On a spring weekend earlier this year, I biked for hours in a quaint English village.
I didn’t bike like the Spandex-clad Tour de France types. (I don’t even own Spandex.) I zipped about the town square with nothing but a sun dress on and the breeze in my hair. The neat thing was that I didn’t have to fly across the pond to England. My English getaway was just a short flight away in the Deep South. Located a mere hour north of Atlanta, in Adairsville, Georgia, is the 3,000-acre Barnsley Resort.
The historic Southern estate pays homage to the original owner and Englishman, Godfrey Barnsley. Village streets lined with freestanding cottages are actually the resort’s suites, ranging from one to seven bedrooms. In the heart of the village is the town square—with a chapel for weddings, an outdoor Bavarian-style beer garden and a newly opened inn. Although the additional 55-room Inn at Barnsley Resort debuted in March, it exudes the atmosphere of a bygone era. The Inn is inspired by 19th century architect Andrew Jackson Downing’s Italianate and Gothic Revival style and the works of noted British architect Edwin Lutyens, known for his English country homes from the turn of the 20th century
Ties to England and the past, however, lie deeper in the property, where the dilapidated ruins of an 1840s manor built by Godfrey Barnsley still stand. In 1824, Barnsley migrated from Liverpool, England to seek his fortune in Georgia. Deep in the heart of Georgia, he found his love, Julia Scarborough of Savannah. In the midst of building the magnificent manor, Julia died prematurely, leaving Barnsley to raise their six children. According to the folklore, one evening, Barnsley dreamt of seeing Julia in the rose garden and after that vowed to complete the manor.
Shortly after that, the Civil War broke out and the property was occupied by troops, who later ransacked the manor. In 1906, a tornado tore through the building leaving it in a state of decline until 1988 when Bavarian Prince Hubertus Fugger bought the property. The prince restored the gardens, built a history museum next to the original manor, and opened this storybook estate with an 18-hole Jim Fazio-designed golf course before selling it to a private family.
The results are a stunning respite from our busy lives. Once at Barnsley Resort, the preferred mode of transport to explore is walking or riding a rental bike. But, as we found, the path was never straight-forward. On our way to dine at the Rice House, we stopped in the middle of the wide boulevard for a game of corn hole with the kids. Once there, our kids had a quick history lesson about the building from one of the staff and played a game of I-Spy to spot the bullet holes shot by the civil war soldiers. The 19th century Rice House was painstakingly transported to the resort from the Rice Plantation in Rome, Georgia. Today, Rice House serves fine dining modern farmhouse cuisine where ingredients are sourced locally where possible.
For outdoor pursuits, grab a rod for some complimentary fly-fishing in the well-stocked lakes or book a riding lesson in the nearby corral. Experienced riders may go on a trail ride through the native flora. There are also plenty of farm animals like goats and pigs to provide some petting fun for the little ones. On weekends, all-day-dining restaurant TheWoodlands Grill serves a breakfast buffet. Snag a table on the patio with a panoramic view of the lake and golf course. And while the village takes you back in time, the service and amenities are pure 21st century. Everything is well thought out, down to the mobile golf cart bar stocked with cocktails and sandwiches to replenish golfers mid-course.
Life at Barnsley Resort takes place at a snail’s pace. Afternoons are for relaxing at the spa or spent over a craft brew at the Bavarian-style Beer Garden. The children roam freely on bikes— like we once did, when childhoods were unplugged. And in the evenings, the S’mores cart emerges to smiles from everyone. Then the day ends with a small gathering around the fire pit. And as we toast our marshmallows over the darting flames, laughing as one of us invariably sets a marshmallow alight, we reflect on our day. And while the history was riveting and the horse riding full of fun, our favorite part was communing with each other—and Barnsley Resort made that effortless.
Cover: Barnsley Resort ruins and gardens. Courtesy photo