GETTING THERE: Ashland, seat of Hanover County, is about 90 miles south of Washington on I-95.
Where to Stay: There are the usual modern chain choices, but one of the best places to stay in Ashland -- the Henry Clay Inn -- pays homage to two long-lost Hanover County hostelries. The Ashland Hotel opened in 1858 and was destroyed by fire in 1905. Another hotel was built a year later. It lasted more than 40 years. The present inn was built in 1992. Rooms start at $90 a night (800-343-4565 or 804-798-3100, www.henryclayinn.com).
Where to Eat: From the Henry Clay Inn you can walk down Railroad Avenue to the Iron Horse Restaurant (100 S. Railroad Ave.), then grab dessert at Homemades by Suzanne (102 N Railroad Ave.). The shelves are overflowing with baskets and goodies for sale. The coconut custard pie is a bona fide delicacy. If you're going to try the Smokey Pig (212 S.Washington Hwy.), you'll probably want to drive. The barbecue pork and chicken are both delish.
What to Do: Pop into the visitors center in the 1923 train depot at 112 N. Railroad Ave. (see below) and the folks will point you toward a point of interest, or hand you a walking-tour map of the town. See the Hanover County Black Heritage Museum (204 Virginia St., 804-798-5774) and its special exhibit on African American inventors. Just west of Ashland, follow signs for Scotchtown (16120 Chiswell Lane, 804-227-3500), which was the home of Patrick Henry. It reopens for the season on April 1 -- no fooling. On the east side of the county, the Hanover Courthouse complex in downtown Hanover is a rewarding glimpse into the world of Colonial architecture. Here you can tour the courthouse, the clerk's office and the jail (804-537-5815) or the Hanover Tavern across the street (13181 Hanover Courthouse Rd., 804-537-5050). Two Frogs on a Bike (13262 Hanover Courthouse Rd., 804-537-5213) offers all kinds of collectibles.
INFO: Ashland/Hanover Visitors Center, 800-897-1479, www.ashlandhanoverva.com.