The Rappahannock County Artisan Trail, part of Virginia’s Artisan Trail Network, offers more than 100 stops in the county — artisan studios, craft-related venues and agri-artisan farms as well as restaurants, lodging and other points of interest. A map and brochure are available at the county Visitors Center, and there’s more at artisanscenterofvirginia.org.
Experience the beauty of Virginia wine country by bicycle. Quiet roads, five-star dining and luxurious accommodations at Foster Harris House (see Places to Stay), whose proprietors also run the Tour d’Epicure all-inclusive, fully supported two- and three-day epicurean cycling vacations (as featured in Southern Living, Washingtonian, Bicycling and National Geographic magazines). Call 800-874-1153 or visit tourdepicure.com.
Shenandoah National Park, which encompasses the Blue Ridge Mountains along the entire western border of Rappahannock County, offers a wealth of seasonal activities spring through fall at its resorts, campgrounds and visitor centers — and is open year-round (except for occasional winter-weather closings) for hiking, birding, nature photography and sightseeing along Skyline Drive. Many trails, including the main route to Old Rag Mountain, start in Rappahannock — and, unlike those same trails accessed via Skyline Drive, the hike back is generally downhill. Call 540-999-3500 or visit nps.org/shen or goshenandoah.com for more.
Flint Hill’s Caledonia Farm 1812 B&B (see listing under Places to Stay) is stop No. 1 on the Virginia Birding & Wildlife Trail, and the only B&B in the county with a direct link to the trail (and lots of birder-friendly reference books on hand). Visit BNB1812.com or call 540-675-3693.
If combining art and nature appeals, consider outdoor painting lessons in the Rappahannock countryside with Washington plein air painter Nora Harrington, who supplies everything you'll need to create an oil painting on-site, including a French field easel, oil paints and a 12-by-16-inch canvas. Lessons ($160) are taught in three-hour sessions and are timed to start near sunrise or end near sunset. More at nora-harrington.com/painting-lessons.html.
Within hacking distance of Thornton Hill Fort Valley Hounds and a dozen great trails into and around Shenandoah National Park, Turkey Hill Stables offers private rides, lessons, full board and field board; indoor and outdoor arenas, horse training and local events. At 268 Fletchers Mill Rd. in Woodville, contact Turkey Hill at 540-987-9778 or turkeyhillstables.com.
Horseback riding is also offered by Conyers House B&B, where proprietor Sandra Cartwright-Brown takes guests at the inn (and other paying customers) through a riding session that starts with tacking your own mount before heading through the countryside (see listing under Places to Stay).
Schoolhouse Nine, the county’s first and only golf course, opened in the summer of 2015 next to the Sperryville Schoolhouse complex, where U.S. routes 211 and 522 meet. The gently rolling nine-hole course is deceptively challenging and, especially in wildflower season, quite beautiful. The course is open 8 a.m. till dark daily; rounds start and (especially) end at the adjacent Headmaster’s Pub (see Places to Eat). Weekday play is $15, weekends $20 (ages 16 and younger are $5 anytime); a 10-game card is $100. Call 540-987-5008 or visit schoolhousenine.com.
While there were no large-scale military actions in Rappahannock, several dozen skirmishes and many troop movements occurred here, a major thoroughfare and gateway to Shenandoah Valley for both Union and Confederate forces. The Rappahannock Historical Society’s John Tole, who produced most of the county’s 30-plus Virginia Civil War Trails markers, also produced a map and guide to those markers, and those troop movements and skirmishes, which is available at the Visitors Center (7 Library Rd., Washington; 540-675-3153 Friday-Sunday, 540-675-5330) and through the Rappahannock Historical Society (328 Gay St., Washington; 540-675-1163 or rappahannockhistsoc.org).