As Americans — and many overseas visitors — know, the state of Virginia is steeped in history.

Just before Christmas, I wrote about Advent and Christmas in Colonial America. Much of the content for that post came from Michelle Darnell, co-proprietor with her husband Brett of the Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast in King George County on the banks of the Rappahannock River.

Belle Grove was where President James Madison was born and grew up. The original house where he was born burned down but a new mansion was erected late in 1791. Subsequently, a series of other families owned it.

At the time I wrote the Christmas post, Michelle and her husband Brett were awaiting final permissions to open the plantation as a bed and breakfast. Earlier this year, they succeeded and their first paying guests arrived at the beginning of August. Visit their website to discover more about Belle Grove and the Darnells.

I do not know the Darnells or their part of the United States, although my mother told me after spending a few days nearby many years ago that this part of Virginia is unforgettably beautiful. Certainly, Michelle’s blog posts attest to this beauty — and rich history. Michelle drops by here to read here from time to time, and that is how I began reading her WordPress site, as have countless others from around the world. We’re fascinated by her engaging instalments, often accompanied by splendid photographs. We feel as if we’re there with her.

Michelle’s interest in history enables her to forensically investigate anything and everything not only at Belle Grove Plantation but elsewhere in King George County. She has discovered that — regardless of which town she visits when searching for antiques or event caterers — most of the colonial and early American families there knew each other and intermarried. She picks up more history all the time.

Therefore, this has enabled her to open the mansion to daily tours every afternoon. Visitors will no doubt be assured of a fascinating story not only of James and Dolley Madison but also the Civil War years and the other families who owned the estate.

Overnight guests receive a complimentary elegant breakfast and stay in one of several rooms, all named after previous owners of Belle Grove. Michelle has painstakingly and sensitively appointed the main house with period antiques, some of which have highly unusual features — more than one would expect from early American furniture. Don’t miss the photo of the table with a wooden inlay of a map of the world.  The James Madison Museum in Orange, Virginia, has more pieces of interest, including sectional sofas and settees which I did not think existed then. These put our modern designers to shame.

You can see more photographs of Belle Grove here. The plantation is open for special events, including weddings and conferences. This month the Darnells have scheduled several afternoon teas, with pastries provided by a local baker of English parentage.

I hope that Michelle does not mind my borrowing two of her photos to show you what Belle Grove looks like from the river, the way it was designed to be seen for those arriving by boat:


If you enjoy history, King George County has commemorative events going on all the time. And each bed and breakfast has its own antiques and history which will amaze and delight, such as this portrait of a young George Washington, which is at nearby Caledonia Farm:


Back to Belle Grove. You can see more photos of it here. Early reviews are excellent.

May Michelle and Brett enjoy continued success in their venture!