Maybe it was the blind Black Lab who sauntered up to me, wagging his tail and barking, or the fresh-baked cheese cake cookies that were waiting on the dining table, but Cindy and Jimmy Patterson and their extended family of five horses sure know how to make a guest feel comfortable.
Home Away from Home at Black's Fort Inn
Their hilltop home is Black's Fort Inn, named after the town which sent troops to stop the British during the Revolution. From the porch you can see the best of the Blue Ridge Mountains: their corral crossing the rolling hills, forests changing color, and a pond topped by flocks of geese. The house, built by hand by Cindy's grandfather, has three bedrooms upstairs that share a bath and two more downstairs. My large Equestrian Room, decorated with the couples' many ribbons and riding awards, had an enclosed patio ideal for reading or sipping a soda while admiring the view.
Cindy, excited to have a writer as guest because, she explained, she hoped to write her own novel, showed me around and asked after every need: did I "run cold" at night and require more blankets, would I prefer Coke or her jasmine iced tea, a bar of soap or her bath gel, more cheese cake cookies or the chocolate chip or peanut butter ones?
When I came home that night from the theatre, Cindy was waiting up to offer me a cup of pumpkin creme brulee and some hot cider. She confided her fears during the past summer's unusual tornadoes and how much her horses' safety meant to her. She talked about getting a culinary degree and perhaps opening a restaurant in town.
She said, "As you can imagine, I love people and I love interacting with them" and then she said something that I'd heard earlier that day, "I am so lucky to live here."
It's a feeling that comes naturally to Abingdon and one that visitors can sense (and see) immediately.
Abingdon has more Culture Than Meets the Eye
Abingdon is fast on its way to becoming the cultural capital of the Blue Ridge Highlands, a title it's very proud to have. The new Blue Ridge Music Center, about a two-hour drive, is the heart and soul of the "Crooked Road," the government-funded cultural preservation program that has put Appalachia on the tourism map.
The old train station has become a public arts workspace, with temporary exhibitions for visitors and full time studio space for local artisans. A large and sophisticated showcase for local arts and crafts, Heartwood, has opened just outside the village center and already lures thousands of visitors exploring Appalachian heritage. The local playhouse, the Barter Theatre, dates to 1933 when an out-of-work New York actor decided he'd rather barter his acting for food than starve during the Great Depression. There's always something in repertory, and the modest ticket prices make the Barter Theatre an ideal venue for a family cultural adventure.
The Carter Family Fold, the homestead of June Carter and her family as well as her husband Johnny Cash, is a country music mecca. Located in Hiltons, Virginia about 45 minutes' drive from Abingdon, it draws square dancers and music fans from around the world each Saturday night for their Jamboree.
Centrally located on this musical heritage trail, and within the 19 counties being marketed together as Southwest Virginia, the historic and charming village has more than enough to interest all ages as a weekend destination. Mid -19th-century red brick architecture, the lovely Martha Washington Hotel dating from 1832, local hotspots like Camilla's Tea Parlor where "Crimes of Passion" is only one of the hand blended teas, and of course many small B&Bs like Black's Fort Inn where southwest Virginians can practice their natural hospitality.
In fair weather, don't miss Virginia Creeper Trail. In our video, you'll see we rode bikes, but it's a great rails-to-trails project whose old railroad tracks are now used by horseback riders, bicylists, joggers, strollers and even wheelchairs.
There is so much to see and do in this part of Southwest Virginia — and so many seasonal festivals — that we must recommend the Virginia tourism office site to guide your way.
But if you don't like to plan ahead, just book a few nights at the Black's Fort Inn (276/628-6263; 410 Green Spring Road, Abingdon, VA) and your family, the grandparents and even the pets are guaranteed to feel that Southern welcome and a whole lot of charm.
Need we say more?
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