For history lovers who want to get away and experience the simple life with a variety of historical points of interest, abundant natural beauty and even wine tastings and luxury treatments, Patrick County, Virginia is your perfect destination. Here are all the must-see places to help you unplug, unwind, and step back in time.
Accommodations: Uptown Suites of Stuart
This is the perfect place for history lovers to rest their heads. These beautiful, cozy suites reside on Mainstreet in Stuart, VA in the upper floor of the George Building, built in 1928. With a room here you are conveniently located right upstairs from dining, shopping, and other treasures of history like our Historic Courthouse, (built-in 1822) and our New Deal Post Office Mural on the Appalachian Mural Trail that was installed in 1942. You will also be within a five-minute walk of the Patrick County Historical Society Museum, the Virginia Motorsports Museum, and the Wood Brothers Racing Museum.
Lunch: Leonardo’s Pizzeria & Bistro
Enjoy a unique blend of Greek, Italian, and American dishes at this family-owned restaurant on Mainstreet in Stuart.
After lunch, step back into the Victorian era at the historic Reynolds Homestead, built-in 1814. This tobacco plantation, named the Rock Spring Plantation, was home to R. J. Reynolds, founder of the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Here you can take a tour of the main house and other buildings around the homestead, learn the history of the Reynolds Tobacco Company and of the enslaved men & women that lived and worked on the plantation & visit their cemetery. Take a self-guided tour around the property or sign-up in advance for a guided tour by one of the Homestead’s knowledgeable guides. While you are there enjoy the one-mile loop walk on their self-guided L.E.A.F. trail to learn about the flora & fauna native to the area and see one of the locally-crafted hand sculptures of TRAIL HANDS. Visitors on the third weekend of June will be able to enjoy the annual Bushels & Barrels: Local Food, Wine & Beer Festival.
Afternoon & Dinner:
Grab a glass of locally grown wine at Stanburn Winery and enjoy the view of their beautiful vineyard. They have named many of their wines to have historical significance for the area (try the semi-sweet “High Fly,” named after the battle horse of Civil War General J.E.B. Stuart). Head back into town for dinner at Stuart Family Restaurant. Here there is something delicious on their menu to suit anyone who walks through their doors.
Just down the street is the Coffee Break Cafe; home of delicious breakfasts and toe-tapping music on Tuesday mornings.
Meadows of Dan Village
On top of the mountain lies the charming village of Meadows of Dan. Here, you will find local home-style cooking as well as many unique places to shop. Poor Farmers Market offers a variety of quirky treasures and gifts as well as locally produced honey, jams, produce and more. Concord Corner Store offers an expanse of high quality, local artisan crafts such as large quilts, household woodworks, local wines, jewelry, Moroccan lamps, lace dream catchers and more. Nancy’s Candy Company is a working candy factory with its own delightful storefront. Inside, you can look through the windows and watch your candy being made. Indulge in a variety of fudge, chocolates, gummies and more. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs right through Meadows of Dan and is an easy hop on or off for a beautiful drive.
Lunch at Jane’s Country Cafe
Located in the center of the village, Jane’s offers American country classics. Don’t skip out on their dessert menu!
Blue Ridge Parkway
Breaking ground in 1935, the Blue Ridge Parkway was built by the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to connect Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the edge of North Carolina. Spanning 469 miles, this famous scenic drive was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps camp which created much-needed jobs during and after the Great Depression. No commercial vehicles, billboards or other non-essential signage are allowed, which leaves the Parkway to show off the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A smooth 45 mph drive down the Parkway will offer breathtaking overlooks, recreation areas with camping & picnicking, hiking trails, and abundant wildlife. South of Meadows of Dan along the Parkway you will find historical sites such as Puckett’s Cabin and the Mayberry Trading Post. Just off the beaten path of the Parkway, you will find one of the many Rock Churches in the area, Slate Mountain Church, built-in 1932.
One of the oldest mills in Patrick County is Cockram Mill. Built-in 1885, this grist mill sits on the banks of the Dan River headwaters. The mill was also once the home of the Dan River Queen, a passenger riverboat that offered tours along the water. The Queen can still be seen today laid to rest beside the mill. The most famous mill in the area is by far Mabry Mill, located North of the village on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This grist mill, built-in 1908, is the most photographed spot on the Parkway. In the warmer months, visitors can go inside the mill and tour the other buildings on the property to learn about the skills and trades of the time. There is also a restaurant and gift shop on the property. In the winter months, the grounds are still open to visitors without tours or restaurant hours.
Rock Churches of the Blue Ridge
Made famous by the book The Man Who Moved A Mountain by Richard C. Davids, Patrick County is home to two of the five beautiful Rock Churches in the area. Mayberry Presbyterian Church (1925) and Slate Mountain Presbyterian Church (1932), both in Meadows of Dan, were built by Rev. Robert Childress from the stone of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can take a three-hour self-guided Backroads Tour of all five churches created by The Mountain Laurel.
From Meadows of Dan, drive South on the Blue Ridge Parkway to visit the Mayberry Trading Post. This general store, built in 1892, was once the only place of commerce in the mountain community and originally served as the local post office. The store is still open to this day and offers visitors much of what was offered in its heyday. In the Fall, apple butter is made right outside the building. You can purchase homemade goods like Wild Elderberry Jam or Mayberry souvenirs. On the Andy Griffith Show, Andy talked about “the real Mayberry up on the mountain.” Many believe this area was what the character was referring to, as the show was based on the neighboring town of Mount Airy, NC.
South of Meadows of Dan on the Blue Ridge Parkway is Puckett Cabin. This parkway exhibit is the home of celebrated mountain midwife Orlean Hawks Puckett. She is known for delivering over 1,000 babies in the surrounding mountain area and never once lost a mother or child. Puckett started her midwife career at the age of 52 after losing 24 of her own infants. She lived to the age of 102. Visitors can pull just off the parkway to view her cabin home and read about her remarkable life. Want to know more? Read Orlean Puckett: The Life of a Mountain Midwife, 1844-1939 by Karen Cecil Smith. You can also ask about her at the Hollow History Center, land still owned by her husband’s family.
Blue Ridge Wineries
Along the parkway, you will find Villa Appalaccia. This Italian inspired winery offers many varieties of their European-styled wines as well as cheese plates and the occasional live music performance all in a gorgeous Italian villa setting. Just down the parkway is Chateau Morrisette Winery & Restaurant. The Morrisette family has been in business since 1978, building the largest producing winery in Virginia. Have a tasting in their expansive tasting room, take a tour behind the scenes of their large operation or have a nice lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch at their elegant restaurant with beautiful views.
Dinner & Sunset
Before dinner, be sure to catch the sunset at Lover’s Leap Overlook off of Route 58 on the mountain. This long-range view will take your breath away at any time of year, but autumn is the most beautiful. Have dinner at Longfin Grill, located inside the Cockram Mill complex , you can order fresh seafood, Cajun classics and smoked local meats. Sit on the back patio and watch the mill’s water wheel turn with the Dan River.
Just down the street is Honduras Coffee Shop. Step into the smell of roasting coffee, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches before you begin your day’s exploring.
Jack’s Creek Covered Bridge
Walk through the historic Jack’s Creek Covered Bridge in Woolwine. It was built in 1914 to gain access across the Smith River to the neighboring Jack’s Creek Primitive Baptist Church, the bridge’s namesake. Now substituted by an adjacent modern-day steel beam bridge, Jack’s Creek Covered Bridge is still open to visitors to walk through and sign the guest book. The site of the bridge is a wonderful spot for a picnic or getting your feet wet in the river on a hot summer’s day. Visitors on the third Saturday in June will be able to catch the annual Virginia Covered Bridge Festival just across the road. The festival was originally designed to celebrate two of Patrick County’s covered bridges, the second being Bob White Covered Bridge which was tragically swept away by floodwaters in 2015.
Dam & Lake
Built in 1942, Philpott Dam was constructed to relieve constant flooding by the Smith River into nearby towns and residential areas and to also generate hydroelectric power. Divers under the water will find the lost town of Fayerdale which was flooded to complete the project. Visitors can view the dam and the beautiful lake from the Philpott Overlook. The Visitors Center houses a small museum where guests can learn about the history of the dam and the local flora and fauna. Philpott Lake offers an array of outdoor recreation opportunities to enjoy while you are there such as camping, hiking, paddling, boating, fishing, and swimming. You can also visit neighboring Fairy Stone State Park, the second-largest state park in Virginia. Here you can find outdoor adventures as well as rare staurolite crystals, locally called “fairy stones.” Pro tip: Head to the Fairy Stone Pit Stop just outside of the park for one of the best fairy stone hunt sites around.
Lunch: Howel’s Grocery
If you want the best burger around, the diner inside Howel’s Grocery is your perfect “hole in the wall” burger spot. This small diner sits inside a retro full-service gas station complete with vintage gas pumps and friendly service.
Laurel Hill is the birthplace and childhood home of Civil War General J.E.B. Stuart. Upon arrival, visitors can pick up a self-guided tour brochure at the entrance and proceed onto the grounds. Visitors on the first weekend in October can enjoy the Civil War Encampment & Living History Weekend that takes place on the property every year. In front of the Historic Courthouse in the Town of Stuart is a statue of General Stuart, where the town gets its name.
Patrick County’s Oldest Grave
Neighboring Laurel Hill is the oldest grave in Patrick County belonging to J.E.B. Stuart’s great-grandfather William Letcher who was a member of the local militia during the Revolutionary War. Letcher met a tragic end, murdered in front of his family on his own doorstep by British Loyalists in 1780.
Hollow History Center
Schedule your visit ahead of time and be treated to a walk through the history of the Patrick County “Hollow” in Ararat at no charge. There you will find exhibits such as the Riley Puckett Cabin, the Library Cabin, a Log Tobacco Barn with farm equipment and a section of the Mount Airy and Eastern, or “Dinky,” Railroad. You will also find a collection of local history, photos, and genealogy. Bring your lunch to enjoy the picnic shelter on site.
Dinner & Evening
Just North of Ararat is one of Patrick County’s hidden treasures, Primland Resort. This 5-star luxury mountain resort hosts a plethora of activities, restaurants, and accommodation options. For dinner, you can choose between casual food and drinks at the 19th Pub, elegance and refinery at Elements, or choose Stables Saloon, open seasonally, for country classics like Southern Blue Ridge Barbecue. After dinner, head up to the observatory for a spectacular show of the night sky then stick around for their nightly s’mores roasting on the patio.
Patrick County is rich in history and allows travelers the opportunity to step back in time and experience the simple life. More information at visitpatrickcounty.org.