I'm always looking for quick getaways only an hour or two from Chattanooga, and my husband and I recently had the opportunity to return to Barnsley Resort, a North Georgia countryside retreat I've enjoyed since my first childhood visit with my grandparents. Barnsley was then more of a site of historical interest than a resort, where you could explore the gardens and the ruins of the manor house on the old Godfrey Barnsley estate.
Barnsley was one of the richest men in the South when he built the Italian villa-style house in the mid-19th century, on 4,000 acres of land that was previously owned by the Cherokees, for his wife, Julia, who unfortunately fell ill and did not live to see its completion. It was destroyed by Union troops when the estate was the site of a Civil War battle, and later lost its roof in a 1906 tornado. The property had fallen into disrepair before it was purchased in the late 1980s by a Bavarian prince, who restored and added to the original formal gardens. And in 1991, it was opened to the public as Barnsley Gardens, according to the resort's website.
I visited Barnsley several years ago with my husband to celebrate my birthday, and I found it the perfect fall weekend getaway — with horseback riding, a nice restaurant and a cute cabin with a fireplace in a beautiful setting. It still has all of those things that I found so appealing, along with some new options for activities and accommodations.
In 2018, the resort added the 55-room Inn at Barnsley, where I spent my most recent stay this past November. At 800 square feet, our executive suite was huge, and everything felt clean and new. There are also cottages with various numbers of bedrooms and charming amenities such as wood burning fireplaces, claw foot tubs and porches with rocking chairs.
Address: 597 Barnsley Gardens Road, Adairsville, Georgia
Rate: Rooms from $279/night
For more information call 770-773-7480 or visit barnsleyresort.com.
You can also bring your pups along on a Barnsley getaway, as some cottages and the outdoor Beer Garden restaurant are pet-friendly.
Aside from the casual, barbecue-centric fare at the Beer Garden, dining options include the Woodlands Grill overlooking the golf course and the Rice House, the resort's fine dining restaurant that was closed during my stay.
However, we did get to experience one of Barnsley's monthly supper club events, which I'd heard were over the top. We visited during the resort's Swine and Wine weekend, and the supper club dinner featured a snout-to-tail roasted pig prepared by pitmaster Carey Bringle of Nashville's Peg Leg Porker. While I was a little disappointed that the unseasonably cold weather brought the event indoors from the originally planned site at the manor house ruins, the food was still amazing and well presented, and we enjoyed chatting with other guests.
Another special event that weekend was the fire kettle cooking school, which is offered periodically throughout the year, and I recommend it if you have the chance. Chef Javier Cuesta, who's a recent addition to the resort, served several dishes prepared over open flame, including grilled coastal Georgia oysters, red cabbage and pollen-cured salmon, and grilled smoked pork sausages, each paired with wine. The chef has a fun personality and kept the presentation interesting, and the food was delicious.
Earlier this year the resort added several new activities, including axe throwing, which I learned is harder than it looks. But even if you don't hit a bulls-eye, just the satisfying thunk of the axe hitting the wooden target is reason enough to give it a try. You can also try your hand at archery or air rifles, or take a horseback ride, fish or shoot sporting clays.
There are also plenty of things to do that you don't have to schedule or pay extra for, from canoeing and corn hole to hiking or relaxing in a hammock. And, of course, there are the gardens and manor ruins to explore, or you can rent a bike, visit the animals at the farm or just stroll the attractive grounds. And roasting s'mores around the fire pit — the inn lays out complimentary ingredients in the lobby — is the best way to end the night.
I noticed there was definitely more interaction between guests during my most recent visit, partially because of s'more roasting, and also through the supper club event and cooking demonstration. It was also busier on a weekend than my previous midweek visit, so if you're looking for a relaxing trip without a lot of other people around, that might be the time to go.
Another tip is to make reservations for all activities, spa treatments and dining before you arrive to make sure you're able to book what you want. Also, reservations are required for all meals at Woodlands Grill, which is very busy on weekends and is sometimes the only restaurant open. While there's no real room service, you can have to-go food from Woodlands delivered to your room for a $5 charge.