Having touched the Southwestern part of Virginia on a previous motorcycle trip, and knowing the great roads that lay in store, we chose Abingdon, Virginia as the destination for the first three days of our anniversary trip. Abingdon is a beautifully preserved historic town, first settled in the mid-18th century, and known for outdoor activities, civil war history, food, and culture. It lies in a lovely valley filled with working farms, equestrian facilities, and lavish estates.
A well-known landmark in Abingdon is “The Martha”, an historic hotel and spa. The grand facility was built between 1830 and 1832 by General Francis Preston to house his family of nine children and remained in the Preston family until 1858. At that time it was sold to the founders of Martha Washington College, which served its all-female students until the Great Depression. The building also served during the Civil War as barracks, training center and hospital for the Confederate forces. The Martha opened in 1935 as an Inn and has served as such ever since. The Martha is a member of Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
With this trip being a substitute for our Retirement Test Ride (RTR), which would have involved RV rental fees, as well as, campground fees, we decided to splurge on accommodations for a change. We typically stay in either Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn hotels when we travel by motorcycle because we use loyalty points and almost always stay for free. With the Martha, we broke that mold in a big way!
The Martha is a stately and beautifully preserved facility and the deluxe rooms are nicely appointed. Our room was spacious, with period furniture, and a lovely view of the grounds. The hotel was hosting a wedding when we arrived, but the Presidents wing was nice and quiet. Our only complaint was the bed was badly in need of replacement. Sad for a property of this price range and 4-star rating.
The grounds were beautiful, with a salt-water natatorium and outdoor jacuzzi, lovely gardens and tennis courts.
We were hoping for covered parking for the motorcycles, but they made do in the secured off-street parking.
The lawn of the Inn is beautiful and unique. We loved the large LOVE sign!
For dinner on the first night, we decided to follow hotel staff advice and try the Bone Fire Smokehouse just down the street. Our friend J was working on his heated gear wiring, (and the Georgia Tech game) and didn’t join us for dinner. The restaurant occupies a restored former hardware store, and still bears a prominent sign on the exterior. We shared a giant wedge salad garnished with tomatoes, cucumbers, and massive onion rings, then sampled the smoked turkey plates with four different sides. We met the owner, Doug, after our meal, and discovering that it was our first (but not last) visit, insisted on treating us to a mason jar serving of sweet potato cake made by his wife and partner. He shared the story of his journey to Abingdon, a carpenter at heart, who restores old buildings, then becomes his own best tenant by opening restaurants in the renovated spaces. Dinner was so good, we brought our friend J there the second night, this time trying the baby back ribs and pulled pork options. A special treat on the second night was a unique band from Canada, New Country Rehab.
A few more pics the next morning, on our way to breakfast at Chick-N-Little, also recommended by hotel staff, when we asked for a local country-style breakfast.
Funny, this morning, we saw the city workers placing the fall decorations. Hay bales and pumpkins were added later in a process involving multiple trips with a truck and trailer, followed by ladies in safety vests placing the ribbons and decorations!
The historic Barter Theater is a draw for culture lovers to Abingdon and is located right across the street from The Martha.
This mural depicts the story of the Abingdon area in pictorial splendor. We so enjoyed our visit to this area, and would love to return again to take advantage of outdoor activities other than motorcycle riding. The attractions include the Virginia Creeper Trail, a former rail bed now a 34 mile walking and bicycle path that runs from Abingdon to its highest point at Whitetop Station near the North Carolina state line at Whitetop, Virginia.
Head here for more on the motorcycle riding in this lovely area.