The latest renovations at Barnsley Resort offer further reason to escape to northwest Georgia
STORY: H.M. Cauley
It started with a romantic but tragic love story that predates the Civil War. Godfrey Barnsley’s dream was to build a country estate for his sickly wife who needed to escape Savannah’s swampy air. Though she died in 1845 without seeing its completion, Barnsley made it his life’s work to build a manor house surrounded by lavish gardens as an homage to his beloved.
In the 1860s, the red-brick Italianate structure survived General Sherman’s invading army, only to fall victim to tornadoes and abandonment. Today, all that remains of the original structure is a roofless framework, surrounded by lush landscaping and a restored kitchen house that holds Barnsley family memorabilia.
The tale of ill-fated love provides an unusual backstory for the 3,000-acre estate now known as Barnsley Resort, where visitors can not only tour the ruins, but also arrange to have an intimate dinner or group celebration amid them. But since the resort was born in 1999, the strongest draws to the Adairsville destination, located a short hour’s drive northwest of Buckhead, have been the Jim Fazio designed golf course, full-service spa, lakes and overall bucolic setting that exudes quaintness thanks to the Victorian-inspired cottages housing 90 guestrooms and suites, all with hardwood floors, fireplaces, private porches and glamorous baths.
In the last few months, Barnsley has completed a number of projects that further enhance an overnight or long weekend stay. To start, there’s a new 55-room inn. Built to match the English influences of the property, its spacious double and queen guestrooms are laid out with foyers, sitting areas, exposed beams, dormer windows and sloped ceilings. The upscale baths have oversized showers with both hand-held and rain shower options. Two suites boast living rooms, dining rooms, butler’s kitchens and terraces overlooking the property. The inn’s lobby and public rooms are decorated with overstuffed couches and club chairs that invite guests to linger near the fireplace or enjoy the afternoon breezes wafting in across the porches.
A new spa experience is also in store. The facility has been thoroughly refurbished and now features an outdoor hot tub that guests can enjoy late into the evening. After a relaxing soak, pull up an Adirondack chair beside one of the many fire pits dotting the estate. S’mores ingredients are readily available from the inn’s lobby, providing friends and families another way to unwind together after a day of horseback riding, canoeing, hiking, fly-fishing, clay shooting or leisurely biking. And for anyone looking to host a family reunion, wedding or other celebration, the new 9,000-squarefoot Georgian Hall has room enough to entertain several crowds at once.
While Barnsley Resort offers plenty of amusement within a short stroll of each guestroom, the local area holds its own attractions. Within a 30-minute drive is the Tellus Science Museum, Booth Western Art Museum and historic Etowah Indian Mounds. But there’s no need to leave the grounds for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The rustic Woodlands Grill, overlooking a lake and putting green, serves all three meals in the dining room and on the screened porch. The bar area, with big TVs and a billiards table, doubles as the 19th hole, as well as the pre- and post-dinner spot for a cocktail. On weekends, dinner is served in the Rice House, a restored 1800s farmhouse that was moved onto the property. The menu is hyperlocal, featuring seasonal produce grown or found on the grounds (think wild mushrooms) or sourced from nearby farms.
Fewer than 60 miles up Interstate 75, Barnsley Resort continues to offer an enchanting escape into the country— as well as the past.
Atlanta-based writer and editor contributing to a number of local and state-wide publications. Instructor in Georgia State’s Communication department and Emory’s Continuing Education division.