Mountains, lakes highlight western region

One of the hidden jewels of southern retirement is the mountains, lakes, quaint towns and scenic beauty of the western Virginia mountains.

Below is a summary of the best spots in the hills and hollers of this lovely state:

*Lexington (pop. 7,000) may be one of the “smartest” small towns you’ll find anywhere, as this quaint Virginia town is home to Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute (VMI). In addition to the cultural, recreational and educational opportunities associated with a college town, Lexington has great architecture, friendly people and an historic feel. While prices are higher than in many small towns Lexington’s size, that is just the offshoot of people finding out about this unique southern town.

*Lynchburg (pop.67,000) is a Blue Ridge Mountains foothills town with a small town atmosphere. The emphasis in this town is on outside activity, such as hiking, walking, jogging and biking. The Blackwater Creek trail is a great avenue for those who like outdoor exercise. The healthcare is considered good, the prices are affordable and there is a definite friendly, community spirit in Lynchburg.

*Radford (pop. 15,000) is home to Radford University and all the associated amenities and events of a college town. Radford is in the heart of the mountains and offers plenty of outdoor mountain recreation. There are seven city parks, a senior center and easy access to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The New River offers some of the best fishing in the state.

*Roanoke (pop. 95,000) is home to Hollins College and has outstanding healthcare. Mountain hiking trails are exceptional. There are theaters, museums, parks, shops, great restaurants and boutiques. Roanoke has a slow pace of small town, but also access to bigger city services. That - and a very affordable cost of living - is what makes this a great place to retire.

*Smith Mountain Lake (pop. 20,000) has 500 miles of shoreline. Need we say more? That’s why second homebuyers and retirees are making the move to this town.

*Bedford (pop. 6,000) is one of the most idyllic small towns you’ll find anywhere. Located amidst clear lakes and the Peaks of Otter mountain range, this little town makes you feel like you’ve found Mayberry. Close-knit with local recreation and arts, Bedford is a charming place to retire.

*Abingdon (pop. 8,000) is another great Virginia (read charming and quaint) town. Abingdon is home to the state theater of Virginia, four area colleges, several art exhibition locations and great scenery. Don’t miss visiting Abingdon if you are interested in a cultured, picturesque retirement location.