Think about your dream vacation. Where are you? What are you doing? My dream vacation has lush, aromatic hiking trails, relaxing massages, outdoor activities, and various delicious food options. Perhaps you’re picturing Hawaii or a tropical paradise in Central America.
I just returned from an award-winning retreat with 3000 acres of nature, adventure, sports, history, food, and relaxation. I stayed in a European-inspired cottage, serenaded by singing birds. My stress melted away after gently warmed bamboo sticks broke down the tension and stretched my tight muscles.
The wind blew crisp, woodsy, floral scents on the hiking trails lined with trees and flowers. The food, inspired by places around the world, included fruits, vegetables, and herbs from the on-site garden.
It wasn’t Hawaii, Costa Rica, or Europe. This resort is just a one-hour drive from Atlanta.
Located in Northwest Georgia, Barnsley Resort is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s a place where nature, adventure, history, and relaxation blend seamlessly, creating an unforgettable experience.
A Historic Love Story: The Origins of Barnsley Resort
The resort’s history began with a love story. Godfrey Barnsley, a Liverpool-born man, built the estate in the 1840s for his beloved wife, Julia. Unfortunately, Julia passed away before the estate’s completion. However, she appeared in his dream and instructed him to finish the estate for their children and future generations. So, Barnsley completed the estate.
Over time, the estate underwent extensive restoration and enhancements, embracing its rich heritage while incorporating modern luxury. Today, Barnsley Resort is a distinguished destination, earning recognition as one of the Top 10 Resorts in the South by Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.
With 150 guest rooms, four large estate cottages, a Jim Fazio-designed golf course, regionally inspired dining options, and diverse outdoor activities, Barnsley Resort seamlessly blends its storied past with exceptional experiences for every guest.
Discovering the Charming Resort in North Georgia
Matador Network sent me to Barnsley Resort on a press trip to help me write my article, This Resort in Georgia Is the Most Charming and Luxurious Stay in the South.
Upon my arrival at the resort, I received a warm and gracious welcome, accompanied by a complimentary glass of Champagne. The inn’s lobby has a vintage hotel vibe, with room keys dangling behind the check-in counter, hand-scraped hardwood floors, and a grand staircase. It felt like I had traveled back to the early 1900s.
The air had a cozy mix of cedar, amber, and musk which I later discovered was the Barnsley Resort’s signature scent. You can even buy candles with the same fragrance from the gift shop. That way, when you return home, you can light the candle and remember all the fun times you had at the resort. It’s like bringing a piece of Barnsley Resort home with you.
A friendly staff member loaded my luggage into the golf cart. As we drove down the charming tree-lined streets, we passed pedestrians and charming cottages, creating a picturesque scene reminiscent of an English village.
Unwinding in Style: Accommodations and Amenities at Barnsley Resort
At Barnsley Resort, you have lots of options when it comes to accommodations. The 150 different sleeping rooms include inn rooms, suites, and cottages. No matter which one you choose, you’ll find cool features like wet bars and mini-fridges in the rooms, comfy robes and slippers, and special lavender-mint bath products unique to Barnsley Resort.
The prices for the rooms vary depending on what type you choose. For example, Inn King Rooms start at $369, but if you want something larger, like a two-bedroom Cottage Suite, it can cost up to $1,415. And if you need even more space, there are cottages with up to seven bedrooms! So you can find the perfect place to stay that fits your needs and budget.
Two standout cabins at Barnsley Resort are the Fugger Cabin and Adelaide Cottage. The Fugger Cabin, a pet-friendly option that can accommodate up to six guests, features three bedrooms, each with an en-suite bathroom. It also offers a pantry kitchen, dining area, a spacious living room, fire pit, and dock overlooking the resort’s serene 10-acre lake.
The Adelaide Cottage is a charming retreat that can sleep up to ten guests. With its 3,500 square feet and delightful garden views, this spacious cottage has five bedrooms, five bathrooms, and a powder room. The butler-style kitchen with a refrigerator and sink adds a touch of elegance, while the wet bar with an ice maker provides convenience.
My One Bedroom Cottage Suite
The golf cart stopped at an adorable brown cottage. Inviting rocking chairs called my name from the large front porch.
The cottages at Barnsley Resort are a beautiful blend of European and Southern American styles. They have charming porches adorned with rocking chairs, swings, woven seating, or cozy Adirondack chairs.
My cozy one-bedroom cottage suite had a separate sitting room with a wood-burning fireplace. The bathrooms were divided into two sections: one for bathing and the other for the toilet. Each section had its own sink and plenty of counter space.
What makes these cottages unique is that they combine a rustic, old-fashioned charm with modern comforts. It’s the perfect mix of an old-fashioned feel and convenience.
The great thing about these cottages is that they have a rustic, old-fashioned feel with the comfort of modern amenities.
In addition to the comfortable king-sized bed, the clawfoot bathtub was a highlight of the cottage. Everyone in my group was thrilled about the bathtub. We couldn’t resist taking several baths during our stay.
A Variety of Activities
While spending the day inside the cozy cottage is tempting, Barnsley Resort has so much to offer. From delectable dining options to a luxurious spa, a fitness center, and a championship golf course, there’s something for everyone’s taste and preference.
The beautifully landscaped gardens provide a tranquil escape, while the sparkling swimming pool invites relaxation and fun. For those seeking outdoor adventures, the fishing and kayaking lake, bike riding, shooting grounds, and horseback riding excursions offer unforgettable experiences. And for a touch of retail therapy, the resort also provides a variety of shopping options.
After arriving at my cottage, I had time to explore the resort’s beautiful grounds before our first activity. The property has a genuine Southern country estate ambiance, inviting guests to explore its pedestrian-friendly village with cozy common areas for socializing and relaxation. Firepits and hammocks are strategically placed throughout the grounds, adding to the inviting atmosphere.
A Fairytale-like Village
As I explored the village, I was continuously amazed at the picturesque surroundings – from the fairytale-like village to the blooming flowers and rolling hills.
The resort offers convenient access to its amenities, with the Woodlands Grill, spa, fitness center, and golf course located on one end. On the other end, guests can explore the Rice House restaurant, Georgian Hall, Manor House Ruins, and farm. In between, the Beer Garden offers more food and drink options, while the Outpost satisfies shopping needs for clothing, sporting gear, and spa products.
Botanical Cocktails Presentation
After strolling the grounds and taking several pictures, I visited the ruins for a botanical cocktail experience. To reach the ruins, I followed the meandering botanical maze of Barnsley Gardens that led to the 1840s Italianate villa of the Manor House ruins.
During the botanical cocktail experience, Daisy Wheaton, one of the resort’s resident beverage experts, provided insights into spring cocktails, including Champagne’s origins, various cocktail recipes, and even the sabering technique. Daisy’s presentation was so informative that one of the women in my group successfully opened a champagne bottle with a saber by the end of the class.
Exquisite Dining Experiences
Dining at Rice House, a charming 19th-century farmhouse, was a truly unique and exquisite experience. The restaurant offers a menu of Southern-inspired dishes with a Mediterranean twist, featuring fresh vegetables and herbs sourced from the on-site farm.
Executive Chef Javier Cuesta took us on a culinary adventure through a four-course meal. The menu included an array of enticing options, including Smoked Trout Dip, Boneless Whole Fried Quail, Citrus Salmon Micuit, Sumac Rubbed Lamb Loin, Heritage Pork Osso Buco, and more. Selecting just one main course proved challenging, but fortunately, I had the opportunity to sample dishes from others in my group. The presentation of each dish was visually stunning, and the flavors were equally impressive.
My appetizer of Smoked Trout Dip was uniquely served as the dish was actually smoking when the server lifted the lid. And for dessert, I tried Buttermilk Pie for the first time, served with a rhubarb, strawberry compote, and a drizzle of cayenne honey.
At Woodlands Grill, you can choose from various breakfast, lunch, dinner, and cocktail options while enjoying the beautiful mountains and golf course views or have an intimate meal in a private dining room.
My beautifully presented House Cured Atlantic Salmon at breakfast prompted my tablemates to snap photos of my dish. For lunch, the Seasonal Black Quinoa & Amaranth Salad with roasted vegetables, pecan-coated goat cheese, and citrus vinaigrette was light enough to enjoy after a soothing massage yet substantial enough to last me until dinner. Deciding on what to have for dinner was difficult due to the wide variety of options available, but I eventually settled on the scallop risotto. I especially enjoyed the parsnip & carrot cream on the risotto.
Captivating Surroundings and Unforgettable Moments
Barnsley Resort seamlessly combines the beauty of nature with delicious cuisine. I enjoyed numerous al fresco dining moments, savoring meals, snacks, and refreshing beverages. However, two particular experiences stood out.
Dinner in the Meditation Garden
One evening, we gathered in the Meditation Garden for a feast under the stars and trees. As I approached the peaceful and enchanting site, I was overwhelmed by its beauty and elegant details. Bistro lights gently swayed from the tall bamboo trees encircling the garden. Pomegranate martinis greeted us, and chairs draped with cozy throw blankets surrounded the nature-themed decorated table. The food, created by Chef Cuesta, was an extraordinary culinary experience. Before this meal, I thought I wasn’t a fan of lamb, but Chef Cuesta changed my mind. The lamb dish was one of my favorites of the evening.
Farm-to-table Breakfast at the Farm
The other memorable experience was an actual farm-to-table breakfast at the on-site farm. We were seated next to the garden where herbs, fruits, and vegetables are grown for the resort’s dishes. While we enjoyed the serene surroundings and each other’s company, Chef Cuesta prepared breakfast over the open flame of a Sea Island Forge fire kettle. It was an unforgettable sensory experience.
Outdoor Adventures and Relaxation: Activities at Barnsley Resort
The Resort Spa
At Barnsley Resort, you’ll want to set aside time to indulge in ultimate relaxation at the spa, with the latest techniques in massage, body treatments, facials, and beauty services.
Separate areas for men and women have lockers, a steam room, and a sauna. In the co-ed lounge, enjoy some light snacks and sip on comforting tea and flavored water. And the view is breathtaking, overlooking the pristine golf course.
During my Barnsley Bamboo Massage, the gentle warmth of bamboo sticks worked their magic, stretching my tight muscles and releasing all my tension. The spa’s signature scent of lavender and fresh mint added another layer of relaxation.
Barnsley Resort offers more than delicious food, breathtaking views, and relaxing massages. You can also choose from many other fun activities, like fishing, kayaking, horseback riding, golfing, clay shooting, UTV rides, bike riding, hiking, and more.
During my stay, I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried clay shooting for the first time at the Beretta Shooting Grounds by High Adventure Company. At first, I was a bit nervous holding a gun, but the instructor, Kyle Bidwell, was very patient and made me feel safe. After just a few tries, I hit one of the clays. In fact, everyone in our group, even those who had never fired a gun before, was able to hit at least one clay. We left with a rush of adrenaline and a sense of accomplishment after the exhilarating experience.
Hiking and Bike Riding
In addition to clay shooting, I also enjoyed hiking and biking around the resort. And, of course, sitting around the crackling fire pit, making Reese’s s’mores, chatting with friends, and sipping a glass of wine was the perfect way to end the day.
Exceptional Service and Meticulous Attention
At Barnsley Resort, every little detail seems well-planned and considered. Every interaction I had with employees was more than just pleasurable. The employees went above and beyond to ensure my stay was magical and memorable.
David Friederich, the President of Barnsley Resort, takes immense pride in the elevated experiences and the meticulous attention to even the smallest details, such as the custom-made leather keychains and the precise way to cut lemons. During my stay, I learned the proper way to slice lemons so that they present well and don’t squirt anyone in the eye.
Friederich has established a system that empowers and values its employees, which is why many of them choose to stay at the resort long-term.
While at the resort, I noticed minimal presence from maintenance crews or housekeeping, yet there was evidence they had been there and were maintaining the property. It felt like I had stumbled upon the workshop of the shoemaker’s elves, where everything was magically taken care of behind the scenes.
The Perfect Escape: Barnsley Resort for Every Occasion
Barnsley Resort sets itself apart from other resorts with its unique blend of classic elegance, rustic comfort, and elevated experiences. It seemed like they designed the perfect vacation experience tailored just for me, from the delicious food to the exciting activities.
With its balance of old-fashioned charm and modern amenities, Barnsley Resort is the perfect place for a variety of events, including corporate retreats, weddings, bachelorette parties, anniversaries, and family vacations.
Rachel K. Belkin, M.Ed is a journalist and syndicated freelance writer of travel, business, health, education, and local Austin, Texas events with publications in HuffPost, Hometalk, Matador Network, AP News, MSN.com, and her websites Rachel K. Belkin, Elkin Bay, and Probe the Globe.
Rachel loves to experience cultures, customs, foods, activities, and nature. She studied abroad in Spain, volunteered and studied in Costa Rica, and spent a summer in Israel as a volunteer English teacher at a kids' camp.
Rachel has over 15 years of experience in writing, social media marketing, digital content creation, and search engine optimization. She founded and sold a site, brand, and community centered around health, education, parenting, travel, and lifestyle topics.
Rachel is also an experienced public speaker and has been on TV segments for Fox 7 Austin, KXAN, and CBS Austin and is a professional speaker at conferences and networking meetings for business owners and cancer survivors.