Drive past Adairsville’s acres of farmland along a winding road known as CCC and you will see signs for Barnsley Resort. The hour ride northwest of Atlanta leads to an enchanting village that transports you to another dimension.
I have always wanted to visit Barnsley, so you can imagine my excitement when I was assigned to write a piece for this staycation issue. Yet little did I know about the history and love story tied to the resort or the countless amenities offered, such as horseback riding, spa treatments and golf.
Until 1988, Barnsley was owned by two property holders. It then was sold to Prince Hubertus Fugger of Bavaria as an investment. The resort reopened in 1999 but was sold in 2004 to Julian Saul, the Jewish owner of Queen Carpet, renamed Shaw Floors. He also owns Barnsley’s SpringBank Plantation, which offers shooting, fly-fishing, hunting and hiking.
Intrigued by the concepts of American architect Andrew Jackson Downing, cotton broker Godfrey Barnsley began building an Italianate villa for his wife, Julia Scarborough, in the 1840s. After his 35-year-old wife died in Savannah hours before Barnsley arrived, he abandoned the project, only to complete it in 1848.
Barnsley was once composed of 8,000 acres but today encompasses 1,300, resort historian and museum director Clent Coker said. The property, once covered with 30 acres of gardens, still contains serpentine walks, a reflection pool (where Barnsley last saw Julia) and a fountain mounted in 1841.
Next to the manor is the estate’s old kitchen, which Coker has turned into a museum filled with old photographs and relics from the Barnsley family.
A five-minute walk from the manor are 37 gothiclike cottages with over 90 bedrooms that originate from Downing’s books in the 1830s. Some of the cottages are known as manor cottages or mini-hotels, with individual entrances to bedrooms, while others are similar to a duplex featuring separate suites with king-size beds and woodburning fireplaces.
The village has a pair of two-bedroom cottages and a three-bedroom Appalachian cabin for families. Barnsley also has five-, six- and seven-bedroom buildings. The multiple rooms come in handy for groups or executives who participate in corporate retreats or wish to be more convivial.
With over 55 rooms, Barnsley’s new Inn, which opened in March, stands as a contrast to the village. British architect Edward Luchins’ drawings from the Edwardian period helped transform the Inn to look like an old house that was added over time. The interior is fashioned after a Victorian hotel and contains immense woodwork and dormer areas where people can sit and read.
The Inn contains two suites. The Queen Suite, which is named after the Saul family’s carpet business, has two bedrooms with king beds.
A night at the Barnsley Resort Inn starts in the low $300s. The suites start in the mid $400s, depending on the time of year.
In addition to 2 acres of wooded gardens, where weddings and tastings are held, the resort contains the Rice House, built in 1854 by Rice Fleming of Rome, Ga. The old farmhouse now serves as one of the resort’s main restaurants.
Attached to the house is the recently renovated Georgian Hall, which offers two ballrooms with natural light for corporate functions and weddings.
Next to each other are the Woodlands Grill and Barnsley’s newly renovated spa, which I had the pleasure of visiting. The spa’s spacious rooms are unlike any I have seen and complement the new sauna.
After checking in, I was ushered into an exceptionally spacious treatment room by my massage therapist, Joana. I received the lavender relaxation massage, which I highly recommend. As Joana gently massaged my arms, legs and neck, I fell into complete relaxation, and she began exfoliating my skin with two bristle brushes.
The warmth from the staff followed me from the spa to Woodlands Grill, where an employee held the door for me to enter a dining experience that was beautiful and relaxing. I was seated on the veranda overlooking the resort’s 18-hole championship golf course, built by Jim Fazio.
As I sipped sweet tea, a waiter brought the spring menu. I ordered the Joyce Farms crispy chicken sandwich and a large slice of cheesecake topped with strawberry syrup, the most satisfying dishes I have had in a while.
Besides Barnsley’s beer garden, which sometimes offers live music and crafts, the resort includes the original barnyard from the 1840s. Visitors can interact with rabbits, a baby goat, Winston the pig, Boss the hog and a donkey named Grover. The barnyard just received a turtle and an alpaca.
Families can participate in team-building activities and ride horseback along 10 miles of trails showcasing the ruins, gardens and wilderness.
The resort is busy from March through December but sees an uptick from March through May. Visitors also travel to the resort in September and October as the leaves begin to change color.
I was attracted to the ruins before I drove to Barnsley, but the resort’s history, mesmerizing cottages and village have piqued my interest. I am looking forward to returning because my visit was relaxing, joyful and welcoming.
Barnsley’s more than hospitable staff is what I am most eager to return to. Each person I encountered, from the Inn’s staff to the massage therapist and spa receptionist to the people passing through on golf carts, was eager to lend a smile or assist in any way possible.
There are a lot of lovely resorts and beautiful spas, but what sets Barnsley apart is the history. The ruins are fun to visit, as are the gardens, and when you include the village, you feel as if you are a whole world and a few centuries away.