BEST FOR: Animal lovers and other laid-back types looking for an unpretentious, rural escape in Virginia's horse country.
DRIVE TIME FROM BELTWAY: 50 minutes.
Getting there was a cinch. At 2 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, traffic flowed smoothly as we headed out the Dulles Toll Road and Greenway west to Leesburg, picking up Route 7 West and then State Route 287 to Purcellville. We drove past an alarming number of new housing developments before we reached the sweet 18th-century village of Lincoln. Minutes later, we pulled into the inn's winding dirt driveway.
THE INN: I chose Creek Crossing Farm very scientifically: Scrolling through a B&B site for Loudoun County, I searched for a listing whose photos didn't feature ruffled curtains, shiny brass beds, teddy bears, dolls or geese with bows around their necks (harder than you'd think). Sure enough, Creek Crossing Farm, a brick-and-frame structure dating to 1773, has managed to maintain its dignity in the cutesified world of B&Bs. Perhaps this is due to the fact that it's a working farm.
Dogs, cats, chickens and rabbits have the run of the place. Inside, there's a comfortable air of disorder, with piles of magazines lying around, the vacuum cleaner sitting out, gardening clogs by the back door. Owner Barbara Baroody laughed when I complimented her on her doily-free zone. "We are very low-key. I'm not Middleburg. I can't hold my nose in the air that long."
Our room was spacious, although it looked a bit like a bed showroom, with three four-posters taking up most of the floor space; it would be great for families, though. (And dogs: Baroody said hers is the only B&B in Loudoun County that allows pets in the guest rooms.) There are three other bedrooms (all with private baths), at least three or four sitting rooms, a library, several fireplaces, a big country kitchen and a couple of dining rooms, all with glorious views and furnished with antiques. Wherever you plunk yourself down, there's generally a dog ready to hop up beside you.
WE'D GO BACK FOR THE . . . bok-bok-bok soundtrack of the farm's resident chickens, who cackled with pride every time they produced an egg. Showing us the henhouse, Baroody reached inside and handed us a seconds-old, still-warm, light brown egg. Having never retrieved an egg out of anything but a cardboard carton before, we were delighted with our present.
WE COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT THE . . . chicken droppings on the front porch.
THE EXPERIENCE: God knows there's plenty of horsey stuff going on in Loudoun County to keep the jodhpur set occupied -- stable tours, trail rides, seasonal steeplechase races. We, however, opted for an equine-free weekend of antiquing, winery-hopping, strolling through the Quaker village of Lincoln, visiting an 18th-century plantation house and exploring the farm's 25 acres.
Lincoln (www.visitloudoun.org) is a lovely village of shaded streets, an atmospheric cemetery, old-fashioned cottage gardens and an assortment of handsome stone, frame, brick and even log houses. In the town's little post office, a community gathering spot, we chatted with postmistress/shopkeeper Arlene Janney, whose family settled here more than 250 years ago. She sold us a bowl from her daughter's adjacent pottery studio, showed off her collection of Virginia history books and let us peek into the 1817 Goose Creek Friends Meeting House next door, elegant in its stark simplicity. This is the "new" meeting house, mind you; the old one, a beautiful stone dwelling across the street, was built in 1765 and now serves as the caretaker's house. Lucky guy.
Later that afternoon, we drove about 10 miles west to Breaux Vineyards (36888 Breaux Vineyards Lane, Hillsboro, 800-492-9961, www.breauxvineyards.com) , where we perched on a hill with glasses of chardonnay, admiring the panorama of vines, cypresses and rolling hills against a mountain backdrop. It's a view that is rapidly changing as developers converge on Loudoun, the fastest-growing county in the United States. Baroody and other locals we met talked about overburdened sewage systems, country lanes clogged with traffic and an increasingly strident clash of cultures.
We savored the view of those hills again the next morning as we drove the county's scenic back roads, stopping at antiques shops, garden centers and farm stands. One winding trail took us to Glenfiddich Farm Pottery (17642 Canby Rd., Leesburg, 703-771-3329, www.glenfarmpottery.com; call before visiting), where clay artist Richard Busch produces hand-crafted, salt-fired stoneware in a 160-year-old converted dairy barn. We enjoyed the bucolic setting almost as much as the Japanese-influenced pottery. Our last stop was the gorgeous Oatlands (20850 Oatlands Plantation Lane, Leesburg, 703-777-3174, www.oatlands.org), a restored 1804 plantation house with a historic greenhouse and a 4 1/2-acre formal garden. Here was one place, at least, where the view would likely remain the same.
WHERE TO EAT: There are plenty of good restaurants to choose from in the area, if you don't mind driving around a bit. We loved Hunter's Head Tavern (9048 John Mosby Hwy./Route 50, Upperville), an English-style pub about 10 miles southwest of Lincoln; look for the red phone booth outside. The pub grub includes such dishes as shepherd's pie, beef stew and grilled steak (the place is known for its certified organic beef); dinner for two, with drinks, was about $60.
Cyclists taking a break from the W&OD Trail congregate at the fabled White Palace in downtown Purcellville (10921 Main St.), where you can get a quick and tasty lunch (burgers, sandwiches and subs, as well as Greek and Mexican fare) for $5 or $6.
INFO: Creek Crossing Farm, 37768 Chappelle Hill Rd., Lincoln, Va., 540-338-4548, www.creekcrossingfarm.com. Rooms are $165 for one night, $130 for two nights or more, although I negotiated a rate of $130 for a Saturday-night-only stay. Dogs are permitted in guest rooms for $25 extra.
-- K.C. Summers