Do you need a getaway? Could you use time with your girlfriends in a picturesque setting to reconnect, reminisce and make new memories? Do you want to be spoiled, eat amazing garden-to-table food, and wash it down with wine of the highest quality? Does hiking through beautiful glades and forests and stumbling upon ruins from an old manor house give you all the feels? Perhaps you enjoy sitting around a campfire or drinking craft beer in an authentic Beer Garden, complete with those little low-hanging strings of lights. Maybe you are the type that likes to spend hours on impeccably manicured turf chasing a little white ball. If you answered “heck yeah” to any of these questions, then we have just the place for you…the Barnsley Resort in northern Georgia.
The Barnsley Resort is situated just north of Atlanta among the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. With over 3,000 pristine acres, tons of outdoor activities, fine dining, a spa and pool, it was the perfect spot for our annual girlfriend getaway. Leigh and I fell in love with the place the minute we saw their Instagram page and knew we had to visit.
The Barnsley Resort consists of a 55-room Inn, 37 unique storybook cottages that range from one to seven bedrooms, as well as a 9,000 sq ft event space called Georgian Hall. The various accommodations make it ideal for corporate gatherings, family reunions, and destination weddings. While the resort officially opened in 1999, it is steeped in history dating to the 1840’s when Godfrey Barnsley, an Englishman who became one of the 10 most affluent men in the South, built a manor house for his wife who unfortunately died before its completion. He went on to complete the mansion and elaborate gardens and it stayed in the Barnsley family until 1942. The romantic history can be felt as you walk the grounds, and the beautiful, serene setting invites you to come and sit a spell and reconnect with nature.
Driving down the tree-lined road to the security gate, we noticed the Jim Fazio-designed golf course to the left. It almost made me wish I played golf or at least take my turn behind the wheel of a golf cart. Is there anything prettier than perfectly cut grass? Once we were warmly greeted by Mike at the guard shack, we traveled along the winding road to the Barnsley Inn. The Inn reminded me of a large English country home with a covered portico and beautiful brick. Stepping into the lobby, I got some Downton Abbey vibes as behind the beautiful wood desk was a wall of room keys elegantly displayed. The exposed beams and winding staircase with a pleasing color palette of warm browns and accents of blue and beige made us feel like guests in someone’s exceptionally large home. We were once again greeted by friendly staff who gave us our room card (sadly not a key like the ones hanging on the wall), and we ventured down the hall to check out our room.
Entering our double queen room, we fawned over the luxurious linens on the beds, the tiled bathroom and expansive shower, the mini fridge and coffee station that is an absolute necessity when we travel. Knowing that it was my birthday the following day, the staff had left us a bottle of wine and some fine chocolates with a card expressing their wishes for my special day. How nice! We knew right away that this place offers something so desperately needed these days…graciousness and warmth.
Once we settled into our rooms, we eagerly set off to explore the grounds of this pedestrian-friendly resort. It’s obvious that a lot of attention has gone into the layout of the property and as we walked along the pathways, there was something beautiful to see everywhere you looked. We passed an adorable brown cottage that had a babbling brook running next to it and after referencing our map we discovered this was the Outpost Cottage where you can check out bikes, paddles for canoes, fishing poles, cornhole bags, and can shop for supplies. A bit further down Lily Way and on the right is the Beer Garden complete with picnic tables, low-hanging lights strung from the trees, and a fire pit. At the next intersection, we came upon Downing Way with its greenspace running down its center, and the English cottages lined up along both sides. Every so often you would see another fire pit and we were told that the staff comes around daily to scoop out and restock the fire with wood and will even light it for you so you can roast your smore’s that they also provide. That’s what I call service!
By following along the road, we were able to locate the Woodlands Grill, one of three dining options on the grounds, the others being the outdoor Beer Garden and the Rice House (closed as of the writing of this article). No matter where you dine, you can be assured the food will be garden to table. In fact, many of the vegetables come from gardens right on the premises. For all of you wine lovers out there, they have an extensive wine list, and they offer craft beer and spirits. If you want something from the Woodlands Grill, but don’t want to leave the sanctity of your room or cottage, don’t worry because all you have to do is pick up the phone and they will deliver to your room.
After returning to our rooms to relax and dress for dinner, we returned to the Woodlands Grill. Again, we were greeted warmly and escorted to our table in the beautiful dining room. Dinner was everything we expected and more! When you go, be sure to order the pimento cheese beignets. You can thank us later. The steak au poivre was the best I’ve ever had with a side of potato puree and charred corn. The only thing you will regret is not bringing a bigger appetite because you will want to try all the things. We feasted as we watched darkness descend over the golf course knowing tomorrow, we would get to enjoy even more of the Barnsley.
I have to admit it was hard extricating myself from the super soft and cozy bed the next morning, but just like a child on Christmas morning, I knew there were great things in store for us so off to the luxurious shower with its lavender mint body wash I went. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, so we returned to the Woodlands Grill, but this time sat on the screened-in patio and watched golfers begin their day on the course. We lingered over breakfast the way you’re supposed to, with multiple cups of coffee, and plotted out what we wanted to do that day. The beauty of the Barnsley is you can do as little or as much as you prefer. Since we only had one full day here, we knew we wanted to get on those adorable bikes and tour the grounds, including the manor house ruins. We also had to work off all the calories we had consumed at breakfast, so that we wouldn’t feel like beached whales during our afternoon massages at the Spa.
The bike riding was such fun! Leigh and I hadn’t been on bikes in years, but as they say, “It’s like riding a bike”, and we quickly remembered how to maintain our balance as we exercised our legs pedaling along the gravel pathways. Fortunately, most of the terrain is relatively flat, so no great exertion was required. Coming around the bend and seeing the ruins of the old manor house took my breath away. Extreme care has gone into making this the most pleasing “ruins” one can imagine. The roof is gone, so natural light abounds, and you get a feel for how magnificent this place had been. The gardens out in front of the house include a fountain and circular paths spilling over with beautiful flowers and bushes. Once we finished our tour, we biked on over to the Barnyard where we met the resident farm animals. There were goats and a donkey, and we read that there were other animals that are brought in at different times. The animals were so friendly, all wanting a scratch and probably hoping for a snack. We saw the gardens and the archery course that were stationed nearby, along the banks of a serene pond. The ponds are stocked, so bring a pole or get one at the Outpost and you can try your hand at reeling in the big one.
Following the path on our bikes, we rode past the pond, up a little incline, past the Barnsley family cemetery, and on around until we found some hammocks just begging us to come swing. Lying in the hammocks was so relaxing and we could have drifted off to sleep as we gazed up at the canopy of trees and listened to the birds chirping, but we knew we had to get to the Spa for our appointment.
The Barnsley Resort has a top-notch spa that offers an array of services including facials and massages all guaranteed to put you in a peaceful state of mind. We opted for their Salt Serenity massage that included Himalayan hot stones. They have separate lounges for men and women that you can relax in before and after your treatment, along with showers, steam rooms and sauna. Taking time to indulge in these therapeutic services is a must when staying at the Barnsley. If you want to create the same experience at home, you can purchase the same products…professional masseuse not included.
Relaxed and rejuvenated from our outdoor excursion and spa treatment, Leigh and I geared up for my birthday dinner which we knew from our prior evening at the Woodlands Grill was going to be amazing. If you are celebrating a special occasion, be sure to advise the staff when making your reservation. I promise you every single person will be made aware and will go out of their way to acknowledge it. Talk about making a girl feel special! The dinner was simply delicious and just when I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, out came a trio of desserts complete with a candle. I know you’re not supposed to divulge your wish, but this year my wish was that I can return to the Barnsley Resort next year and do this all over again. We finished up our perfect evening by walking over to the Beer Garden and listening to some live music under the warm glow of the lights, smelling the scent of campfires and laughing as we recounted our day and our attempt at getting in and out of the hammock. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday!
The next morning it was sadly time to check out and head back to Lexington. We lamented over the fact that there was still so much to experience. We hadn’t gone canoeing, taken our shot at the Beretta Shooting Grounds, hiked the 11 miles of trails, fished, done archery, played golf, lounged by the pool, or gone horseback riding! This can only mean we will have to come back to this little haven again and again. Our girlfriend getaway was truly made exceptional at the Barnsley Resort. If you are planning a fall getaway, you need to look no further than the Barnsley Resort in northern Georgia. It is a place offering something for everyone with so much to see and do that it will become your go-to resort year after year.
Footnote: As of the writing of this piece, we are still experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic. We can assure you that the Barnsley Resort makes your safety their top priority. There are hand sanitizing stations throughout, masks are required indoors, and reminders to keep socially distant can be found throughout the property. For true peace of mind, book one of their cottages for your stay. The Barnsley Resort is also pet-friendly, so all members of your family can come and enjoy the great outdoors.