Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Rugby, TN

  • Published 2023/03/24

Picture vintage Victorian buildings scattered amid vast, green plains, each holding years of history.

You’ve’ just arrived at Rugby, Tennessee.

It’s’ a living historic district and a must-see leisure destination in Tennessee.

Immerse yourself in a 20th-century village with classic architecture, quaint shops, and scenic nature trails in and around the community.

Embark on a unique, exciting adventure within a calm, peaceful setting.

Here are the best things to do in Rugby, TN:

Check Out Rugby Printing Works

Exterior of Rugby Printing Works

Brian Stansberry, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy an engaging historical experience at Rugby Printing Works.

Visitors can observe unique vintage printing at the shop.

Rugby Printing Works opened in 1881 to print the local newspaper, The Rugbeian, no longer in circulation.

Today, you can still watch antique printing with the help of volunteers and skilled artisans.

Their printing press puts out greeting cards, books, sales receipts, and menus.

Learn about the history of the business and maybe even bring home a printed souvenir afterward.

Spend the Night in Pioneer Cottage

The Pioneer Cottage has welcomed curious travelers since 1981, though the building itself has stood earlier than that.

Pioneer Cottage is rich in history, evident from its simple wooden exterior and vintage furniture that leads to a warm atmosphere.

Rugby’s founder, Thomas Hughes, has stayed in Pioneer Cottage.

After touring Rugby, a night at Pioneer Cottage is the perfect way to end your adventure.

View the Homes on Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill is a small residential area in Rugby, featuring an array of traditional homes.

The buildings in Beacon Hill offer a welcome break from modern architecture while acting as an ode to the decor of the old days.

There’s also a pleasant trail leading to the top of the hills overlooking views of the district and a relaxing gazebo.

Whether you drive past the subdivision or hike through the scenic trail, Beacon Hill can show you lovely sights and relax your mood.

Unwind at Grey Gables Bed & Breakfast

Grey Gables Bed & Breakfast can make you feel like you’re living in an elegant, old home from the 19th century.

Many of its decors feature traditional patterns—cottage walls, bedroom curtains, bed fittings, and pretty table covers.

It also has a picturesque outdoor patio with rocking chairs.

This inn has appeared in several publications from newspapers and magazines across Tennessee.

Grey Gables Bed and Breakfast combines the grace of the Victorian English and the coziness of Tennessee County.

Browse the Trinkets at Spirit of Red Hill Nature Art & Oddments

During the 1890s, Alexander Perrigo lived in Spirit of Red Hill, which was a boarding house in those days.

Decades later, they reconstructed the building in its likeness before reopening as a gift shop and art gallery.

Its owners, Donna Hefner and Annie Patterson, showcase original works mainly featuring nature art, prints, and gourd art.

Spirit of Red Hill is a unique shop also home to purchasable “oddments,” which they define as peculiar antiques that are upcycled and repurposed.

See what they have in store at Rugby Parkway!

Explore the RM Brooks General Store

Exterior of the RM Brooks General Store

Brian Stansberry, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

RM Brooks General Store has three main functions: an antique gallery, restaurant, and campground site.

Established in 1917, this general store has become a long-standing commercial hub for the small community of Rugby.

The owners highlight the store’s subtle charm with rustic themes, preserved antiques, and family memorabilia.

Their restaurant also offers tasty bologna sandwiches, hoop cheese, and freshly baked pies.

Finally, they have a campground site and RV park next to the general store.

You can park your trailer or set up your tent within the premises and access bathhouses, restrooms, and laundry facilities.

Tour the Rugby Visitor Center & Theatre

Start your trip with guided tours from the Rugby Visitor Center.

First, you’ll see an award-winning introduction movie about the history of Rugby.

Then, you’ll start a walking tour around some of the most important places in the village.

You’ll go through many historical attractions with an informative guide who’ll’ tell you all there is to know about Rugby.

Some of the historical places you’ll visit include a public library, the founder’s home, a church, and a schoolhouse built in 1907.

Tours are only available from Thursday to Saturday.

However, if you want to explore by yourself, grab maps and pamphlets about Rugby in the visitor center.

Hike at Massengale Homeplace Trail

Massengale Homeplace Trail offers picturesque sights of Rugby’s serene nature.

The trail is estimated to span 1.2 miles, leading to the remains of an abandoned homestead from the 1860s.

People believe the first settlers of Cumberland Plateau lived on this homestead.

See wildflowers and hemlocks along the trail, though selection varies upon the season.

You can also visit informative kiosks at the base and peak of the Massengale Homeplace Trail to learn more about the surroundings.

Bring Home a Souvenir from Rugby Commissary & Museum Store

Local crafts and artisan products are the highlights of Rugby Commissary & Museum Store.

This dainty store pins the spotlight on local artists within a 100-mile radius to showcase their works and sells them at the venue.

The items on hand are incredibly diverse, with unique features and designs.

Most of them are handcrafted, from toys and mugs to weavings, quilts, knives, and jewelry.

There is also a selection of random items like baked goods and organic bug repellent.

At Rugby Commissary, it’s hard to know what local artisans have in store, which has also become a massive part of its charm.

Try the Challenging Trails at Meeting of the Waters

Meeting of the Waters is a hidden gem in Rugby because of the trails you’ll have to pass through before reaching the natural area.

The trailhead begins in Rugby at Lauren Dale Cemetery and continues through a well-marked path.

The total loop spans about 2.1 miles and includes moderate to challenging trails with elevated paths, slippery slopes, and rocky terrains.

The result, however, is a rare event of two different waterscapes meeting in one spot surrounded by many trees and plant life.

The two bodies of water are Clear Fork River and White Oak Tree, which you can see down the stream.

Though the trail may be challenging, don’t’ pass up a chance to see the Meeting of the Waters.

Relax in Newbury House

Exterior of the Newbury House

Brian Stansberry, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Established in the 1880s, Newbury House contains antiquities and vintage decor, from classic furnishings to its chosen room themes and styles.

Its current owners try to bring in convenience through updated modern amenities while preserving as much of the original house.

New amenities include microwaves, refrigerators, hairdryers, air conditioners, telephones, and other gadgets to make an overnight stay more convenient.

Meanwhile, authentic details from the past, like its fireplace and large parlor, give Newbury House a distinct character.

They also have a lovely front porch with calming views of Newbury Pond.

Admire Art in the Gallery at Rugby

Freeman Davenport’s dedication and collaboration with other local artists helped realize the Gallery at Rugby.

It’s a seasonal gallery that features different themes every month.

You can peruse artworks from artists around the area and purchase them if they suit your fancy.

Find pottery, wood carvings, paintings, and photographs inside the gallery.

Check out Rugby’s unique local art scene with this gallery.

Follow the Laurel Dale Cemetery Trails

There are two available trailheads in Laurel Dale Cemetery, which take you to two different, beautiful destinations.

The first is a short, idyllic walk toward Beacon Hill’s housing development.

Meanwhile, the second leads you along a paved road heading to three more trailheads towards a natural recreation area, the Gentleman’s Swimming Hole.

You can go further to reach Meeting of the Waters though the trail is more challenging and possible only on low tides.

Either way, a trek along both trails presents a nice, short hike amid wildflowers, trees, plants, and animal wildlife.

The Laurel Dale Cemetery Trails is a top destination for people seeking an outdoor adventure in Rugby, Tennessee.

Wear comfortable clothes!

Take a Dip at Gentleman’s Swimming Hole

Gentleman’s Swimming Hole is a rewarding destination you can reach after following a trail.

The trails feature interpretive signs with information about your surrounding environment—its culture, history, and natural gifts.

Dip your toes in the cool, refreshing water and unwind after a pleasant hike.

It’s a great destination once the warm season arrives.

The men in old Rugby used to visit the area often, hiking the trail to bathe in this swimming hole.

Watch out for slippery rocks and ledges.

Try a Game of Irish Road Bowling

For some fun experience, you can play a game of Irish Road Bowling, a popular game enjoyed by many Rugby locals.

The monthly game is open to participants of all ages and anyone is free to join or watch; you don’t even need to be an expert in the game to play.

The road bowling happens in Rugby Parkway going west then east and the game starts with players dividing into teams.

For an hour, your team needs to toss the iron ball down the road and make it back to the Historic Rugby Print Shop, the usual starting point of the game.

Don’t worry because everyone yells “car” when a vehicle is seen approaching and spotters are there to retrieve the ball when it goes off the pavement.

If your team makes it back to the starting point with the fewest throws, you’ll be declared the day’s champion and have your photo taken with the traditional trophy.

Enjoy playing Irish Road Bowling!

Be One of the Locals at the British Festival

Another fun event you can enjoy at Historic Rugby is the British Festival.

This annual May event is held at Rugby Parkway and has been running for more than 40 years.

Bring the whole family for two days of fun attractions and historic site tours.

Watch the Cricket Games and learn about this famous British sport; you can also play informal cricket games like how the early English settlers enjoyed the game.

You’ll also enjoy live music performances, visit the artisan booths, see the colorful maypole, and let kids enjoy face painting.

Of course, there are plenty of British and Appalachian fares to feast on like Beef Pasties, Pinto Beans with Cornbread, along with sweet treats like Fresh Apple & Chess Pie and Peach Cobbler with Cream.

Have fun with the family at the British Festival.

Enjoy Your Stay at Percy Cottage

Exterior of Percy Cottage

Brian Stansberry, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Percy Cottage is one of the historic lodges you can stay in during your visit.

It’s right at the heart of the village area beside the Visitor Center, Hester Hall, and the old Schoolhouse.

Since its renovation in 1977, the two-story lodge has been welcoming guests all year round.

The cottage was named after Sir Henry Kimber’s son; Kimber was a British baronet who owned one of the Empire’s biggest railway companies, and also the second-largest investor that gave rise to the Rugby settlement.

The lodge features Rugby’s traditional modest styles and designs decorated with Victorian furnishings.

You’ll have access to the small upstairs kitchen provided with a microwave, a stove, and a small fridge.

The cottage also has three cozy bedrooms, two baths, two lounge areas, and a living room space for your family to relax and enjoy.

The place is also Wi-Fi ready so you can always be online.

The Percy Cottage also has a charming back porch giving you a view of the forest at a distance and a lovely woodland scenery nearby.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Go for a Waterfall Hike at Colditz Cove State Natural Area

Northrup falls at Colditz Cove State Natural Area

Jim Vallee /

Just 16 minutes from Rugby, Colditz Cove State Natural Area is another place you can go for a scenic hike.

It’s located about two miles east of Allardt in Fentress County.

This 165-acre nature location offers you a stunning view of Northrup Falls, one of Tennessee’s most beautiful waterfalls.

Water plunges more than 60 feet over an extending rock ledge and flows to a narrow gorge towards Big Branch Creek.

The trail to the falls is short but has a steep area before you reach the foot of the falls.

Hike below the rock outcrops and you’ll enjoy the cool water mists over you.

Take snapshots of the sceneries around and you’ll surely spot some wildlife while hiking.

Get immersed in nature at Colditz Cove State Natural Area.

Visit the Sergeant Alvin C. York State Historic Park

Grist mill at Sergeant Alvin C. York State Historic Park

James M. Chambers /

Sergeant Alvin C. York State Historic Park is a nearby attraction you can visit from Rugby.

Around a 30-minute drive to Pall Mall along the North York Highway, you’ll reach the former residence of the famous sergeant.

This historic site was built in honor of his courageous feats during World War I and his contributions as an influential leader and humanitarian.

You’ll learn about the humble life and incredible stories of this Tennessee native.

World war trench replica at Sergeant Alvin C. York State Historic Park

James M. Chambers /

Drop by the visitor center designed just like York’s general store and take a tour of the two-story house to see how the sergeant lived his life.

You can also see the old gristmill and York Bible School; just a few steps outside the park, you can also visit the Wolf River Methodist Church which was part of York’s journey of faith, and the Wolf River Cemetery where the renowned soldier and his wife Gracie were buried.

Explore history at the Sergeant Alvin C. York State Historic Park.

A house at Sergeant Alvin C. York State Historic Park

Brian Stansberry, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sip Fine Wine at Highland Manor Winery

Highland Manor Winery is one of the oldest wineries in Tennessee.

Find it in Jamestown, Tennessee, 20 minutes from Rugby.

They produce wines on the premises and handpick their grapes from their own vineyard.

Likewise, the winery offers wine-tasting, picnics in the cellar, and guided tours.

Their wines come in different flavors, from sweet, semi-dry, and dry wines to French-American and German-inspired drinks.

You can also buy wine glasses, cheese, jams, charms, and other trinkets.

Final Thoughts

Rugby is a small community in a historic district with a unique, timeless charm.

It’s one of the most preserved historical destinations in America.

A trip to Rugby presents historic sites, one-of-a-kind establishments, and outdoor adventures leading to nature’s gems.

Travel back to a 19th-century Victorian village in Rugby, Tennessee.

Book your trip today!

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