This is a travel guide itinerary that I know more than a few of you have been waiting for: a day in Irvington, VA and Kilmarnock, VA (or, ideally, a weekend in Irvington and Kilmarnock, VA if you’re coming from the DC area).
Every time I post photos from my time down on the Rappahannock River, I get a slew of questions from followers, especially those in and around DC, asking for details. Earlier this summer I wrote an intro travel guide: Travel Recommendations for Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Towns. But, today, I’m getting into a more specific itinerary for you: A Day in Kilmarnock, VA.
A Day in Irvington, VA & Kilmarnock, VA: How to Get There & Where to Stay
Irvington, VA is a town right on the water, though one I hadn’t explored as much previously, besides for making my way over there to grab my favorite breakfast sandwich at The Local (cucumber, bacon, cream cheese on everything — the best!). So, I was excited to expl
Kilmarnock, VA is a town within the Northern Neck of Virginia and it’s one of my absolute favorites to visit whenever we’re down there. It has perhaps the most vibrant downtown of any of these charming cities…though by vibrant, I mostly mean there are lots of antique shops for me to peruse.
If you’re making your way from DC to spend a day in Irvington, VA or Kilmarnock, VA, trust me and don’t take 95. It’s a much more relaxing drive to make your way down through Southern Maryland. You’ll drive through Kilmarnock first on your way to Irvington.
While I don’t have firsthand experience staying at any of the hotels, boutique inns, or bed and breakfasts in the area, the Hope and Glory Inn looks like a charming place to stay and it’s associated with the vineyard that I visited on this trip. The Kilmarnock Inn also looks worth checking out and, if you’re looking to splurge, look at the Tides Inn.
First Stop: Wine Flight at The Dog and Oyster Vineyard
We started our day in Irvington, VA with a visit to The Dog and Oyster Vineyard, one of the stops along the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail. This was my first visit to a vineyard in the Northern Neck but, I assure you, it won’t be my last. While they don’t have the sweeping mountain views of my favorite vineyards in the Charlottesville area, they do have a laid-back river vibe and oysters. Seriously, can you beat a vineyard that has oysters?!
As we drove up to the vineyard, we were welcome by a giant corkscrew and views of six acres of vines. The building itself has a river vibe. It’s casual, low-key, and with plenty of outdoor space for guests to spread out.
We’ve visited a few vineyards and breweries during the pandemic and had seen, across the board, that you can no longer do tastings. Dog and Oyster, however, has found a way to still give you the same tasting experience by offering flights in tiny 2 oz. glasses. While you’re not saddled up to the bar, listening to a wine expert, you do still have the opportunity to try multiple wines. The server walks you through the list and then you’re able to work through the flight at your leisure. A tasting is $7 for 5 wines and a glass is $8 — a great deal, if you ask me!
Dog and Oyster compares their soil to the Bordeaux region and uses Chardonel, Vidal Blanc, Chambourcin and Merlot grapes for their wines, which included an excellent, easy-drinking white and a sweet, juicy rosé (I’m not a rosé drinker, but even I enjoyed the Sweet Rosie!). We were lucky to visit on an overcast day and I could have sat out there all day sipping on wine and feeling that rural Virginia breeze.
For reference, the counter where you order wine is labeled “Sip”, while the counter where you order food is labeled “Slurp.” Cute, right?!
Next Up: Stay Right Where You Are and Grab Lunch
Okay, so you don’t need to go anywhere to grab something to eat. Stay right where you are, order a bottle of wine (we chose a bottle of the Sweet Rosie), and take a look at the menu for Slurp.
You know you’re ordering oysters because, obviously. We got the Crispy Golden Fried Oysters, which were delicious (I love a raw oyster, but my husband likes them doctored up) and the Frito Corn Salad, which was as strange little dip that I would 100% order again. I also ordered an Oyster Po’ Boy Taco, which was an explosion of flavor that I can’t recommend enough. I mean an oyster po’ boy is great. But, this adds in fried bread and butter pickle chips and jalapeños. So, so, so good.
It’s like, sure, you could go into town to grab lunch, but why, when you’ve got a vineyard view, a bottle of wine, and a nice day?! Stick around for as long as you can — or until you’ve had enough wine.
Want to Check Out a Few More Stops on the Chesapeake Wine Trail?
While I haven’t explored the Chesapeake Wine Trail, it’s on my list for trips this fall. my parents aren’t wine drinkers, so it’s not been something that we’ve done when we’re down there with them…but we’re introducing them to the vineyard life.
Next on my list to try are Good Luck Cellars, Jacey Vineyards, Caret Cellars, and Ditchley Ciderworks, which are all closer to where my parents are near Urbanna. The goal is to visit one per trip each time we’re down there, so stay tuned for itineraries involving stops at those vineyards.
Now, It’s Time for Some Antiquing
After you’re done at the vineyard, it’s time for some shopping, right?! Our first stop was The Big Red Flea, which I spotted on my way from Kilmarnock to the vineyard. It’s a little roadside stop, which I’d say is not exactly “big,” but it’s certainly rich in secondhand items. The Big Red Flea is a three-room, red (obviously) home that’s filled with treasures, from glassware to prints. It’s a Virginian’s dream with hunting prints and dog motifs, but my best find was this University of Virginia watercolor. I’m always on the lookout for anything Charlottesville or UVA, and I’ve had my eyes open for a Rotunda print for ages. Definitely an antiquing highlight.
Then, we stopped by Kilmarnock Antiques Gallery, a massive antiques mall that’s well-curated with finds across eras and budgets, as well as an entire section of oyster plates.
I didn’t walk out with anything on this particular day, but I was absolutely in love with this lucite stand-up mirror…if only I had a place for it currently (if it had been just a little less, I would have made a place, trust me).
Also, I wanted to include this photo of the mask requirement, which we saw consistently across all businesses in the area. I unfollowed a DC-area blogger this summer when she wrote a hateful Instagram post after her first trip to the Northern Neck. She claimed to see zero masks, among other accusations — which I can confidently tell you just isn’t true.
Grab a Late Afternoon Burger at NN Burger
You know what’s great about spending a day at a vineyard? You’re ready for dinner by 5 PM and in bed by 9 PM. Even better if that dinner is a burger and fries.
We’ve stopped at the NN Burger in Tappahannock on the way home from the river before, but we decided to stop at their other location, in Kilmarnock, for dinner after leaving the antiques gallery. I went with a cheeseburger, Adam went with the Diablo. If you love a classic burger and fries, maybe with a milkshake, a stop at NN Burger is a must.
Also, if you’re feeling like one more drink or want to fill up your growler, stop by Kilmarnock Brewhaus. They’ve got some outdoor seating set up and, when times are normal again, they have an awesome space inside with live music.
Kick Back and Relax on the River
Okay, now that you’ve visited a vineyard, done some antiquing, and grabbed an early dinner, it’s time to kick back and relax on the river. Take in those views and enjoy the calm of the water. Life moves slower down here — and that’s why it’s such a lovely place to visit from the hustle and bustle of DC.
Have more questions about an itinerary for a day in Irvington, VA or Kilmarnock, VA? Feel free to reach out! I’m always happy to give my recommendations and I would also love to hear yours!