I’ve done my share of 14-hour sightseeing tours in a new city, and get a thrill from ending my day with sore feet, a phone filled with hundreds of new photos and closing my eyes in an unfamiliar bed with dozens of new memories.
But I also love the excitement of driving into a resort and not getting into a car again until I’ve checked out. That was my experience with a two-night getaway to Barnsley Resort, a 3,000-acre resort about an hour from Atlanta.
The range of activities, bucolic setting and fabulous food make it a perfect, relaxing getaway.
Where: Barnsley Resort in Adairsville, Georgia
What makes it special: The history and quality of the food
I can’t sing. I can’t draw. And I can’t arrange flowers to save my life, despite my garden club membership. (I’m the token remedial member.) I can now add shooting, golfing and fly fishing to the list of things I have no natural talent for.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy all those things, and love getting a chance to give it a go. That’s one of the reasons I love Barnsley Resort. I tried my sometimes unsteady hand at several new activities and indulged in old favorites as well on a recent getaway. More on that below.
And those are just a few of the reasons I’ve fallen in love with this charming property. Here are others.
On previous trips I had stayed in one of the charming cottages. With claw-foot tubs, writing desk, huge deluxe bed, wet bar and comfortable seating options, the cottages at Barnsley are some of my favorite accommodations anywhere.
There’s plenty of room to spread out, work if necessary, and even room in the tub for two on those romantic weekends. Oh, and did I mention the fireplace? On a previous trip with my husband, we enjoyed a room-service dinner by the fireplace for a delightful evening on a chilly, rainy night.
Barnsley has 90 cottage guest rooms and suites, arranged in tree-lined lanes that lend it a small village feel. There are six multi-room Estate Cottages if you’re traveling with a group.
On my most recent visit, I was excited to stay in the 55-room inn, which opened in 2018 in the style of an English country home. I waited patiently for one of the ladies’ maids to come unpack my suitcase full of evening attire and tell me what time to go to the drawing room for drinks, but it seems I was on my own.
There is a bourbon ritual daily at 5 in the lobby, however, where any type of attire was welcome. Bourbon steward Jackson Vaught led us through the tasting and explained how Woodford bourbon is infused with lightly smoked pecans and showed us the repurposed coffee drip machine that is used to create the unique flavor.
Our room was on the second floor with a seating area and a window seat. Above the seat was a large vertical window with view of a tree-lined path. We had a mini fridge and a coffee maker, two of my favorite amenities.
You can pick up items to make S’mores every night in the lobby. My husband is not a fan of marshmallows and it was a bit hot to sit by a fire, but we did grab some of the yummy chocolate bars.
I don’t think you’d ever have to wait for a place to stick your marshmallow. I’ve never seen a higher guest/fire pit ratio anywhere. I tried to count them all and got up to 13.
The Dining Options
I remember the food being good at Barnsley Resort, but it seems to have really upped its game – we found the food outstanding. We aren’t big breakfast eaters, so both mornings I walked down to the Beer Garden where breakfast sandwiches are available and got an egg and cheese to share. It was huge, and really well done.
We also had lunch there one day, a delicious meal of pulled pork, chicken wings and salad.
We also had an excellent dinner at Woodlands Grill, which has several seating areas. The porch with a view of the golf course is a lovely place to dine, but we opted for indoors. There is also ample seating at the bar.
We dined on crab cakes and lamb meatballs with pappardelle, rich and satisfying.
Our favorite meal was at the Rice House where we sat in the dining room of a 19th-century farmhouse and enjoyed the garden-to-table menu where every dish was a work of art. The menu rotates as ingredients are grown on the property or within a 150-mile radius.
We dined on tuna crudo, striped bass and I had strawberries panna cotta for dessert. Chris recently became lactose intolerant and our server considerately provided him with a dairy-free option.
The Chance to Try New Things
The itinerary for a girlfriends getaway I attended at Barnsley a few years ago included lessons with experts on shooting clays, fly fishing and golf. Three things all our instructors had in common were a great deal of knowledge about their sport, patience with a group of novice women and the ability to teach well.
For our venture with what’s now known as the Beretta Shooting Grounds by High Adventure Company at Barnsley Resort, one of the top facilities in the country, we drove to the course in the woods and gathered in a covered five-stand layout. (Impressed with my lingo?) We got a safety lesson that included how to hold a gun – a first for some of us.
We then put on our safety goggles and ear plugs and under the expert tutelage of our instructors, proceeded to shoot at flying orange clays, with loud blasts closely followed by squeals of delight when one of us hit one.
The course includes a covered five-stand featuring multiple targets ideal for team-building games and friendly competition and two 14-station clay courses where you simulate shooting game like quail and rabbits. We made our way around a few stations, with our instructors patiently guiding us as we hefted the shotguns and took aim at the darting orange discs, missing way more than we hit.
The fly fishing lesson was much quieter, as we practiced casting flies on the large pond, aiming to place a straight line on the water. Time didn’t allow us a full fly fishing experience, but several options are available. We admired the trays full of carefully crafted flies, many blinged out, and learned that rather than call them pretty, we should compliment them by calling them buggy. A decidedly more manly term.
Another morning we jumped on new tricked-out golf carts and hit the Fazio-designed course for our golf lesson, starting first on the driving range. While those pros at The Masters make it look so effortless, we found it a bit more challenging to make that ball soar towards the hole. It was fun to take a whack at a huge stack of balls, resolving each time as zillions of golfers have before us, to do better with the next shot.
When I returned recently with my husband, new activities had been added at the farm. We had planned to try our hand at the ax-throwing. Unfortunately, I had hurt my back lifting something I shouldn’t so I had to abstain, but Chris got up there and threw his heart out, proving to have good aim.
The Chance to Indulge in Activities I Love
Other activities include hiking on the many wooded trails, kayaking on the ponds, playing bocce, tennis, horseshoes or disc golf, lounging in the pool or enjoying a cold one at the Beer Garden. A trip to the spa helps soothe any aching muscles, while evenings spent relaxing on Adirondack chairs on the lawn are a favorite memory for me.
Barnsley’s History and Ruins
Speaking of romance, Barnsley’s very existence stems from a love story.
On a previous visit I learned this and more from historian Clent Coker, who has since passed away. He regaled us with stories of Barnsley, a passion of his since he was a boy growing up in the area. He wrote a book on Barnsley, “Barnsley Gardens at Woodlands,” and supplied historical photos for the small museum housed in the ruins.
Originally called Woodlands, the estate was built by Godfrey Barnsley for his bride Julia in the 1840s. But Julia and their infant son died before the house was finished. He completed the home and ornate gardens, and his family lived there for generations.
Despite damage caused by Yankees during the Civil War, the house and family remained. But in 1906 a tornado left the house in ruins. A new owner restored the property and opened it as Barnsley Gardens in 1991. He made the wise decision to keep the Manor House Ruins, now one of the most popular spots for events on the property.
The love stories continue as many couples begin their married life on adjacent lawns of this enchanted venue.
The heirloom gardens are spectacular, and include 200 varieties of roses. The more knowledgable members of my garden club could even identify a few of them. If you aren’t able to stay in Barnsley overnight, day tours of the gardens are available.
I recommend a visit to the ruins at night where the lighting adds an additional layer of romance and beauty.
The Get-Away-From-It-All Factor
I’ve always been a city girl. When my brownie troop went to visit a dairy, our photo was in a local paper with the headline, “City Girls See Cow.”
But living in a city has a certain stress factor, especially for a writer with constant deadlines. And more so now in Atlanta where the highways seemed to have gathered in revolt with some bizarre new closure every few days.
A visit to Barnsley from Atlanta is a quick and easy antidote to stress, and worth the longer travel time from other parts of the country.
When I drive through the gates and am greeted by the friendly staff, I can take a deep breath. And relax. Exactly what I’m looking for in a getaway.
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