3 THE NORTHERN NECK
53-114 MILES THREE HOURS BY CAR
A 61-mile long peninsula bounded by the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers and spilling into Chesapeake Bay, the Northern Neck is a land of rolling hills and meandering creeks known as the “birthplace of America”. Explored in the early 17th century by Captain John Smith, and later settled by tobacco planters, it produced three of the five first presidents (Washington, James Madison, James Monroe), two signatories of the Declaration of Independence, and Robert E. Lee. For all its history, the Neck is mercifully free of tourists – all the better for those who prefer the road less travelled. As you drive through small towns and along thoroughfares with names like Good Luck and Devil’s Bottom, stop off to explore bracingly austere 18th-century churches and stately residences like Stratford Hall, Lee’s ancestral home and one of the most elegant houses in the Union. If you see a roadside stand, pull over. Like generations before them, Northern Neck watermen catch and sell rockfish, blue crabs and Virginia oysters. As you chow down, look up. Here, locals will tell you, bald eagles are as common as crows. When you finally make it to land’s end, having gone berry-picking at Westmoreland Farm and wine-tasting at Ingleside Vineyards, stay at The Gables in Reedville. It was built over a century ago by a Captain Fisher who erected the wooden mast of his beloved schooner, the John B. Adams, through the top two storeys of the mansion.