For a long time, the extent of our knowledge of West Virginia extended mainly to the John Denver song (so, basically, nothing). Well that and coal mining. Probably unfairly we regarded WV as one of the States with less to shout about. It was time we rectified that situation once and for all.
West Virginia is often considered the Southernmost Northern State but simultaneously the Northernmost Southern State, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect in terms of food and culture. What we did know for sure is that with 75% of the State being covered in forests, we weren’t going to be short of a bit of greenery.
As we were coming from Virginia/Maryland we made our first stop right over the border in the Eastern-most point of the State. Harpers Ferry (NOT Harper’s Ferry…for some reason), is an historic settlement at the meeting of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Its only a tiny town so we booked in at the Jackson Rose, a comfy B&B with friendly owners and a great big lovely dog, also not far from shops and restaurants. Not far on a map…but it was at the top of a big hill – you’ve been warned! It was actually a really lovely walk down the hill to watch the setting sun over the river.
After a short walk along the beautiful disused rail bridge and around the town we stopped for a beer in the Coach House, before heading back up the hill to our dinner stop, Mena’s Pizzeria. It’s just a tiny little restaurant that has the feeling of the kind of place the locals go, but it served up a delicious margherita pizza and a great vegan pasta dish for Hannah. We sat out on the porch and watched the sun finally set before heading back to the Jackson Rose and a sound night’s sleep.
After a hearty breakfast we set off to the South and back into Virginia (which you can read about here), before crossing the border back into WV. We were making our way to Fayetteville, and the New River Gorge. The New River Gorge Bridge is the second highest steel arch bridge in the United States, and the longest steel arch bridge (1,700 feet) in the world. It is also as pretty as a picture and you can drive right down into the gorge and back up again very easily.
Given the rural nature of West Virginia we wanted to spend a night in the countryside so near Fayetteville we found Carnifex Cottages – a group of small wooden cabins available to rent out in the sticks. When we arrived there were a group of deer around our cottage, and absolutely nothing else. It was beautiful – if a little lonely late at night! Our cabin – McKinley’s Cabin – was a great little a-frame cabin with the bedroom in the roof, the bed was comfy and the bathroom functional. You couldn’t ask much more from a very rural cabin!
For dinner we headed back to Fayetteville for a pizza at Pies & Pints. Josh enjoyed his pizza and the impressive range of beers on offer, but the vegan revolution hasn’t quite reached this corner of West Virginia so the options for Hannah were a little limited. After dinner we headed back to the cottage for a VERY quiet night’s sleep.
For our next night we were due in Kentucky so we headed to the Western end of the State. We stopped at the grand old State Capitol in the State Capital – Charleston, complete with imposing dome and statue of the man who gave WV Statehood – Abraham Lincoln. It was very relaxed, we just wondered around inside, looking into the Senate and House chambers.
Our last stop in West Virginia was for a quick snack at the Frostop Drive-in in Huntington, almost in neighbouring Kentucky. Frostops are famous for their root beers but Josh had a hankering for a milkshake and Hannah needed some chips. Both were delivered deliciously and cheaply – a great option for a snack stop (plus it was a drive-in which we love).
Rate the State
Good for: Countryside – the state is full of rivers and forests.
Bad for: Because of the largely rural nature of the state, it isn’t a great option for people with specific dietary requirements.