Since the start of the pandemic, one thing has remained consistent–the desire of a lot of city dwellers to get out of the city. It’s a phenomenon that’s transformed many small towns and led to skyrocketing real estate prices. I myself have never found a weekend place appealing–I can’t wrap my head around returning to the same place over and over.
But if there’s one place I’ve been where I can sort of grasp that urge, it’s the Shenandoah. Whenever I visit the greater region of this storied valley in Virginia, I understand why so many thousands seek it out year after year. It doesn’t have the drama of the Grand Canyon, the magnitude of the Rockies, or the otherworldliness of Arches. But there’s something just so heartachingly perfect about its rolling hills that give way to the Blue Ridge Mountains and its little historic towns with the Norman Rockwell main streets.
One area in particular has found itself the sweetheart of bougie Washingtonians–Rappahannock County, especially its towns Sperryville and Washington. And recently the dozen or so great food and hospitality have gotten some new competition, Blue Rock Inn, which is also the latest selection for Beast Travel’s series on exciting new hotels, The New Room with a View.
The inn is right off of Route 211, halfway between Sperryville and Washington (the town, not the city) and near the entrance to Shenandoah National Park. It’s housed in a mid-19th century farmhouse that has seen many lives–from horse farm where equestrian races were held to a family weekend country house to an inn.
The property is 80 acres that look out to the hazy Blue Ridge Mountains with a 5-guest room inn, pond, tasting room, restaurant, and farmhouse for groups. It’s the brainchild of Nick Dowling, who also has a yacht charter experience in DC.
The original farmhouse has been completely transformed, multiple fireplaces, beautiful wallpaper and very comfortable beds with Parachute linens making it into this very cozy country get-away. Each window in our room (prices start at $249) offered a view of either the gentle slope of Shenandoah Mountains or the neighboring property’s active Horse Farm.
In addition to the inn, the property also has converted another farmhouse into a five-bedroom group getaway that can be rented whole and comes with a hot tub.
I’m pretty familiar with the region, as my partner and I often come to the Shenandoah National Park area to go hiking. After our first night at Blue Rock Inn, we decided to extend our stay and invite a couple we are friends with for one more night, with a plan to attack the famed Old Rag hike–a 9.5 mile circuit with rock scrambling and spectacular views.
The Inn made for a perfect gathering point after this challenging hike, as I’m a big proponent of balancing adventure with comfort. There are few things like getting home from a hike, showering, and then being greeted with spot-on drinks (Cosmo for me) and snacks by a fire pit on the pond.
But the greatest reward was what followed, as perhaps the inn’s greatest allure is with its restaurant helmed by the former head of the kitchen at DC’s award-winning Pineapple and Pearls, Chef Bin Lu. He has put together a fabulous tasting menu that feels as far away from a pretentious tasting menu as one can get while still making it a culinary experience. (Plus, the $99 prix-fixe is downright affordable compared to other high-end restaurants in the area.) From the local produce offered by Sunnyside Farms to the quixotic “Breakfast for Dinner,” every dish was suffused with flavor.
The best part of Chef Bin Lu is how accommodating he was. One of my friends happened to be vegan, and on the spot, he came up with a whole vegan tasting menu for her and also made sure to come over and explain to us every dish at the end–truly an amazing experience.
At just an hour and a half outside of DC, the Blue Rock Inn made for the perfect outdoors-indoors country escape for a couple of city slickers.