The Ultimate Hunt Country Getaway
The Black Horse Inn is—in a word—exquisite. A mere 40 miles from Tysons, The Black Horse Inn rests comfortably in the rolling, bucolic Virginia Hunt Country near Old Town Warrenton—a mecca for horse lovers—where the Warrenton Hunt was established in 1883 and the first running of the Gold Cup took place in 1922.
Dating from 1850, the historic main house served as a hospital during the Civil War. The inn houses 10 elegantly appointed rooms and suites, meticulously decorated with an artistic and whimsical flair, many with four-poster canopy beds, Jacuzzi tubs, and fireplaces.
The fabled Fox and the Grapes exudes character, with its own private entrance down the stairs at the back of the house, reminiscent of a charming Hobbit dwelling. You will be welcomed at the entrance by white roses and baby’s breath. A fox statue sitting atop an authentic Bordeaux wine barrel surveys the realm—a hunting horn, equestrian boots. Golden grapes hang from the ceiling. Let’s heed Aesop’s cautionary tale and not touch them. Just head up to the main house for a glass of wine if fancy strikes. The fieldstone walls with recessed wooden windows filtering the light through lattice-climbing English Ivy, hand-hewn wooden beams, and a wrought-iron bed are straight out of a fairy tale.
Another remarkable design, the Room with a View has a unique attic architecture with Palladian windows overlooking the countryside. The handsome Jeffersonian Room displays many a fine touch. And the spacious Hunt Box Suite adjoining the barn is where you will encounter, among other fine horses, the sleek black stallion Dante, mascot of the Black Horse Inn.
Awaken to a gourmet country breakfast in your fanciest pajamas, including the signature scones. Partake in Hunt Country Tea in the afternoon with sherry or port in the library or back sun porch. Sip wine and nibble on a cheese platter on the patio by the footbridge over the pond fountain. Roam the 20-acre estate and revel in being one with nature.
An equestrian center, the Inn also accommodates horses in their hunt stables for overnight visits, providing the ultimate convenience for owners of equine guests. “We’re equestrians and we want our guests to enjoy the horses.”
Great Falls readers may wish to take their horses on a little getaway. Fortunately for those of us who can’t actually bring our own horse, the Inn kindly offers several enticing equestrian packages for fall.
Hunt Country Fox Hunting
The Inn also offers opportunities for experienced riders interested in participating in an authentic day of fox hunting. They will coordinate hirelings and transport you to hunts.
Owner/Expert Equestrian Lynn Pirozzoli and her fiancé Peter are up at the crack of dawn for fox hunting with the Loudoun Fairfax Hunt near the little hamlet of Hamilton. Their fine steeds are a Gypsy Vanner/Thoroughbred cross and a Clydesdale/Cleveland Bay, like the Queen’s horses. The horses clip-clop down the lane and then they’re off into the fields of singing grasshoppers, tail-wagging beagles howling in delight.
“On early fall mornings, the mist comes off the field and steam comes off the horses. It’s just very magical to me,” describes Lynn.
“I’ve been riding since I was knee-high to a grasshopper – jumping, 3-day eventing. When I came to Virginia, I went fox hunting and fell in love with it—the camaraderie with the people and the genuine good fun. What could be better than letting the horses do what they do naturally—run in a herd.”
Linda Devan, Joint Master of Fox Hounds, notes, with up to three hunts per week, “this is the heart of hunt country in the United States.” The fox hunters follow a strict protocol and are “very respectful of the property of the friendly landowners.”
Lynn recounts unforgettable equestrian adventures while on riding holiday, galloping on the beach bareback and swimming on horseback in Ireland with Willie Leahy, Master of the Galway Blazers, one of the most renowned fox hunting groups in Ireland.
“Unlike in Ireland and England, in Virginia we just enjoy the fox chase and the countryside—time and time again. It’s just such a natural thing to do in Virginia.”
Hunt member Christine Vitkus points out, “There are places and vantage points you can’t get to any other way.”
Mimosas and Gin Richardson’s Maple Bacon Bites are always a hit at the tailgate, a hunting tradition.
The Inn is also a much-acclaimed wedding destination, with its opulent formal ballroom The Gilded Fox. Just outside, flagstone terraces back to the tranquil countryside and mountains beyond. The dashing Peter in his scarlet coat and top hat escorts the bride who rides side-saddle on horseback. Very regal.
The Finest Train Station Fare
Atmosphere abounds at Claire’s at the Depot, www.clairesrestaurant.com. Enjoy contemporary American cuisine in a charmingly restored 100-year-old historic railroad depot. The Beet and Goat Cheese Organic Baby Greens features goat cheese, croutons, yellow and red beets, dried cherries, and poppy seed dressing. Veal Scaloppine with porcini and shiitake mushroom madeira sauce, pappardelle, shaved parmesan, arugula, and grilled zucchini is succulent. Voted Top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in America, Claire’s at the Depot is sure to please.
The Front Porch, The Plains
For an elegant yet casual dinner in another historic railroad house, continue your countryside meanderings 15 miles to the Front Porch, www.frontporchtheplains.com. Their authentic Portuguese Kale Soup transported me straight back to Lisbon. Truffle mushroom ravioli was a flavorful spot-hitter. Locally sourced seared pork tenderloin was expertly infused with a hint of apple bourbon sage butter. Reserve an upstairs table and step into another era as depicted in the vintage movie poster of Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni. Park out back and be welcomed through the back door by the effervescent Christophe Michaux and friendly, knowledgeable servers. As they say in Virginia, “Slow down and set a spell.” And of course, savor the flavor.
Better yet, savor the whole experience. It might just be impossible not to.
The Black Horse Inn
8393 Meetze Road
Warrenton, VA 20187
All photos credit: Allison Chase Sutherland