At some point, as you travel through the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains on your way to the incomparable Barnsley Gardens Resort, you are going to think you have made a wrong turn.
A lovely, luxury resort tucked away in this quiet, country setting? Surely not. And, just as you are about to give up and decide this absolutely cannot be the correct route, you see perfectly landscaped grounds and a meticulously groomed driveway. Beautiful and just out of reach, because it was all behind a closed gate manned by a pleasant but firm guard who politely asks for your name to ensure you’ve already registered before he ever opens the gate. We had somehow missed that one important step.
My sister and I, on a girlfriends getaway, followed his directions and traversed the road back to the registration area, marveling at the truly incredibly and lush landscaping on display throughout the 1300 acres of this gorgeous place. We were a little early for check in, so they kindly moved our lunch reservation up a bit and we headed to the Woodlands Grill where we relaxed with some delicious salads and decadent desserts, then checked into our unique and lovely cottage.
Barnsley Gardens Resort is not your typical hotel – far from it. The original manor was built by Godfrey Barnsley for his beloved wife, Julia on land was once inhabited by the Cherokee Indians.
The family and descendants lived there for many years, but in 1988 Prince Hubertus Fogger purchased the estate, he revived and expanded the historic gardens adding more than 200 varieties of roses. In 1991 Barnsley Gardens opened to the public as historical gardens and a museum, today the resort is a wonderful destination with an 18-hole championship golf course, three restaurants, a full service spa, a salt water pool and luxurious cottages. You can choose from an incredible array of recreational activities, including horseback riding, skeet shooting, tennis, croquet, volleyball, badminton, hiking, paintball, biking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, garden tours – and I think there might be even more. You will not ever be bored here!
Designed to resemble an English village and inspired by the architecture of Andrew Jackson Downing, 36 cottages are scattered all over the grounds, from a private one bedroom to much larger, sprawling houses which can accommodate large families or groups of friends. There are 92 guest rooms and suites to choose from, each cottage is unique, with perfectly and uniquely designed landscaping. Park your car by your cottage, you won’t need it again as you just pick up the phone and call for a golf cart to transport you everywhere – every time we called, they arrived in less than five minutes and the drivers were considerate and friendly.
We settled into our lovely and comfortable room with a huge soaking tub in the bathroom and explored the common living room area which was furnished with very comfortable furniture and a desk area to set up your computer for work, using the free and very fast wifi connection. The cottage had a large front porch with plenty of porch furniture and a fabulous porch swing. Some of the larger cottages also have a kitchen, which would be very handy for whipping up a meal or even just storing snacks and drinks in a fridge, especially if you were staying for several days.
We loved our perfect cottage but it was time to head over to the lovely spa for our massage and pedicure. The spa at the Barnsley Gardens Resort, located in a lovely building right beside the salt water pool, has an extensive menu of offerings, including everything from a hot stone massage to a radiant skin treatment to a relaxing spa pedicure. All guests enjoy full spa privileges with access to the whirlpools, steam room and sauna. There are also lower prices available during the week, so be sure to check those out. My sister informs me she had the best massage of her life at the spa and my hour long pedicure was completely perfect and relaxing.
One of the best of the many wonderful experiences we had at the Barnsley Gardens Resort was our meals. Every meal was better than the last. Lunch the first day at the Woodlands Grill was wonderful and it is the perfect place for an unpretentious meal, dressed casually in shorts. We really enjoyed the wonderful buffet breakfast each morning. With a large selection of breads, fruits, cereals, and a fresh omelet and waffle bar, it was the perfect start to each day.
Feeling lazy and enjoying the salt water pool one day, we realized we could order from the Grill menu and have it delivered poolside – how fabulous is that! Dinner one night at the Grill was equally lovely as candles had been lit and the restaurant made just a little fancier. We ate on the perfect screened-in porch overlooking the golf course and had the most delicious and perfect appetizer I have ever tasted – fried lobster! One of our sweet golf cart drivers had recommended that we try this and he was absolutely right.
The food at the Grill was lovely but it was dinner at the Rice House Restaurant one night that really overwhelmed us with how wonderful the food is at this incredible resort. It’s truly a gourmand’s delight! In what must be one of the original buildings with stone fireplaces and a lovely sun porch, the Rice House is truly an elegant place to have an evening meal. The menu features the finest cuts of beef, wild game, beautifully prepared seafood dishes and produce from the garden right on the resort grounds. We feasted on scallops, steak and the most wonderful, rich and beautifully presented chocolate dessert.
We were lucky enough to have a personal tour of the property and enjoyed seeing the lovely gardens everywhere, the fascinating ruined mansion house which is used for all kinds of events – mainly weddings – and the ponds, meadows and trails that are scattered all over the extensive property.
We had marveled at the lovely grounds, been pampered at the spa, sunned by the beautiful salt water pool, eaten the most incredible food and been completely wowed by the customer service at this wonderful resort.
Really. What more can you possibly ask for at a girlfriends getaway?
Jan Ross is a freelance travel writer who has been traveling the world since way back before she can even remember. Her dad was in the Marine Corps so she is used to packing up at a moment’s notice! She loves writing hotel and restaurant reviews since it means she gets to stay in fabulous places and eat wonderful food. She especially loves writing spa reviews because that means she gets phenomenally pampered and, seriously, who does not like that? She has visited lots of places but still gets a thrill of excitement when she boards a plane, steps into a new hotel room, or sees a new location for the first time. And she hopes that thrill never, ever goes away.
For more information on Jan, visit her website at WanderlustWonder.com.