Just 50 miles west of Washington, D.C., sits the historic town of Middleburg, Virginia, celebrated for its horse and hunt country. Driving west, the roads become slimmer as they thread through lush countryside; overhead, the treetops converge into a trellised canopy. Near and far, jagged rock walls and white fences section off sprawling estates.
Virginia’s communal culture prides itself on the state’s land, history and sporting traditions, all of which pervade Middleburg. Visitors and locals alike can enjoy the outdoors by hiking, biking and bird-watching, going to horse races and polo matches, trying local wines and shopping for antiques.”
In an age in which e-commerce and department store giants dominate, Middleburg’s quaint boutiques offer a welcome respite.
At [Foxfire Gallery and Antiques](http://www.foxfireantiques.com/), owner Kathy Alexander sits in a space that is itself a jewel box of precious European antiquities and objets d’art. In the center of the store, open for two years as of this month, a large skylight bathes the treasures below in natural light. Originally from New Orleans, Alexander seeks out these items in France and England: angel statues, heavy tapestries, trumeau mirrors and delicate tiaras, nesting amid old books on a shelf of carved wood.
The shop’s loveliness springs from its contrasts of color and texture: rosemary candles, green topiaries and boxwood wreaths, etched hurricanes and crystal chandeliers. It is a study in chalky whites and dusty blues. In the back, a large wooden armoire filled with Fortuny pillows stands adjacent to a beautiful 1920s French birdcage with white doves cooing inside.
The immensely popular women’s clothing and accessories shop [Lou Lou](http://loulouboutiques.com/) first opened its doors in Middleburg in the summer of 2004. Another town favorite is Crème de la Crème, a classic home-goods store that exudes comfort in the familiarity of its objects, from pretty mirrors and candles to colorful glassware and paperweights.
Crème de la Crème’s small paperie invites rummagers to peruse the walls of cheeky cards, journals, photo albums and coffee table books. Most popular? The store’s array of French linens and Italian pottery.
[J. McLaughlin](http://www.jmclaughlin.com/) is the newest shop to open for business on Middleburg’s charming streets.
For lodging, the [Red Fox Inn](http://www.redfox.com/) in the heart of town is not to be missed. For a more rural, yet luxurious experience, venture a few miles to the [Goodstone Inn](http://goodstone.com/), a country retreat set on 265 acres.
Goodstone’s owner, Mark Betts, a lawyer turned hotelier, bought the estate for his family in 1996. To maintain it, he began renting the property’s existing structures until he was eventually approached about starting a B&B. The inn formally opened in 1999, and their award-winning gourmet restaurant followed in 2005. Restaurant manager Mimi Schneider proudly says that much of the food – from eggs to vegetables and herbs – are culled daily on the property, keeping true to the farm-to-table concept.
“You’ve got to try the omelets here,” said Mark, touting Goodstone’s Sunday brunch. The team has also grown their wine program considerably over the years, with nearly 500 labels now available. Wine dinners are offered every other month. On June 23, the restaurant will host a dinner celebrating the wines of Bourgogne.
The team behind Goodstone Inn just opened a sister property in Costa Rica, an eco-lodge called Playa Cativo.
A short drive from Goodstone is the new Salamander Resort and Spa, a 340-acre equestrian estate in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The interiors are elegant and airy, yet there is a certain whimsicality, evidenced in the life-size chess set that stands on the back lawn. The resort – open since August 2013 – has 168 rooms, a world-class 23,000-square-foot spa, a private dining facility in a 150-year-old stallion barn, the Gold Cup Wine Bar, a full service equestrian center with instructional classes available and an attractive Virginia-themed restaurant called Harrimans.
With a new general manager, Reggie Cooper, [Salamander](http://www.salamanderresort.com/) is prepared for a full summer season. To start it off, every Friday from May 22 to Aug. 21, the resort’s Culinary Garden will host a Farm-To-Wine Summer Music Series with live music and food and wine from local growers.
• 56th Annual Hunt Country Stable Tour, May 23-24
• Zip Line Under the Stars with Empower Adventures, May 22-24 and June 5-6
• 162nd Upperville Colt and Horse Show, June 1-7
• Greenhill Wine and Vineyards Concert on the Lawn Series, Fridays from May 8 to Sept. 25
• Great Meadow Polo Club’s Twilight Polo, Saturdays from May 9 to Sept. 19