24 hours at Barnsley Resort
To hear historian Clent Coker tell it, Julia Barnsley was a real-life Scarlett O’Hara. The youngest daughter of a British shipping magnate who took over her parents’ Adairsville estate after it had been pillaged by Sherman’s troops, she literally led her servants into the woods to forage for edible plants in order to survive. And that’s just one tale in a fascinating family history that began with her parents’ passionate love story and includes her mother’s premature death, a grand Italianate mansion that was never finished, a brother killed by Chinese pirates, two more brothers who fled to South America, a prize-fighting son who killed his own brother, and all manner of ghosts and Native American curses.
With such a remarkable backstory, it’s no surprise that the Barnsley estate still exudes romance three decades after the ruins were purchased and turned into a resort by a Bavarian prince (no joke). Now, the manor house’s brick skeleton serves as a dramatic set for candlelit dinners and parties. The formal boxwood parterre has been restored; it took eight years to gradually cut back the original, overgrown shrubs without destroying their shape. And the luxurious retreat keeps updating and expanding.
The heart of the resort has always been a central lawn flanked by nearly three-dozen quaint guest cottages modeled after the plan books of Andrew Jackson Downing, a pioneering 19th century American designer who mentored Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous landscape architect behind Central Park. At one end is a cozy, 19th-century farmhouse that houses the fine-dining Rice House, and at the other is the clubby Woodlands Grill. New this year is a plush 55-room inn, decorated with dark wood paneling and tweedy fabrics that carry out the English Country vibe. The spa next to the saltwater pool has just been updated, and the challenging, Jim Fazio–designed golf course continues to win top rankings in the state. Other activities include horseback riding, sporting clays, fly fishing, canoeing, and even seasonal bird-hunting at sister property SpringBank Plantation. But perhaps most charming are simple pleasures like badminton, disc golf, hammocks, and firepits—all kept stocked and ready. From $237 per night. barnsleyresort.com —Betsy Riley