West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle is a world apart from West Virginia, but quickly reached from the capital. One quaint town after another is imbued with Colonial and Civil War history, but each bears its own unique stamp. The George Washington Heritage Trail winds through the region, allowing visits to many of those communities.
A town with two names, Berkeley Springs is officially called Bath. Famed as a spa resort, the menu of spa treatments here is lengthy. Named one of America's 100 Best Small Art Towns, Berkeley Springs also offers galleries of fine art and crafts, as well as antiques dealers and award-winning cuisine.
In the heart of the region, Martinsburg takes center stage in West Virginia's history. A magnet of culture and commerce prior to the Civil War, the town was bitterly fought-over during the conflict. The B.& 0. Roundhouse is a must-see; this 1866 building is the survivor of roundhouses destroyed and rebuilt no fewer than nine times in the war years.
The first thing visitors poring over their Potomac Highlands maps will notice is that the Allegheny Mountain range marches through the center and is dotted with reasons to explore it. They include primordial caverns, native rhododendrons, trout streams and such lofty, wind-blown places as Seneca Rocks, Dolly Sods Wilderness and Spruce Knob Lake Campground.
Little towns and hamlets beckon as well. For example, Petersburg, "home of the golden trout," is also home to a tiny but eclectically stocked bookshop; and Elkins, a college community of artists, writers and musicians, capably defends its high ranking among America's Best Small Art Towns.