All Quiet on the Plantation
Sunday, June 6, 2004; Page P09
B&B: Highland Farm and Inn, Remington, Va. -- 40 miles from the Beltway along the Rappahannock River.
BEST FOR: City dwellers seeking silence on a secluded rural property.
DRIVE TIME FROM BELTWAY: 1 hour 15 minutes.
The drive from the Beltway takes just under an hour, if you don't have rage-inducing traffic to contend with. As a result, it took us extra time to get there. We left mid-morning on a Saturday, and once we got out of the city, a half-mile and 25 minutes later, we cruised smoothly along Interstate 66 west. Traffic along Route 29 south in Gainesville, Va., slowed us briefly, but it was mild compared with D.C.'s.
THE INN: The closest you'll come to noise on this centuries-old plantation is the gurgle of the pond-side waterfall or a rare whinny from the thoroughbred horse stables. There are no neighbors in sight -- at least when the trees are full -- and even if there were, the rolling hills and trees would block out the noise.
The French country-style ranch house is set back from the road along a long, gravel driveway. Stones from a 19th-century riverside grist mill were incorporated into the house's walls and fireplaces, and large picture windows show verdant views in every direction. The spotless backyard patio sits next to the pond and waterfall and leads to a pool (its equipment is stored in a former bomb shelter).
Owners Linda and Ralph Robinson converted two of the house's rooms into guest suites and turned the plantation's former summer kitchen -- with its two-foot-thick stone walls, chestnut beams and pine ceiling -- into a guest cottage. One room in the main house, with a hunt-country theme, boasts a view of cattle grazing in front of a Blue Ridge Mountains backdrop. The other room is filled with floral fabrics and antique wicker furniture and is connected to the main house by a garden-like solarium. Both that room and the cottage overlook some of the stables.
Breakfast is served in the solarium. On the morning we were there, we ate amaretto French toast and strawberries and cream with two other couples -- a D.C.-area duo visiting wineries and a couple from New Jersey cycling the region's traffic-free roads.
A small Civil War-era cemetery rests among tall pines in a corner of the front yard. There are less than a dozen gravestones among the tall pines, and most are unmarked -- probably the gravesites of slaves who worked on the plantation nearly two centuries ago, Ralph Robinson suspects. The marked tombstone of a young woman intrigued the couple so much they drove to Dutchess County, N.Y., in the winter of 1990 to research her; turns out she was a schoolteacher who came to the plantation to teach some of the owners' 13 children after her father was killed at sea.
WE'D GO BACK FOR THE . . . greeting we received upon arrival. Bailey, an orange mixed-breed chow, dashed to the car and greeted us with such enthusiasm you'd think we'd raised him and were coming home after a year away. Linda Robinson came out as well, hugging us as if she hadn't seen us in a long time, too.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company