Sugar Tree Inn

blazing orange and gold sunset reflecting over a field of wheat

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WanderLOVE in Northern Rockbridge County

Has your wanderlust led you down the rural path this year? (And according to travel statistics, A LOT of you are going rural.) Now what? You’re not an avid hiker, but sure, a little walk in the woods won’t kill you. You’d like to sample some local products, beer and/or wine, why not. Have you thought about food? How are you going to get from Point A to Point B? WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T HAVE CELL SERVICE?!?!

Yep, all part of the rural charm. But it’s okay. It’s all part of the experience.

Shadowed trees and fence at the end of a lane with morning fog rising against a red sunrise

So let’s imagine you show up at your destination and it looks like something out of Deliverance. The roads are narrow and windy; the nights are dark and quiet. Your special someone glares daggers your way.  What have you done? You decide to stick it out and tell yourself (and your very quiet someone) things will look better in the morning with the aid of a good night’s sleep (behind a locked door, of course) and a full belly of breakfast.

And then what?

Rural night sky full of stars with a partial log structure off to the side

The next morning, the innkeeper smiles, hands you a map, and suggests you explore the North Rockbridge Trail. [2021 North Rockbridge Trail Map]

Huh? Sure.

You wander south down Route 11, see a sign welcoming you to the Village of Fairfield, and pull into a promising little treasure shop: 3 Seasons Antiques. Melinda and Grace greet you with smiles and barks, respectively, and you begin exploring her treasures. Melinda asks where you’re staying and before you know it, six degrees of Ken Bacon occur and you guys discover a connection of sorts through your past. Melinda suggests another business along the Trail and you go on about your merry way to the next business. And on your day goes, business owners welcoming you, asking about where you’re staying, asking you to tell the innkeepers HELLO, and so on and so on until you are back at your accommodations, enjoying a glass of wine from the winery you just visited and reveling in the fact that, even if just for a few hours, you were part of the Northern Rockbridge Community.

This is why you went rural.

snippet of the North Rockbridge Trail map

What is this trail you speak of?

I’m glad you asked. The “Trail” is more or less a driving loop that highlights a wide variety of businesses that make up the northern end of Rockbridge County, including places to eat and stay and points of interest.

bottles toasting in a field in front of the sunset

How did the Trail begin?

About four or five years ago, a handful of business owners in the northern neck of Rockbridge County got together to eat, drink, and kibitz. The meetings continued at fairly regular intervals and the owners quickly realized the wisdom of supporting each other not just by buying products or utilizing the services the businesses offered, but by spreading the word among the tourists to the area and guiding them to another business. While the Lexington-Rockbridge Tourism Office does a great job promoting the area, rural areas are a unique challenge because often there is no downtown for tourists to walk and discover those cute little boutique stores. What do you ask Google to explore a rural area? Google, where’s a hidden gem, small business? Google, is there a farm I can visit?

So, after some false starts and some back and forth, the North Rockbridge Trail was born. Initially, the businesses along the trail participated in three or four open house-style events a year, but now it has evolved into a great way to share the LOVE of this end of the county with tourists and residents alike.

glass ball on a fence post with a tree and nature scene inside ball

What kinds of points of interest are highlighted on the Trail?

Stops along the Trail include antiques, a fabric shop, farm stores, vineyards, a brewery, a museum, an operating grist mill, farms, greenhouses, and historic sites.  

Points of Interest:

Three vintage hard suitcases in navy and brown

Is there anywhere to stay along or near the Trail?

But of course! In Northern Rockbridge County there are four different bed and breakfasts, each with their own distinct style from mountain lodging to farm, rustic to elegant; there is surely something for everyone. Additionally, if you prefer more cabin-style accommodations, two of the points of interest offer a cabin on-site and all of the aforementioned bed and breakfasts have at least one cabin rental. 

Lodging:

Sandwich and fries on a wooden cutting board

Is there anywhere to get food along the Trail?

Great question! As you may or may not know, food in a rural area is not always as easy to find as one might be used to. Meaning, just because it is lunchtime and you are hungry does not mean you can find food within five minutes of your location. Food quite often takes thought in these here rural parts, so the Trail highlights country stores, sit-down dining, and even a few treats. Many of these establishments are happy to provide take out, so you can order your food before you hit the trail, pack it in the cooler or throw it in the picnic basket, and eat at that perfect bucolic spot when your tummy is rumbling and you feel miles away from civilization.

Food:

multigenerational family on park bench with a jumping up dog

Anything else I should know about the Trail?

Most of the establishments along the Trail are pet and family-friendly, so bring the whole crew.

Besides bringing food or at least thinking about it before you hit the Trail, other suggestions include packing a couple of grubby towels or a blanket, a small first aid kit (nothing crazy, but some band-aids and antiseptic ointments go a long way), and, of course, water.

One last tip, since Northern Rockbridge County is a rural area, business days and hours of operation vary, so you may want to check them against your travel dates.

rolling farm land with sun setting behind trees along the horizon the blue grey clouds streaked with orange

And that is that. We hope you enjoy your “Going Rural” experience and we also hope, by the end of the Trail, you will be vindicated in the eyes of your special someone!  

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