In our experience, golf and romance are often mutually exclusive. But Adairsville’s Barnsley Gardens Resort
excels at both. The inn capitalizes on the storybook past of a crumbling, vine-covered antebellum mansion. The links capitalize on the verdant, rolling terrain of the North Georgia foothills. Add fine dining, a boutique spa, plush guest cottages, and a little magic from the so-called “fairy godmother”—whose full-time job is quixotic touches such as filling a room with rose petals and tea lights—and you’re sure to find love among these ruins.
Accommodations are in 37 quaint Gothic-style cottages, arranged along wide lawns to resemble a village green. No two alike, each has a front porch and wood-burning fireplace. Bocce ball, badminton, and croquet sets are scattered about—as are pairs of Adirondack chairs next to fire bowls stacked with fresh logs. The secluded layout keeps the grounds quiet, even when groups are present. Though landscaping is immaculate, noisy power tools are kept at bay. Unless there’s live music in the beer garden, all you’ll hear are chirping birds and insects, or perhaps the distant giggling of kids racing barefoot. Rooms have a charming vintage flavor—12-foot ceilings, pencil post headboards on feather beds, heart pine floors, and bathrooms with honeycomb tile and honest-to-god cast-iron claw-foot tubs.
With dark wood paneling, a towering stone fireplace, and iron lanterns, the “casual” Woodlands Grill is informal in a Tudor castle kind of way. A restful screened porch overlooks the golf course, and there’s a cozy tavern with a billiard table. The seasonally changing menu is fairly predictable—steak, salmon, veal Marsala, etc.—but far superior to typical country club fare. The white-tablecloth dining option, Rice House, is in an 1854 farmhouse moved here from nearby Rome, still bearing the scars of Civil War bullets. Its continental cuisine is a fancier, more selective version of the grill menu—not to mention pricier (and Woodlands isn’t cheap). An outdoor beer garden, which stocks a full bar but keeps several German brews on tap, is a fun place to gather around picnic tables or cuddle next to the fire pit.
Explore the Italianate mansion that 19th-century cotton merchant Godfrey Barnsley built for his beloved wife Julia, who died of TB before its completion. (Call the fairy godmother to arrange a fireside dinner for two under the stars here.) Stroll through the formal parterre with its original, 170-year-old boxwoods. Tee off on the award-winning golf course, which winds around lush forests and over surprisingly dramatic elevations. Each well-manicured hole is unique, ending with swift, challenging greens. Relax at the full-service spa, which helped Barnsley garner top ratings by Condé Nast and Zagat. Signature treatments use petals from the gardens’ heirloom roses. As befits a country manor, there are also a sporting clays course, stables, fishing, woodland trails, canoes, and kayaking. Or just chill in a hammock.
Photograph courtesy of Barnsley Gardens