Southern Fauquier Spotlight: The Inn at Kelly’s Ford

A place to build memories

It was love at first sight. “My father saw this property was up for auction and his jaw dropped; he said, ‘It looks magical,’” says Omar Aizaz, the current general manager of the Inn at Kelly’s Ford. The family acquired the resort in November 2017, taking over from Bill and Linda Willoughby who established the Inn and operated it for 18 years. The Aizaz family is committed to continuing to offer magical experiences for guests of the resort, and continuing the Willoughby’s emphasis on sharing the property with the community.

Omar Aitzaz, Zeina Al-Zaiim, and Malika Aizaz pose for a photo in the main dining room of the The Inn at Kelly’s Ford.

The Inn at Kelly’s Ford is so much more than just a luxurious place to get away. It truly celebrates all that Fauquier County has to offer, from elegant accommodations to both pub fare and fine dining cuisine to local history to the enjoyment of the land and the outdoors. The sprawling 138-acre property is nestled in the southern Fauquier landscape just a short drive from Warrenton down Route 29, and offers a comprehensive experience to delight those of all ages and from all walks of life. Not only can guests have a luxurious getaway while staying in one of the Inn’s 10 suites, they can take part in activities like horseback riding, carriage rides, canoeing down the Rappahannock River, bike riding, or camping on the scenic property. Kelly’s Ford also offers two wedding event spaces that have attracted brides and grooms from all over the area for almost two decades.

The Inn was established in 2000 by the Willoughbys+ who purchased the massive property, restored the 18th-century main house, and added several additional features including several cottages, the two wedding reception areas, an events center, the equestrian center, and a campground. Aizaz states that “Linda Willoughby had a strong vision for the Inn and wanted the property to be for the community. They built it from the ground up and ran the property for 18 years. Mrs. Willoughby was very helpful in the transition and still lives a couple houses down from the Inn.”

The Aizaz family has a background managing commercial properties, so managing the Inn has presented a new and interesting opportunity. Omar and his wife and two children moved from Baltimore, Maryland, to Culpeper in December 2017 to run the Inn. There was a grand reopening of the Inn in March 2018.

The property at Kelly’s Ford and the surrounding areas are rich in Civil War history. The Battle of Kelly’s Ford, also known as the Battle of Kellysville or Kelleysville, took place on March 17, 1863. This battle set the stage for the battle at nearby Brandy Station and other cavalry actions in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, later in the summer of 1863. The Battle of Kelly’s Ford marked the first time Confederate cavalrymen had not defeated their Union opponents, giving the Union cavalry confidence. Among the mortally wounded at Kelly’s Ford was Maj. John Pelham, a highly respected Confederate artillerist. Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart wrote of Pelham after the battle, “The gallant Pelham—so noble, so true—will be mourned by the nation.”

Today, an onsite restaurant at the Inn at Kelly’s Ford, Pelham’s Pub, is named after this Civil War soldier who fought so valiantly in the battle. The Pub is a local watering hole in the downstairs area of the main house, and locals can be found gathering together to share a game of pool or a friendly drink. On the walls of the pub, you’ll find photos of Maj. Pelham, artifact displays from the Battle of Kelly’s Ford, and maps of how the troops positioned themselves on that famous day in 1863. You can enjoy a wide variety of fare served at the Pub, including a crab dip appetizer, a variety of salads, build-your-own burger, maple-bourbon salmon, or prime rib. In addition to Pelham’s Pub, the Inn boasts a more formal dining room located in the main level of the house which serves French and contemporary American cuisine.

Outside of the main house, the Inn has several cottages, most named after Confederate war heroes. The Grant Suite, one of the cottages, has a full king-size bed, a queen-size pullout bed, a large bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub, marble bathroom floors, a stone fireplace, a wet bar, terry cloth robes, and a terrace overlooking horses grazing in the pasture. Other unique accommodations include a loft over the barn and the Silo Suite, a silo that has been converted into a two-level room equipped with all the modern amenities and a spiral staircase. Omar explains, “The Silo Suite is the most popular. When brides get married, I give them the Silo Suite. It’s unique. Regarding the cottages, people have their own preferences. Some of them are more masculine, while others are contemporary. They all have the same layout, but they have different decor.”

The Inn attracts many different types of people. “Some want to get away from their corporate jobs and experience the countryside and see the horses. They enjoy taking in the scenery or foliage,” Omar explains. Many brides look to the Inn to have their dream wedding. The Inn has two facilities that can accommodate a large or small wedding. Ripley Hall, the smaller of the two facilities, can entertain 125 to 150 wedding guests, while the Grand Arena can accommodate a large wedding with up to 400 guests. The Inn offers brides and grooms several packages that include the venue, chairs and tables, and a two-night stay in one of their spacious cottages. Brides have the option of arriving to the ceremony in a horse-drawn carriage.

Jamie and John Nichols were married at the Inn in the fall of 2008. They wanted a small, outside wedding and decided to have their ceremony by the fountain outside Ripley Hall. Jamie recalls, “It was just so gorgeous. We looked at having a beach wedding or a celebration at a vineyard. But when we looked up Kelly’s Ford, we just fell in love.” The Nichols held their rehearsal dinner at Pelham’s Pub, a perfect gathering place to celebrate with family and friends. They then stayed in the Lee Cottage over their wedding weekend, and Jamie says,  “For the next few years, we came back to the Lee Cottage to celebrate our anniversary. It was great. We just love the room service breakfast, the big cozy bathrobes, and the Jacuzzi tub.” When asked about what made her day special, Jamie recalls, “My favorite part of Kelly’s Ford was the gorgeous property. There was not a bad picture taken that day. We used the upstairs room at Ripley Hall to get ready. They had champagne for us, and it was wonderful.” Since their wedding, the couple has attended three other weddings at Kelly’s Ford for other friends and family. They also brought their children back to the Inn in December to take part in the carriage rides with Santa and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies at the main house. The Inn at Kelly’s Ford continues to be a special place to visit to make cherished memories with their family.

When Omar was asked how he envisions the future of the Inn, he said, “This is a culture; you’re breathing America here. Good old-fashioned America…the scenic farmland. Our common goal is to share this place, and people can build memories. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. This is a community place for everyone to come and enjoy and share with their families.”

Wendy Martin-Shuma
About Wendy Martin-Shuma 2 Articles
Wendy Martin-Shuma is a freelance writer and editor and has worked on both consumer and professional publications for over 20 years. She is the lead singer of Warrenton's Silver Tones Swing Band and plays French horn in several ensembles in and around Fauquier County. Wendy lives in Warrenton with her husband and three children.

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