Personal pampering in pastoral Georgia
My heart was racing and my legs felt a little shaky as I raised the 20-gauge shotgun to my cheek and stared down the barrel. I hollered, “pull!” and instantly a neon orange clay rocketed into the air. I aimed. I fired. I missed.
While I may have missed that first, second, and third clay (fourth time’s a charm?), what I hadn’t missed was the fact that this little getaway at a place in Georgia called Barnsley Resort was unlike any other I’d experienced before. Upon stepping onto the immaculately landscaped grounds of what appeared to be a storybook English village replete with colorful cottages and tree-lined walkways, I felt like I’d been transported to another time and place far, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Barnsley Resort lies about an hour north of Atlanta, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the town of Adairsville, Georgia. The 3,000-acre site is home to 90 guest rooms and suites situated within a variety of 36 spacious cottages, two restaurants, a beer garden, lush gardens, a 19th century manor house in majestic ruins, and soon the Inn at Barnsley Resort and the Georgian Hall. Activities on the property include clay shooting, fly fishing lessons, golf, hiking trails, horseback riding, paintball, tennis, disc golf, and nightly s’mores by a campfire. Ultimately what I mean to say is that all of it combined to make me feel like I was at a summer camp for grownups, in a good way—I couldn’t wait to see where the weekend would take me.
First up: a trail ride through the woods via horseback. Once fitted for a helmet and paired with a “very kind and very patient” horse named Luke, my companions and I lined up behind our fearless horse wrangler, Hannah, for an hour-long ride. Thankful for the last-minute boots I purchased on Amazon, I sank into my saddle, pushed my heels down into the stirrups and said, “giddyap!”
The ride was lovely with no accidents on my part (I’ve been rather unlucky on horseback in the past). But dinner was lovelier. We dined inside the ruins of what was once a sweeping Georgian manor built in the 1800s by Godfrey Barnsley for his wife, Julia. While sampling delicious cheeses and fruits and sipping crisp white wine, we gathered by the fireplace to hear the history of this place and its ghosts as regaled by resident historian Clent Coker. Dinner was served on a rustic wooden table inside the front parlor, the blue sky overhead. We feasted on such fare as fire grilled quail, white and green asparagus, and pimento cheese corn bread. We ate until the sun went down, lighting candles for dessert of pecan pie.
The next day, after a delicious breakfast at The Woodlands Grill, it was time to try our hand at clay shooting. We shot from a platform overlooking a large pond, and later on a course where various stations simulate targets like rabbits, quail, and other creatures. The best part was blasting the clays to bits, scattering them to the winds. I was immensely grateful for the kind instruction, encouragement, and extreme patience of Skip Smith, who has 35 years experience with clay shooting. He’s one of only 70 clay-shooting instructors in the United States and he’s right there full time.
All that shooting made us ravenous. Lunch was served at the outdoor beer garden. Pulled pork was on the menu, along with grilled greens, creamy coleslaw, black eyed pea bean salad, and other delectable options. After lunch, it was time for fly fishing lessons. I’d seen it glorified in the movie A River Runs Through It (I swear Brad Pitt had nothing to do with me watching that movie), but I’d never tried it. Heck, I’d never fished before in my life.
Our instructors from the Cohutta Fishing Company (CohuttaFishingCo.com) taught us all about the colorful lures and why they’re necessary. We learned how to stand and work the fishing pole to cast the fishing wire out over the pond. We didn’t actually fish that day, but the company offers guided fishing tours if you’re so inclined.
Dinner that night, at the upscale Rice House on property, did not disappoint. We started with diver scallops paired with a French white wine. Other courses included rabbit served with roasted beets, and venison with a parsnip potato puree. All courses were served with corresponding wines, as selected by Aaron Stiles, director of food and beverage for the resort.
Full to capacity, we still made room for fireside s’mores. I mean, when in Rome, right? One little tip I brought home with me from the trip—if you’re going to do s’mores, forget plain chocolate. Instead, go with a little peanut butter cup (big thanks to the gal who brought them with her to the campfire). It was a game changer. Truly.
If you’re looking for a girls’ getaway unlike anything else you’ve ever experienced, or a summer camp for adults, or even an adventuresome romantic weekend for Valentine’s, Barnsley Resort is probably the place for you—it sure was for me!
By LaRue Gillespie
Some photos courtesy of Sasha Hlozek, BarnsleyResort.com, (877) 773-2447.