Review: Georgia’s Historic Barnsley Resort Is Where You Go for Literal Greener Pastures

It was originally built in the 1840s. Then a German guy came along and gave it a little Alpine facelift.

September 28, 2019 5:54 am
barnsley resort
An overhead view of the Barnsley Resort, quite possibly the best little retreat in all of Dixie
The Barnsley Resort

When you think about getting away from all the stressors of the city — work, noise, traffic … people — you probably don’t immediately think of rural Georgia. But if you’re looking for literal greener pastures, maybe you should. Because just an hour’s drive from Atlanta you’ll find them, at the historic Barnsley Resort.

Set on three thousand acres of wilderness, Barnsley offers a luxurious experience for nature lovers and adventure seekers, or really anyone who just wants some genuine peace and quiet served with a side of bourbon in front of a roaring bonfire (don’t worry, they take care of building it). It’s also a haven for history buffs with an original, hauntingly beautiful Manor House Ruins & Museum. 

We recently visited the property to learn about all it has to offer, and we can tell you with certainty that it’s worth the price of entry. Here’s what to expect.

The History

The backstory of Barnsley Resort reads like a dramatic historical romance novel, and the resident historian, Clent Coker, has actually written one. Originally an estate purchased and built by Godfrey Barnsley in the 1840s, the property was a gift intended for Barnsley’s beloved wife, Julia, who passed away before the home was completed. 

Barnsley fell into a depression before being visited by Julia in a dream, where she instructed him to complete the home for future generations. The property was later the site of a Civil War battle, and at one point had the roof ripped off by a tornado. Later owned by Barnsley’s three sons, one of them was captured by Chinese pirates and another, a prize-winning boxer, shot the third one to death in their home. Finally, after falling into complete disrepair, the property was purchased by Prince Hubertus Fugger (what a fuggin’ name) of Bavaria, who restored the historic gardens and planted more than 200 varieties of roses. 

The Stay

If you’re looking for the most private accommodations available or have a large group in tow, your best bet would probably be one of Barnsley’s nearly three dozen guest cottages. Despite ranging in size and style, they’re all modeled in the style of Andrew Jackson Downing, a pioneering 19th-century American designer who served as a mentor to Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous landscape architect behind Central Park. Also available are the 55 rooms in their newer inn, some of which are connected to private patios with views of the grounds. We’re also big fans of the inn’s darker, upscale cabin vibes.

The Grounds

If you’re a golfer looking for a challenge, Barnsley’s 18 hole, 378-acre course will be your playground for the weekend. Built by acclaimed designer Jim Fazio (brother of Tom), the course looks out over rolling hills, forests and mountain peaks, not to mention the fact that it has one of the best collections of par threes in all of golf. Not exactly a pro? They also offer instruction and club fittings.

The golf course was designed by famed course architect Jim Fazio (Image via the Barnsley)

Shooting enthusiasts can also take aim at the clays facility, providing an opportunity to practice your shot in the open field under a natural canopy in the woods and over water. Their sister property, the Beretta Shooting Grounds by High Adventure Company, offers 15  zones of some of the country’s best quail hunting, including Georgian Pine forests. 

Have the kids in tow? Try out some of the more family-friendly activities like horseback riding, a mushroom forage or fishing at one of their amply stocked ponds.

The Food 

After all those outdoor activities, a huge Southern meal is well deserved. Those in search of a quick recovery brew or a more relaxed dining experience can check out their outdoor beer garden, where they serve plates of smoked brisket, catfish po’boys and snacks like pimento cheese and “pig candy,” aka crispy salt-and-vinegar pork rinds. 

There are fancier dinners to be had at the Rice House, a farm-to-table restaurant that sources ingredients from around the property and surrounding area. It’s located in a 19th-century farmhouse, and the cuisine focuses on herbs and veggies harvested from their own on-site gardens as well as local farm-grazed beef. 

Last but not least to mention is the recently renovated Woodlands Grill, with great views overlooking the golf course. Stop in for a hearty burger and pimento cheese beignets or treat yourself to diver scallops served with lobster-corn risotto by Executive Chef Nicolas Lebas. Stay afterwards to catch the game and sip on an old fashioned at Dugan’s, their bar.


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