Before I was placed at Roanoke College, Virginia was a destination I had never considered travelling to. Having experienced the majesty of the West coast, I was convinced at that point in time that no-where on the East coast would win me over quite like California and America’s Wild West – but boy was I wrong. It’s true what they say, Virginia is for Lovers, and I had fallen in love with Virginia.
In my new role with KBC I am lucky enough to be assisting the Capital Region USA team – meaning every day, I have the opportunity to use my expertise to big up Virginia. My love of the state and my experiences studying in Roanoke means working with the Capital Region team suits me perfectly and I am delighted to share with you a few of my highlights from my time spent living in Virginia…
Living in Salem, a small city in south-western Virginia, I spent an exchange year majoring in American Literature at Roanoke College, a private liberal arts school nestled amongst the Blue Ridge Mountains. Not only was the campus itself quaint and within easy access of a handful of bars, restaurants, and everybody’s favourite Mill Mountain Coffee Shop, but it was a great base for exploring often overlooked parts of rural Virginia (that is, overlooked from the international traveller’s point of view).
I have always been a huge advocate of the great outdoors. The Roanoke valley and its surrounding counties offer a multitude of outdoor activities to suit both the adventurous and the amateur outdoorsmen. For me – it was perfect. There is nothing I enjoy more than seeing the landscape – and whether on foot or by car, Virginia has it all.
The Blue Ridge Parkway forms a bulk of the backbone of the state and is noted as one of America’s favourite drives. A scenic route, met by the Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah Valley to the North and crossing state-lines into picturesque North Carolina in the South, the Blue Ridge Parkway boasts fantastic views – hundreds of road-side vistas across Virginia’s rolling hills and mountains. Although popular in the summer, off-season you’ll have the road to yourself and there is no better way to see the seasons change than with a drive on one of Virginia’s scenic roads.
A hot spot for hikers, the Roanoke Valley is a great base for getting out into the wilderness to complete some of the area’s most popular hikes including McAfee’s Knob and Dragon’s Tooth (pictured below) in Catawba and The Cascades in Pembroke (also below).
The foodie scene is growing in Virginia, with a few notable favourites local to good old Roanoke that are definitely worth a try. Without fail, every time I return to Virginia I make a bee-line for breakfast at The Swinging Bridge in rural New Castle. Dinner at The Home Place in Catawba will always receive sounds of approval as will a trip to the Floyd Country Store in, you guessed it, Floyd – they do great ice cream but really, you go for the dancing – if bluegrass and country music is your thing you simply cannot miss the Friday Night Jamboree (but you better work on your flatfootin’).
Of course Virginia is laden with civil war history, picturesque vineyards, booming craft breweries, and caverns and National Forests galore, but a trip to the southern reaches of the state is not complete without a visit to Mabry Mill. You’ll recognise it from just about every brochure, calendar or leaflet you’ve ever received on Virginia, and it’s a mecca for budding photographers when the leaves start to change, and a nice day out throughout the rest of the year.
Virginia feels like a second home to me, and the friendships forged while studying abroad are certainly the kind to withstand a few thousand miles of separation. If you can promise me one thing let it be this, go to Virginia – I guarantee you’ll love it as much as I do.