to drive a car, please heed this warning – do not speed in Loudoun County!
At best you will get a ticket from one of the many police officers who patrol the roads regularly.
At worst, you will run over a farmer who is gingerly walking across the street. Don’t let your lead foot make you miss out on the following attractions.
I consider myself to be somewhat of a wine connoisseur. I’ve traveled around the world and sampled wines in South Australia, Washington, Germany, California, and Texas. I love to visit new wine regions and try different varietals.
Loudoun County is a hidden gem that is sure to please any wine aficionado. Soil conditions, temperate climate, and skilled winemakers all contribute to Loudoun’s growing reputation as “DC’s Wine Country.”
Featuring more than 34 wineries and tasting rooms, the Wine Trail is situated down tree-lined roads with exquisite mountain views.
Popular wineries include 50 West Vineyards, 8 Chains North Winery, 868 Estate Vineyards, Casanel Vineyards, Breaux Vineyards, and Boxwood Estate Winery.
If you’re an adventurous wine drinker, you should try the fruit varieties – peach, strawberry, and blueberry – from Bluemont Vineyard.
Loudoun County is home to many farms and several of them offer public tours and activities. I toured Great Country Farms, a family-run operation that began 35 years ago.
They take their mission (To offer a way for everyone to experience farm life and enjoy the benefits of its bounty) seriously.
On the day I visited, I rode in a wagon pulled by a tractor into the fields. In addition to learning about agriculture and farm life, I also got to pick some peaches in the orchard. The peaches were plump, juicy, and sweet. Georgia should be worried.
Loudon County Breweries & Distilleries
With over 35 breweries, Loudoun County is one of the most vibrant craft beer destinations in the United States.
The LoCo Ale Trail connects the urban breweries of Sterling, Ashburn, and Leesburg with the beer halls of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
I visited Belly Love Brewery & Taproom, a craft microbrewery, located in the heart of downtown Purcellville. I grabbed a seat at the bar and ordered a crisp, refreshing Belgian strong golden ale called 50 Shades of Gold. I liked the vibe of the place and struck up a conversation with a few locals. My new friends recommend that I should stop by Beltway Brewing Co. on my way back to Dulles Airport. The brewery has a nice selection of fruit-flavored beers and bold stouts.
Later that evening, visited Catoctin Creek (Ka-TOCK-tin) Distillery for cocktails.
Founded in 2009, offers regular tours at the top of each hour that highlight the process of making distilled spirits, including fermentation, distillation, aging, and bottling.
A standard tasting (Mosby’s Spirit, Roundstone Rye, and Watershed Gin) will cost you five bucks, but you can upgrade to a premium tasting for $10 which includes brandy, cocktails, or seasonal offerings. The distillery also holds a monthly cocktail dinner.
Founders Scott and Becky Harris will personally craft cocktails to pair with your meal. If cocktails aren’t your thing, go for the Roundstone Rye 92-proof. It’s spicy and flavorful without the intense burn of many rye whiskeys.
Where to Eat in Loudoun County
Magnolias at the Mill
There are many great restaurants in Loudoun County. One of my favorites is Magnolias on the Mill in Purcellville, VA. Known as “Maggies” by the locals, the restaurant is housed in a restored mill from the early 1900s.
The Executive Chef mixes Italian and Southern influences to create unique, seasonal dishes from locally sourced ingredients.
The menu includes favorites such as fried green tomatoes, burgers, brick oven pizzas, seafood dishes, steaks, and succulent desserts.
I ordered the Shrimp and Grits and Dark Chocolate Terrine (White Chocolate Mousse, Devil’s Food Cake, Raspberry Coulis, Chocolate Tuille). Both of these dishes were divine.
Other popular restaurants in Loudoun Couty include Delirium Cafe, Ford’s Fish Shack, Monk’s BBQ, South Street Under, Sense of Thai St., and Doner Bistro.
Final Thoughts about Loudoun County
Loudoun County, Virginia is a wonderful destination for people who enjoy wine, food, and exploring the outdoors. From bike trails to scenic vineyard views and historic small towns, Loudoun County is perfect for lovers of artisanal, epicurean, and culturally rich experiences.
Book your trip to Loudoun County, Virginia on Travelocity.com.