Hampshire County, West Virginia is located less than a two-hour drive from Washington, DC. The Allegheny Mountains dot the terrain with wonderful hiking opportunities. And the South Branch Potomac River offers outdoor recreation options in a pristine landscape. You can also enjoy picturesque highlights on the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railway. Historic Capon Springs Resort, offers a relaxing reprieve, where you also can enjoy a soaking bath at the spa or play golf. With fall on the horizon, the promise of vibrant autumn foliage makes it a great time to visit. Here are some highlights of Hampshire County with tips on planning a visit!
Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad
The Mountain State of West Virginia is one of the most picturesque in the country. The Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad offers the opportunity to take in the area’s beauty and history, in multiple seating classes. The regular excursion is a 35-mile roundtrip journey starting at the Wappocomo farm and mansion that takes you south and then returns over a 3-hour ride. They also run special 8 hour day trips to the town of Petersburg. The 8 hour rides include two stops, while the 3-hour ride does not.
Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad Seating Options: Economy, First-Class and Superior Club
Each seating class offers the opportunity to sit in a train car from a different era. While the coach carriage is more basic, with no air conditioning, it has the charm of a 1920’s carriage, with incandescent lighting over the more modern fluorescent lighting. You can also pull open the window to feel the breeze on your face. You can even poke your head out the window to watch the train wind along the South Branch Potomac River. Standard coach does not include a meal, but you have the option to purchase food like chili dogs and pork sandwiches while on the train. A pork sandwich costs $4 and a chili dog costs $3. Standard coach seats are $59. Premium coach seats are $71 and include a boxed lunch where you can select your entree at booking.
The first-class vintage cabin from 1947 includes gourmet meal service in a climate controlled carriage. First class seats cost $100. First class passengers are also free to move about the train to check out the economy carriages.
Superior Club is the Potomac Eagles’s most luxurious class – a renovated car from the 1950s with plush love seats and modern lighting. Gourmet meal service in Superior Class is served atop Chesapeake and Ohio Railway china. Superior Club seats cost $120. These seats also allow passengers to freely move about all carriages on the train.
Narrated History of the Area
The train journey is narrated by Jean, a former school teacher. As you cruise past picturesque mountains, waterways, farms and silos, she regales passengers with local history and stories. The train line itself was completed in 1884 after several failed attempts to connect Green Spring and Romney. It was not extended south until the turn of the century in 1910.
Open Gondola Ride Over the Sycamore Bridge at Sunset
One of the highlights of the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad is riding in the open gondola car through the narrow passage referred to as the Trough. From there, you get a great view of soaring eagles and their nests perched atop trees. This car sits directly behind the locomotive and this type of train car was used to transport steel piping and tires, but now has bench seating for you to enjoy the ride. The conductors are happy to chat and answer questions. The other highlight was crossing the Sycamore Bridge as the sun was setting on a beautiful day!
Pro tip: Before booking tickets on the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad site, check their Facebook page as they post specials there. Grab one of their promo codes from their Facebook page to use at the time of purchasing your train tickets!
Romney, West Virginia
The small town of Romney, with just 1,848 residents is the oldest town in West Virginia. This is actually a hotly disputed honor, as Shepherdstown also makes this claim. They were actually chartered on the same day, however, no time was recorded on either charter, so it remains up for debate! Either way, the town predates the state as there was no West Virginia in 1762. The town was established by order of the Virginia House of Burgesses in that year. During that time, present day West Virginia was part of Virginia.
Hotels in and Near Romney, West Virginia
If you plan to take the historic Potomac Eagle train (especially the sunset train that ends at 9pm in summer) The South Branch Inn and Koolwink are ideal to stay. Both hotels are located a short drive from the Potomac Eagle train.
For those taking the day train, you can make it part of your vacation at Capon Springs and Farms in High View, West Virginia. But that is over an hour drive from Romney. Deer sometimes go out on the roads, so we don’t recommend long night drives in this area if you can avoid it.
South Branch Inn Romney
We stayed at the South Branch Inn Romney. The 61 room hotel is a comfortable place to stay for leisure and business travelers. Their spacious suites include large jacuzzi whirlpool tubs. Soaking in the private jacuzzi is a wonderfully relaxing way to cap the day. They also have two conference rooms that can host meetings or parties.
A continental breakfast is served each morning, with offerings like Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches, fruit, oatmeal and juices. South Branch Inn has another location in Moorefield, West Virginia. But if you’re catching the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad, you are much closer staying at the South Branch Inn Romney.
The Koolwink Motel is a real throwback. The small motel has been lovingly family-run since 1936. It has been beautifully maintained and renovated over the years. Step into their quirky lobby, adorned with stylish decor and tranquil music playing, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a hipster hotel in a big city. Rooms have fun decor – including paintings of a clown in each room.
Rates are just $67 a night for 1 person, with 1 bed. Or $79 a night for 2 people with 2 beds. The Koolwink Motel only take reservations by phone, another throwback! It is another great place to stay if you are catching the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad.
Where to Eat in Romney, West Virginia
For a quick, casual and delicious meal, head to Lost Mountain BBQ. I had their pulled pork sandwich, piled high with delicious smoked pork and tangy barbecue sauce. Bell had their brisket burrito, which also includes coleslaw. We’re often disappointed with brisket at BBQ joints, but their brisket was good – moist and flavorful. Brisket is tricky to get right, and we often find it dry at many places.
For a side, definitely order their fire-roasted corn salad. It’s a sizable portion of fire-roasted local sweet corn, red bell peppers and onions, cilantro, lime juice and salt. It’s a seasonal side, so unfortunately you can’t get it year-round. Both their ice tea and lemonade are good, so I recommend ordering an Arnold Palmer to drink.
Kayaking or Canoeing
The South Branch of the Potomac River is a lovely setting to explore by canoe or kayak. The forested canyon is home to bald eagles and other interesting wildlife and fish. You can rent canoes and kayaks from Trough General Store and Canoe Rentals.
They’re open 5 days a week mid-April through mid-October. They close Mondays and Tuesdays. Departure times are 8am, 10am, 12pm and 2pm. For more information, check out their website, call them at (304) 822-7601 or email [email protected]
Listed on the Civil War Trails
Hampshire County is also a good place for American history buffs. Romney is a designated Civil War Trails site. Check out all the places on the West Virginia Civil War Trails. It is part of a five-state trails network that covers sites associated with the country’s greatest internal conflict. In total, there are over 1,500 sites that cover the triumphs and tragedies of soldiers and civilians in the early 1860’s.
Downtown Romney Self-Guided Walking History Tour
As Romney is the oldest town in West Virginia, it has lots of historically significant buildings. Stop at the Hampshire County Convention and Visitors Bureau in Romney. Ask for a brochure on the self-guided walking history tour of town. The office is staffed during business hours and they’re happy to assist with your questions and travel plans.
Hampshire County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Taggart Hall, 91 S. High St. Romney, WV 26757
Set in a peaceful valley, just west of Bear Mountain, Capon Bridge, West Virginia is home to just 355 people. Resting along the picturesque banks of the Cacapon River, 20 miles west of Winchester, Virginia, this is a nice place to stop for lunch in Hampshire County.
Farmer’s Daughter is a whole animal butchery and full-service grocery dedicated to sustainable sourcing. Jonathon from Capon Springs Resort said we had to try their house burger. And it is quality dry-aged beef, with fresh lettuce, tomato and onions- but a little on the small side for $8 a la carte. For us, the star was their huge daily special sandwich for $10. Packed with charcuterie, cheese, gourmet relish and delicious fresh baked bread, it was truly the perfect sandwich. It reminded me of Cochon Butcher (their sandwiches are a new New Orleans food must) because they’re reliably the best sandwiches in the Big Easy. When all the ingredients are high quality and work well together, it makes for a sandwich worth going out of your way for!
Moonshine at quirky little Flying Buck Distillery
Between Capon Bridge and Romney, West Virginia on highway 50 is the Flying Buck Distillery. Blink and you will miss it, once or even twice like we did! You can taste various flavors they are selling or even experimenting with! We were able to try a cantaloupe flavor that neither of us loved, but was interesting to say the least. They try to recycle the fruit produced by the farm into creating interesting flavors.
We really enjoyed the apple pie and oak flavors, which we purchased. You can purchase flavors in 750 ml, 375 ml and 100 ml bottles. The options are great because you can purchase several little bottles to give as gifts, or just to recreate the experience after returning home. We really enjoy having a drink we picked up on our travels, and reminiscing on the experience at home. Even the flavors we did not like, we could appreciate that the liquor was clean, as it did not give us headache or leave us feeling lethargic.
Flying Buck Distillery Address:
WV-50, Augusta, WV 26704
note: they are incorrectly listed on Google as being located on WV-29!
Capon Springs & Farms Resort
Capon Springs and Farms sits on 4,500 acres of wooded land, dotted with rolling hills and fresh streams and is a beautiful spot to explore Hampshire County. For Washington, DC residents, it is short drive (less than 2 hours) and just 30 minutes from Winchester, Virginia. The all-inclusive resort is a beautiful oasis to relax and enjoy a wide range of activities like golf, tennis and swimming. Their luxurious spa is a delightful reprieve for a soaking bath and/or massage!
Fling Golf: A Quirky New Sport Founded in 2014
You can even try your hand at fling golf, a quirky new sport founded in 2014. It is like a cross between golf and lacrosse. There is a dedicated fling golf course adjacent to their traditional golf course. Both courses are well kept, set atop a beautiful landscape of rolling hills. We took a lesson from the owner of the resort, Jonathan, and had a fun time. It is easier to get the hang of for many (including Bell) compared to traditional golf, but the push putting is a little harder. Jonathan is passionate about fling golf and enjoys giving lessons to guests. If you catch on to fling golf quickly, you can even play it on the traditional course!
Digital Detox with Lots of Outdoor Activities
The resort makes for a great city getaway for those looking for a digital detox. Rooms do not have TV’s and only the rooms in the main building have Wifi. It is ideal for people wanting a relaxing getaway by the pool or at the spa. It is also great for those wanting to play golf and to stay active with tennis, badminton, swimming or nearby hiking.
Ideal for Family Reunions
Capon Springs is a great place for family reunions. We met a nice family at breakfast who has been getting together at the resort for many years. Lots of families return the same week year each year and stay in the same room. So you can think of it a bit like timeshare, without any long term commitment.
Capon Spring Water is Meant to Have Health Benefits
Capon originates from a Shawnee word meaning “healing waters.” And the spring water is believed to have health benefits. It was once even the official water of the US Congress!
Pro tip- arrive with a few large empty water bottles to take some of the Capon spring water with you! The water is clear and tastes great, much better than what typically comes out of the tap. Capon Springs has no shortage of potable water and they encourage guests to take some fresh spring water with them at no additional charge.
Hampshire County Recap
The Mountain State of West Virginia offers some of the most scenic landscapes in the country. Hampshire County is a great place to relax and unwind, just a two hour drive from Washington, DC. It’s an ideal place for outdoor recreation as well as relaxing over a needed digital detox. City life often moves too fast, so the generally relaxed pace of West Virginia offers a welcome break from that. Take a scenic train ride, relax at the spa, play some golf, enjoy delicious food and drinks, and get reacquainted with the important things in life- nature and your loved ones.
Disclosure: We were hosted by Capon Springs and Farms, South Branch Inn and the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad as part of a collaboration with Hampshire County Tourism. We thank them for their support, and encourage you to explore their website if you have additional questions on planning a trip to Hampshire County. All photos and opinions expressed here are our own. Also, this article contains some affiliate links.