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Horses graze in the pasture of the new Salamander Resort in Middleburg, Virginia. (Photograph by Justin Kriel)

Virginia’s Pastoral Retreats

Virginia may be for lovers, as the commonwealth famously claims on its license plates, but it’s also for travelers eager to experience the simplicity of the country life.

Here are three rural paradises worthy of enthusiastic praise:

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The Inn at Little Washington’s main dining room (Photograph by Gordon Beall)

> The Inn at Little Washington (Washington, Virginia; from $460, including breakfast and tea)

Framed by lush meadows with split-rail fences, chef Patrick O’Connell’s posh, circa 1700s inn channels William Morris in its Mayor’s House and newest annex, the Parsonage.

Eating is the main sport, played either in the dining room or at one of the two chef’s tables. Walk off your meals with a stroll through the inn’s organic vegetable garden, or wander through the shops and art galleries of the Lilliputian town.

It’s just a few minutes’ walk from this bucolic resort to the town of Middleburg, the horse and hunt capital of Virginia’s Piedmont region.

Guests can sample the horsey life with riding lessons and trail rides; a yoga class includes poses on horseback. After the exertion, visit the spa and wellness center for the Riders’ Relief massage, or the wine bar for sips from local vineyards and a game of billiards. On warm evenings, opt for dinner on the terrace under the stars.

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A converted 18th-century plantation house is the focal point of the Inn at Willow Grove. (Photograph courtesy Inn at Willow Grove)

The Inn at Willow Grove (Orange, Virginia; from $275 including light breakfast, and bedtime tea and sweets)

Surrounded by rolling pastures speckled with Holstein cows, this former plantation features commanding vistas of the Blue Ridge mountains.

Take in the scenery along a trail through the inn’s 40 acres, or visit nearby Montpelier and tour James Madison’s library. At the inn, enjoy a massage in the former smokehouse and a candlelit dinner in the dining room with exposed brick and fireplaces.

This piece, reported by Cynthia Hacinli, first appeared in the June/July 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.