Bacon’s Castle, Smith’s Fort reopen to visitors

Published 1:21 pm Friday, August 14, 2020

Two of Surry County’s notable historic sites have reopened to the public with pandemic protocols in place.

Dating to 1665, the unique architecture, 17th-century-style formal garden and period outbuildings at Bacon’s Castle have long made it a popular historical and tourist spot. The history of Smith’s Fort Plantation also predates the Revolutionary War.

Preservation Virginia recently announced the reopening of the Surry County sites, as well as Scotchtown in Hanover County and the John Marshall House in Richmond. The nonprofit group also manages Historic Jamestowne in partnership with the National Park Service, along with the Cape Henry Lighthouse in Virginia Beach.

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Several options are available to explore the recently reopened sites — self-guided tours with maps and information provided on your smartphone; guided exterior walking tours, and private interior tours, which require tickets to be purchased in advance.

Guests Christina Lowe and Chanse Lowe of Portsmouth were among those receiving a private tour on a recent afternoon. “It’s perfectly fine to wear your masks and walk around and learn about history,” Christina Lowe said. “Not a big deal.”

Online and in signage posted around the property, Preservation Virginia explains in detail the steps it’s taking to ensure the health and safety of visitors. All staff and visitors must wear masks, staff must pass a daily wellness check, high-touch surfaces are frequently cleaned, indoor group tours are limited to six people at Smith’s Fort and eight people at Bacon’s Castle, social distancing is encouraged and maintained as much as possible, and hand sanitizer stations are available.

In exchange, guests are asked to follow all national, state and site-specific guidelines to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, register in advance for tours and events, and to stay home if they are exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19.

Regarding the new pandemic protocols, “people have been very positive about it,” said Carol Wiedel, who is the site coordinator at Bacon’s Castle. “They’re glad that we have reopened. I think everybody feels safe walking through. Nobody has said anything about being afraid.” And when it comes to visitor attendance, “we hope it’s going to continue to improve. Fall is always a very good time for us and we’ve done everything we can to make guests feel comfortable in coming,” she said.

Bacon’s Castle and Smith’s Fort are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Friday and Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The sites will be open on Monday until Labor Day. Details and ticket information is available online at

“We are delighted with the reopening of these important landmarks,” Elizabeth S. Kostelny, chief executive officer of Preservation Virginia, said in an announcement. “And we recognize the importance of providing a variety of safe options for guests to determine what type of visit suits them best. Our goal is to provide the most meaningful and informative experience possible.”