Perched on a hilltop in southwestern Virginia, the Oaks garnered its name from the seven historic oak trees, now more than 300 years old, that surround the Queen Anne Victorian house, built for a bride in 1889. Its gardens unfold along Christiansburg's Main Street, once part of the Wilderness Road forged by Daniel Boone, today close to the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and a rails-to-trails bicycle path.
In 1989, Margaret and Tom Ray bought and began restoring the property, which had been "remuddled," says Margaret, by a previous owner. "A leaking bathroom ceiling fell in on the very day we were to open. People thought we were going to start up either a brothel or a dynamite factory," she recalls.
All that has changed. The Rays added five bathrooms, four fireplaces, a new roof, fresh paint and hundreds of yards of window dressing. Some of the seven rooms are named after former inhabitants: Major Pierce, Bonnie Victoria, Lady Melodie and Sir Christopher.
Margaret, a gourmet cook, may prepare a breakfast souffle of salmon, eggs and cheese, served with her special dill sauce, or her original shirred-egg, Parmesan and Portobello-mushroom concoction.
By tradition, the Oaks is a place for listening to crickets and watching mist hang over low-lying dips in the fields. But with high-tech industry moving into nearby Roanoke, the Rays have wired the inn to court midweek executives who want to carry on business in a relaxed, picture-perfect setting www.bbhost.com/theoaksinn 540-381-1500).
--By Anne Moffett