WanderLove in Westmoreland County
If you are a History buff or want to be, a drive through Westmoreland County is the road trip for you. Actually, to take this tour of Westmoreland County, you are driving on the oldest road in the United States. https://www.oldest.org/geography/roads-us/ The 1,300 mile stretch called King’s Highway was created between 1650-1735 from South Carolina to Massachusetts. The King’s Highway was the most important road to traverse the colonies. Today, you can still drive this road in Westmoreland County and think about the historical figures that passed this way as well. Click here to see a short video of a drive on King’s Highway: https://youtu.be/0koOhfwdIC0
We recommend you start at Westmoreland State Park since it is on the National Register of Historic Places. The park was created by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression. However, you won’t be depressed here. A visitor will find all the fresh air you can want on the beach; Fossil collectors enjoy hunting for ancient shark teeth along the Potomac. You can also challenge yourself or others on the 6 miles of trails that range from easy to difficult.
Offshore breakwaters are great for fishing. Birding enthusiasts find the park an excellent site for spotting American bald eagles, ospreys, kingfishers, great blue herons, and gulls, and waterfowl. Although the pool is closed due to the coronavirus, you can still use the visitor center, campgrounds, cabins, a playground, a fishing pier, and boat rentals. You will still want to call to check for availability. You can watch our video here of what Westmoreland State Park has to offer: https://youtu.be/sy4cibiQo7s
If you are looking for more history, stop by the Westmoreland County Museum (WCM). You can get a brief history of the county, as well as see the original 1768 portrait of William Pitt painted by renowned painter, Charles Willson Peale. You can check out some fossils, Native American artifacts, and historic exhibits that are on display. Also part of the museum complex is the Historic Courthouse, which also houses the Visitors Center and a local Genealogy Library. The courthouse also features floor-to-ceiling murals representing different aspects of Westmoreland County history. Masks are required inside the museum and courthouse, and you must make an appointment to get inside by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do not fear if you cannot get inside, there are still things to see outside. Be sure to take a twirl around the Presidents’ Garden that was designed by Charles F. Gillette, with busts of Washington, Monroe, and Madison created by Attilio Piccirilli.
Also check out the adjacent Westmoreland Mercantile General Store and Montross Soda Shoppe. Although the building remains closed due to COVID-19, you can still see from the sidewalk an exhibit celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Women’s Suffrage. You can also view on the exterior of this building 1 of the 15 town murals. This mural is in tribute to the tomato canneries which were once a booming business. You can watch a quick tour of the museum’s outdoor offerings here: https://youtu.be/ZkO0ykVHG64
Other Montross murals include mermaids, a sunset by the water, an historic rendering of Montross, a compilation of local sights, a vintage seed packet, a woman eating, and even an alligator flossing. You just never know what you might find in this quaint town. If you are looking for that small-town feel, Montross has it. While in Montross, visitors can see two LOVEworks signs. In front of the Montross water tower is the first LOVE. The “L” is a Waterman’s boot symbolic of the county’s river culture; the “O” is an Oyster representing the Virginia Oyster Trail; The “V” is a Sharks tooth; and the “E” is a vine of grapes, representing the agricultural heritage and specifically the wine industry.
Not far from the Montross LOVE sign pictured above, at the first brewery in the Northern Neck, Montross Brewery & Beer Garden, is another LOVE sign; this one made of wood.
You can get some pizza or if you are lucky enough to stop in on one of the Montross Brewery’s summer Pop-up Bistro nights, you can get some gourmet food. You can watch our video of the Montross Brewery here: https://youtu.be/zSC_9iJu00A
If you are looking for a nice breakfast and some great coffee, the Art of Coffee is the place for you. They offer gourmet coffees, mochas, lattes, espresso, teas, frozen frappes, fruit smoothies and more. They also offer breakfast sandwiches, quiche, omelets, fresh baked scones, pastries for breakfast. If you get there at lunch time, you have numerous sandwich options (names after different artists), homemade soup, salad, and more. They also sell fine wine, craft beer, and cocktails. You can do a little shopping while you wait for your order. View our video of this stop by clicking here: https://youtu.be/jZSRhq33lck
If you are hunting for a great lunch or dinner spot in Montross, you have some options. If Italian is what you crave, Angelo’s is right in the center of town. View our video of Angelo’s here: https://youtu.be/3pCCGe0I5OU If you want an old-fashioned diner experience, Dairy Freeze is great for the whole family. Whether you want burgers, fried chicken (the are rated the best around), BBQ, shakes, or soft serve ice cream, then the Dairy Freeze is a stop for you. Check out our Dairy Freeze video here: https://youtu.be/czd-a4EGMB8
Another option for great, local food is Northern Neck Barbeque at The Barn (https://www.nnkbbq.com/) with their pulled pork, brisket, smoked turkey, ribs, catfish, and wine/ beer. Keep an eye out for local musicians performing at The Barn. You can also stop in for some local comfort food to Yesterday’s Restaurant (https://www.yesterdaysfamilyrestaurant.com/). Their menu ranges from meatloaf to crab cakes or pork chops to the “Fisherman’s Platter”, or stop into Two Fish Bistro & Tackle (https://www.facebook.com/2fishbistro) for a lunch of shrimp, sandwiches, po’ boys, chicken salad, and more. Their menus is always changing so there will be some thing new to try.
The slow pace in Westmoreland County is one of the perks of traveling here. You will not need to re-route your plans due to traffic. Just wander through the windy roads and admire the pastoral landscape. No matter where you are in the county, you can find a winery nearby. From Hague Winery, General’s Ridge Vineyard, Vault Field Vineyards (closed due to the pandemic), and Rivah Vineyards at the Grove at one end of Westmoreland County to Ingleside Vineyards and Monroe Bay Winery at the other end. Each has something different to offer wine lovers. You can watch our videos of these wineries below.
Hague Winery: https://youtu.be/6H–Hgftxo4
General’s Ridge Vineyard: https://youtu.be/jNXDm0ARLaE
Vault Field Vineyards is currently closed.
Rivah Vineyards at the Grove: https://youtu.be/LwEGE4JfBeE
Ingleside Vineyards: https://youtu.be/WWLD8ltAKps
Monroe Bay Winery is open but the video is still in progress.
Leaving Montross, you will have a chance to stop at Stratford Hall and see the home of the Lees, which is a National Historic Landmark. Four generations of the Lee family passed through this house, including Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee, the only brothers to sign the Declaration of Independence. Stratford Hall is more than a Great House; it has gardens, trails, and the stories of the community that lived there. Some changes due to COVID- 19 are tours will be self-guided and audio-based, and face masks are required inside the buildings. You can watch our brief video showing the exterior by clicking this link: https://youtu.be/YMs3M1A-ngY
After leaving Stratford Hall and passing by the Westmoreland State Park, any history lover will want to stop by George Washington’s Birthplace. It was established to honor his 200th birthday. In addition to the replica house, there is a visitor’s center (the interior is closed due to Covid-19), colonial farm, a Colonial Revival Garden, the Washington Family burial ground, and a beach; however, fossil collecting is prohibited. Some trails have re-opened, but some activities are restricted. You are encouraged to “know before you go” by contacting the site directly. You can still get your passports stamped in the Visitor’s Center entryway. Watch our video to see what there is to see and do: https://youtu.be/lB5R-3wKQbU
After leaving George Washington’s birthplace, you will want to make a quick stop St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. To the right of the front door is the following plaque:
Established 1653 as Appomattox Parish
Named after John Washington, The Immigrant- 1664
St. Peter’s Church
Built to replace Pope’s Creek Church
The Chesapeake Wine Trail runs through Westmoreland County, and all the wineries are worth a trip. But if you are history buff who enjoys wine, Ingleside Vineyards is the spot for you.
Currently, Ingleside is the oldest winery in Virginia and was the first in the Northern Neck. In 2019, #1 winery in Eastern Virginia in Virginia Living’s Best of Virginia contest. Ingleside Estate, built in 1834, first served as a boys’ school known as Washington Academy. During the Civil War, it was used as a garrison for Union troops and later a courthouse. Ingleside Vineyards is near Leedstown, which was where 115 patriots gathered to sign the Leedstown Resolves- the precursor to the Declaration of Independence. You can still visit the site where the signing took place at Bray’s Church. While the church no longer stands, there is a marker and bricks that remain there.
Just take the scenic drive from Ingleside to Colonial Beach, and you will want to soak in the peace and calmness that the Northern Neck is known for. Just before Colonial Beach is another stop for History fans. It is the birthplace of James Monroe. On this property where Monroe lived until he left for college, is now a park, Visitor’s Center, and, currently under construction, a reproduction house. The buildings remain closed due to COVID-19, but the park and grounds are open.
Finish the tour in Colonial Beach. Colonial Beach is that quintessential home-away-from-home. It was voted the #1 beach in Virginia in 2018, and it is the second longest beach in Virginia. Watch our short video of Colonial Beach here: https://youtu.be/dHGodYHPuBE Colonial Beach has a variety of restaurants, the Colonial Beach Brewing Company, Monroe Bay Winery, shops along the boardwalk, Torrey Smith recreation park, museum, and a LOVE sign on a golf cart. You can also see twelve street murals around town, featuring beachcombers, a steamboat, and a vintage bathhouse. For more information on the businesses and activities of Colonial Beach, click here: https://visitcbva.com/
Westmoreland County is the ultimate hidden gem. And once people stop here for the first time, they keep coming back.
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