Barnsley Gardens Resort sits 60 miles outside Atlanta, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A decidedly high-end property, it manages to embrace its natural, rural setting while also serving up five-star amenities with a classic sensibility. Thoroughly well equipped cottages and a manor home are laid out in a way that brings to mind a 19th century Southern village. A spa, world-class golf course, multiple eateries, and attractions like horseback riding and hiking trails earned Barnsley a spot on Conde Nast Traveler's 2011 Gold List.
There is a strong sense of history at Barnsley. The resort is named after a shipping magnate and cotton producer who used his wealth to build the estate in the 1840s. The property survived the Civil War and the ravages of time, and found itself renovated and turned into a resort in the late 1980s. The gardens, which include heirloom roses that are more than a century old, show the natural history of Barnsley, while an onsite museum and classic design features offer a glimpse into the human side of the area's historic narrative.
Guests of the resort get the full Barnsley experience, with all the luxuries and amenities that one expects from a high-end resort, but budget-minded visitors who live in or are visiting metro Atlanta can pay their way into various parts of the resort for a day-trip experience.
Barnsley has three on-site eating venues. The low-key Beer Garden is a place for sausages, burgers and pretzels. These outdoor eats can be accompanied by a brew from Barnsley's selection of imported beers. A fire, complete with s'more roasting, is held each evening (weather permitting).
The Rice House is a dinner-only restaurant that puts a premium on old-fashioned class. The white tablecloths, stone fireplace, and prevalence of natural light give this space a strong sense of elegance. Foodies will appreciate the Rice House's seasonal menu, which focuses on fresh seafood, prime cuts of beef, and even wild game.
The Woodlands Grill is Barnsley's main eatery. Its steak and seafood-centered menu also includes burgers, salads and vegetarian dishes. The resort's landscapes are in full view from the prime seats at Woodlands. Dugan's Tavern, the property's main drinking spot, is also part of this airy, old-world-style venue.
Golf aficionados from the Southeast might already be aware of Barnsley's golf course, affectionately called The General, even if they have never stayed at the resort. The par-72 venue and the scenery that surrounds it earned the course several nods from the golf media. Both Golf Week and Golf Digest rank it as one of the top courses in Georgia, while Golf Magazine and Conde Nast Traveler have also given The General high marks.
The resort boasts 37 cottages and a manor house that has additional rooms. The layout of the cottages, some of which are private and some of which have multiple rooms, is reminiscent of a Southern village from the 1800s. This being a high-end resort, however, modern amenities like Wi-Fi and wet bars are also part of the furnishings.
Private cottages boast refined country-style furniture and plenty of other amenities including plasma screen TVs and fireplaces. Each cottage is individually decorated and guests can choose from a one-bedroom affair all the way up to a family-sized facility with multiple bedrooms. Even the smallest private cottages have porches fronted by gardens and scenic views of Barnsley's landscapes.
Barnsley is probably one of the most pet-friendly upscale resorts in the country. Not only are pets allowed, they are actively welcomed. All the outdoor public areas of the resort are open to pets and there are no size limits or cage requirements.
The resort's pet-friendly cottages (both one and two bedroom varieties are available) are furnished with pet beds, food and water bowls, and treats. Barnsley takes its animal appreciation a step further by supporting PAWS Atlanta, a no-kill animal shelter that tries to find permanent homes for lost or abandoned pets.
The Spa at Barnsley Gardens features a full range of services. Reflexology and hot stone massages are on the treatment menu and are performed in one of the 10 private rooms. The spa relies on organic products for its skin and aromatherapy treatments. A pool and fitness center sit adjacent to the spa rooms.
Barnsley boasts two clay tennis courts. A hitting session is available by reservation only. More casual classic games can be found on the resort's lawns. Bocce, croquet and badminton are among the list of choices. Volleyball courts and Frisbee golf are also part of the resort's recreation offerings.
The gardens and 12 miles of hiking trails that wind through the property give nature enthusiasts a reason to book into Barnsley. A self-guided walking tour of the extensive gardens, which feature rose bushes that are as old as the resort itself (and a host of other heirloom plants), is free for all resort guests. Day visitors can pay their way into the gardens for a self-guided tour.
Barnsley even has a museum near the remains of one of the original buildings on the property. The museum tells the story of the property and how it experienced historic events such as the Civil War. It has a collection of Civil War artifacts found on Barnsley's grounds.
Canoes and kayaks are available (free for resort guests, $5 for day visitors) for those who want to paddle the property's lake. Bike trails also crisscross Barnsley's landscapes, with options for both seasoned, excitement-seeking mountain bikers and people who want to take a leisurely pedal along flat landscapes.
For those who don't want to take to the trail on foot or by bike, horseback riding is another option. Guests can choose a shorter gallop or a longer ride through the more far-flung corners of the Blue Ridge Mountains foothills. There is even a ride with a romantic theme for couples.
For those who want to explore the area beyond what they can reasonably explore on foot, the Chieftains Trail, a 200-mile driving route that passes many Native American historic and cultural sites, and the Cohutta-Chattahoochee Scenic Byway, a 54-mile scenic route through the area, are both reasonable options.
The trails at Fort Mountain State Park can give nature enthusiasts a chance to get an up-close glimpse of northwest Georgia's nature. The park also has cabins and campsites, ideal for those who prefer their vacations rustic and budget-friendly.
Barnsley Gardens Resort is a place to go if you want to experience nature and beautiful surroundings while enjoying a healthy measure of luxury and hospitality.