Want to escape the heat and get out of the city? Barnsley Gardens Resort, in Adairsville, Georgia, is a fairytale getaway in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a little more than an hour’s drive north of Atlanta. (Through June 30, 2011, the resort is offering special packages to benefit PAWS Atlanta. Read on for details.)
I was enchanted to discover, when I visited Barnsley, that it has all the elements of a classic fairytale. Its history includes a prince, a spell, and the ruins of what could pass for a castle.
The story began in the 1840s, when young Godfrey Barnsley left his home in Liverpool, England to sell cotton in Savannah. Soon Barnsley became one of the richest men in the south.
Barnsley married, but Julia, his beloved wife, became ill. Doctors advised moving her to the fresh air of the mountains, so Barnsley began building an Italianate manor in what is now Adairsville. According to legend, he was unknowingly building on Cherokee land that carried a curse. Sadly, Julia died before the home was completed.
Barnsley finished the house for his children,but whatever spell might have been cast did not lift. During the Civil War, Union Troops occupied the house, wrecking it, and in 1906, a tornado ripped off its roof. Finally, Barnsley’s descendants abandoned the house to the woods.
Then a prince came into the story. An actual German prince bought the property in 1988 and restored the grounds. Eventually it changed hands again, selling to a developer who added guest cottages and opened it to the public.
The old Barnsley home still stands in ruins, but the spell has finally vanished. The gardens are lovingly restored and expanded, with beds of purple and yellow tulips, heirloom roses, ponds, wildflower meadows, and trees casting pools of deep, cool shade.
The resort is a wonderful place to visit. Guests can play golf and tennis, ride horses along quiet mountain trails, canoe, kayak, hike, hunt and fish. You can pamper yourself in the luxurious spa and sauna, work out in the fitness center, or float in the Grecian-style pool. Pets are welcome in the Garden Suites.
You won’t have to leave the grounds to enjoy delicious meals. The Woodlands Grill, which boasts the ambiance of an English hunting lodge, prepares steaks to order, while the elegant Rice House offers a seasonal menu of beef, wild game, and seafood.
Want a picnic lunch to take as you stroll through the gardens, or a gourmet breakfast to start the day? Just ask. If you’re visiting with kids, stop by the Beer Garden for sausages, pretzels, and a cold pint of Spaten, while the kids gather around the outdoor fire pit at night to toast marshmallows.
Perhaps best of all, you can visit the resort now through June 30 and book a Fun & Furry Days special package to benefit PAWS Atlanta. Your dog will get a special gift, as well as a nightly pet turndown. For each night you stay, Barnsley will donate $75 to PAWS Atlanta. Please contact the resort for details and other specials.
No fairytale is complete, of course, without a Fairy Godmother, and the resort has its very own, a special concierge whose nametag reads simply, “Fairy.” You can contact her in advance to create a special anniversary, honeymoon, or other package getaway. I’ve fallen under Barnsley’s spell. Bet you’ll be enchanted, too.
Barnsley Gardens Resort
597 Barnsley Gardens Rd.
Adairsville, Georgia 30103
Ph. 770.773.7480 or 877.773.2447