We were driving to a vineyard in Loudon County, Virginia, when I noticed some houses with spectacular hilltop locations. ‘Look at those,’ I said to my wife, ‘They must have fantastic views. Hang on… I think that’s where we’re staying tonight.’
And it was. When we’d finished our afternoon tour and tasting at the Breaux Vineyards, and put the address of our B&B for the night into the satnav, it took us back to Hidden View, sitting in a wonderful location at the top of a winding drive with views out towards the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Before we knew it, our host Ray Shields was helping us in with our luggage and encouraging us to sit in some of the chairs that dot the grounds, gazing out over the surrounding Virginia countryside, of rolling green fields and distant blue-hazed mountains.
‘Sit at the front,’ he said, ‘while it’s still warm and watch for the sunset. We have some spectacular sunsets.’
Not that night we didn’t, but what was spectacular was the décor inside this luxury b&b. Ray’s wife Cheri clearly has impressive design skills, and we were more impressed by the minute as Ray gave us a tour of the house. We were the only guests that night, a quiet midweek evening.
‘Cheri and I both used to work in tech industries, but we’d always wondered about opening a guesthouse of some kind. She loves design and anything creative, I love cooking and gardening, so eventually, we decided to quit our jobs and we opened this place about a year ago.’
Hidden View has five guest suites, each individually decorated but all showing that Cheri has that uncanny ability to group a few random things together and make them look good. Whenever we try that, it just looks a mess. But here were vases and colourful ceramics, a bowl of flowers on a table in a window nook, stone fireplaces, a pile of books on a bureau beneath a painting of Venice… and everything came together perfectly to create private havens which all reflected the name of one of the suites: Serenity.
Other suites were equally aptly named: Amity, Haven Room, Sanctuary and the room we were in, Tranquility. Our room had a king-size sleigh bed with a tempting massage feature, a separate sitting room with a view over the back garden and swimming pool, and a huge bathroom with his and hers sinks and WCs, and separate shower and bath. Off this was a dressing room where we could hide our cases away and maintain the dignity of the main bedroom.
Hidden View doesn’t offer meals other than breakfast, but Ray had plenty of suggestions for dinner and we headed for the closest, Magnolia’s at the Mill in nearby Purcellville, a 10-minute drive away. As a sign of the southern hospitality on offer, Ray warned us that a heavy storm was on the way so if we’d rather not risk driving and getting caught in it we’d be welcome to join him for dinner, as we were the only guests and his wife was away.
We didn’t feel we could impose, and we enjoyed a magnificent meal at Magnolia’s, which had one of the best beer lists we’d ever seen, though the heavens opened when we were driving home and in the ten-second dash from car to front door we got soaked to the skin.
Next morning we got to sample Ray’s cooking skills when he prepared us a gourmet breakfast. The dining room also has terrific views towards the mountains, and at one point a hummingbird came to look through the window at what we were eating. Breakfast began with a fruit cup that had a lime-mint syrup poured over it. It was the extra little touches like the syrup which showed Ray’s skills as a chef.
The main course was ricotta pancakes with blueberry agrodolce syrup, crispy bacon and a huge sliced strawberry. A few seconds later Ray popped back.
‘I almost forgot,’ he said. ‘I also made a bowl of lemon curd for you. Add a dab on top of the blueberry syrup and it gives a nice tang to it.’
Which it did, the tart lemon curd contrasting beautifully with the sweet/sour blueberry syrup and the creamy ricotta pancakes. There was, of course, perfect coffee and freshly-squeezed orange juice too.
What there wasn’t was enough time to enjoy more of a stay at Hidden View. The storm had blown away and brought in sunshine and freshness, but we had an airport to get to. Hidden View is less than 30 miles from Washington DC’s Dulles Airport. For anyone flying in to DC and wanting to head for the heart of Virginia’s wine country in Loudon County (there are about 40 wineries within 20 miles of the b&b), Hidden View offers the best of southern warm welcomes.
TELL ME MORE ABOUT HIDDEN VIEW B&B
Hidden View Bed and Breakfast, 36474 Charles Town Pike, Hillsboro, VA 20132, USA.
Tel: (+00-1) 703-669-9306; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suites from $230 per night.
To plan your trip to the Capital Region, visit www.capitalregionusa.co.uk