A weekend at Barnsley Gardens is long enough to fall in love.
By Jan Walsh
Weekend escapes are my favorite travel. And I recently spent the perfect weekend escape at Barnsley Gardens. I arrive knowing little about the property and leave two days later in love with this place.
Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Adairsville, Georgia, Barnsley Gardens is a two and one half hour drive from Birmingham. The property’s 3,300 acres include historic ruins, a Jim Fazio designed championship golf course with golf instruction by PGA pros, horseback riding, shooting and hunting, bicycle rentals, canoe and kayak rentals, fishing, garden tours, museum, paintball, pool, tennis courts and full spa privileges, including access to whirlpools, steam room and sauna—for overnight guests. The two activities we chose for our stay were horseback riding and a couples massage at the spa. We rode up the mountain and back down for our equestrianism outing on Saturday. And we enjoyed our relaxing and rejuvenating, full body massages on Sunday before leaving for home.
And although I did not tell my dog, Monte, Barnsley Gardens offers pet friendly accommodations—with pet beds, bowls, bottled water and treats. And pet sitting may be arranged with advance notice.
Originally known as Woodlands Estate, here in the 1840s Godfrey Barnsley began construction on the couple’s dream home, an Italianate villa, for his wife, Julia. She died before the home was completed. Yet their love story and the history of this property are not lost. Barnsley's Historian and Museum Director—and Savior—Clent Coker has spent a lifetime studying, collecting and protecting the history of this place. My husband, Kevin and I enjoyed a private tour led by Coker, of Barnsley Museum, Gardens, and property. His knowledge of and passion for this place is phenomenal. Not many resorts have a history so rich that it could fill a book. But Barnsley does. And Coker has captured and recorded it in his book, Barnsley Gardens at Woodlands.
One of the 36 guest cottages—inspired by the architecture of Andrew Jackson Downing—was home during our stay. Here we were welcomed with a bouquet of a dozen red roses and a magic wand from the resort’s “Fairy God Mother.” The cottage has its own parking, two private entrances, and both a front and back porch—with a swing. The living room has a wood burning fireplace, bay window with window seat, desk, free wireless internet access, and wet bar with mini fridge, coffee service and complimentary non-alcoholic beverages. The bedroom has a king sized, poster bed. It boasts a powder room and full bath with claw foot soaking tub and tiled shower. We rent a golf cart for exploring the property one day. But we do not need it for getting to and from our cottage. The cottages are located in walking distance (on flat ground) from the restaurants, golf course and spa.
Woodlands Grill is the center of socialization at Barnsley. It is located next door to the spa and pool, with golf course views and has the welcoming ambience of an English hunting lodge with two stone fireplaces. We enjoy consistent, delicious and relaxing breakfasts on the screened in porch, while watching the swans glide across the lake. Our favorite lunch dish is the Fish and Chips of beer battered Alaskan cod fingers, fried golden brown served with French fries, malt vinegar and spicy tartar sauce. And for dinner we pair a North Georgia sparkling wine—Wolf Vineyards Blanc de Blanc with appetizers of Fried Maine lobster Tail with Chinese honey mustard and drawn butter and Chilled jumbo Gulf Shrimp Cocktail with creole remoulade. Entrée recommendations include Mustard Barbequed Gulf black Grouper over tasso grit cake and wilted greens and Jack Daniels© marinated 14-ounce Black Angus New York Strip Steak with roasted garlic whipped potatoes.
For white tablecloth, fine dining, The Rice House is a culinary masterpiece. The ambience is pristine, Old South with a naturally lit sun porch. And a trip here would not be complete without dinner prepared by Chef Charles Vosburgh. The menu changes seasonally and features the finest cuts of beef, wild game and beautifully prepared seafood dishes. Highly recommended are the Crispy sweetbreads over Georgia pecans, Diver Scallops and jumbo shrimp over crispy polenta with roasted tomato petals and spinach, and Butter Poached Maine Lobster with asparagus risotto. The quality of the products and the preparation and presentation were outstanding. I have never had a more memorable, delicious dinner. Get reservations when you book your stay. Rice House is open Wednesday through Saturday evenings.
Barnsley Gardens is the perfect weekend escape. I look forward to our next visit!
Published B-Metro magazine, August 2011