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.
WE COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT THE . . . lesson on horse insemination. We dropped by the stables to watch the two-month-old foals nuzzle with their moms and encountered Terry Corbin, a friend of the Robinsons who keeps some horses on the property. Corbin had just returned from taking one of the mares to be impregnated -- told us all about that.
THE EXPERIENCE: Fauquier County is known for horseback riding and winery-hopping, but having done that before, we sought something different.
Our first stop was Warrenton's Lake Brittle (4354 Lake Brittle Dr., 540-347-6888), a pretty 77-acre lake about 25 miles from the inn. The lake was lightly populated by slow-moving canoeists and dads taking their sons fishing. We rented a canoe for a half-day ($12.50) and spent a pleasant, non-strenuous few hours gliding lazily across the lake.
The weekend we visited, Warrenton -- 18 miles from the farm -- was having its spring festival, with more than five blocks of the town's historic Main Street closed to traffic. We browsed among the face-painting booths, a petting zoo, vendors and musicians, including an organist with a lederhosen-clad monkey puppet.
Sweaty from the lake and weary from the sun, we retreated to the B&B to clean up, relax in the air-conditioned solarium and sip lemonade. We strolled around the property -- Bailey the dog accompanying us -- and along the Rappahannock River, my finger poised on the trigger of an insect-repellent bottle the whole time.
The next day, we attended the hokey but fun Flying Circus (off Route 17 in Bealeton, 540-439-8661; $10), an acrobatic air show of "Golden Age" biplanes. With a picnic lunch and blanket in tow, we squinted and craned our necks to watch the brightly painted planes swoop, circle and soar. The show was geared toward kids, who probably didn't cringe as much as I did listening to the "Red Baron" character that was part of the shtick -- a perfect time for rain clouds to roll in and for us to head back to the big city.
WHERE TO EAT: You'd think that in tiny Remington you'd have to drive 20 minutes to Warrenton to find a decent meal. For the most part that's true, with one exception: the Inn at Kelly's Ford (16589 Edwards Shop Rd., dinner entrees $10.50-$21.75). The cuisine is French, the view stunning and the service inviting. For a less fancy meal, go downstairs to Pelham's Pub for an Angus burger and $2 draft beer. Pick up true Philly hoagies and other picnic fare at the Corner Deli (100 N. James Madison Hwy.).
INFO: Highland Farm and Inn, 10981 Lees Mill Rd., Remington, Va., 540-439-0088, www.highlandfarminn.com. $125 and $150 for rooms in the house, $200 for the cottage.
-- Elissa Leibowitz