Atherston Hall B&B in Urbanna, Virginia
Urbanna really is like Scottsville on the Rappahannock, even more than we imagined.
The old town of Urbanna is only a couple of blocks long in any direction. Resting on the bluff above the harbor, it’s easy to walk the whole thing in a few minutes. Several stately buildings pre-date the Revolutionary War: the old Custom House, a former Scottish general store, the original courthouse converted to a church in the 1850’s. Side streets are narrow and shaded by big trees.
Surrounding the original town are quiet neighborhoods, built out in slender concentric circles over the course of nearly 300 years. Like a 3D archeological dig, they form a record in architecture of all the intervening eras in easy to recognize styles.
On Prince George Street, almost in the heart of town, is Atherston Hall – the small B&B owned and run by Judith and Bill Dickinson. They’ve done a wonderful job with the place. Bill is a landscape architect, and it shows in the beautiful gardens and grounds. Judith is from southwest England, and has managed inns and estates from Virginia to the Hamptons. They still travel back to England occasionally, and she does some consulting for the Queen Mary II. I noticed Bill uses an English style turf mower to trim the lawn.
Over breakfast we surmise our fellow innmates are meeting to transfer a classic old motor yacht from the old owner to the new. They converse on the boat’s care and feeding, the little quirks and foibles every boat has that give each a unique and sometimes persnickety personality. Much like transferring stewardship of a venerable draft horse, one that tends to outlive its owners.
As the dining room empties out we have chance to speak with Bill and Judy. We quickly learn they were our neighbors for many years, and know Scottsville well. Before moving to Urbanna they lived and worked at Albemarle House, just down the road from us. I pass it every day on the way to work. It’s a storied estate – one of the largest private homes in Virginia, surrounded by 1000 acres of vineyards with a winery. Now, after many a twist and turn, it’s owned by Donald Trump.
We have great fun sharing stories we know in common, and quickly feel less like we’re staying in an inn, more like sharing coffee with old friends in their home. They are avid and accomplished sailors, as well. Bill found a beautiful 24 foot varnished mahogany Scottish sloop they had shipped over from Britain in a steel container. And promptly won the Turkey Shoot Regatta, a popular race for classic boats, held on the Rappahannock for the past 20 years. Bill proudly displays a photo of Victorious on a sideboard in the entrance hall by the guest register.
As aficionados of old wooden boats they were duly appreciative of Aeon, and think a Melonseed would be perfect for a nephew to sail or row in Urbanna Creek. They kept referring to Urbanna as “Scottsville on the Bay,” and we understand why. Bill can ride his bike down to the marina and be on the Rappahannock in minutes, much as we can be on the James in a canoe. The small town feel, the history, the connection to a river.
They invited us to see Victorious at the docks before leaving. A beautiful boat she is. I spotted her easily from several hundred yards away in a crowded harbor.
Such a great trip. We’ll be back, it’s certain.