Field Guide: Barnsley Gardens
This northern Georgia resort promises a peaceful retreat for Nashvillians—and has quite the legend to boot.
Written By: Kristin Luna
Photographers: Supplied & Kristin Luna
Field Guide: Barnsley Gardens, Georgia
Tucked away in the foothills of northern Georgia, a 3,300-acre resort on a wealthy Brit’s former stomping grounds promises a peaceful retreat for Nashvillians—and has quite the legend to boot.
Barnsley Resort may just be celebrating its 15th birthday this year, but the history of the estate actually spans two centuries. An Englishman, Sir Godfrey Barnsley, came over to the Savannah waterfront at the age of 18 when he saw potential in America’s cotton industry; over time, he built an empire—and a fortune—for himself. He married a local woman named Julia Scarborough and began constructing the home of her dreams: an Italianate-style manor, originally called the Woodlands, in northern Georgia. She died in the 1840s before it was finished, but Barnsley persevered and completed it in her memory.
The Civil War wreaked havoc on Barnsley’s buildings, but resident historian Clent Coker—who previously was a BMI songwriter and recording artist in Nashville—has spent the better part of the past 25 years rehabbing them and moving other historic structures onto the property.
The best living example of Barnsley Gardens’ storied past can be glimpsed in the old Manor House Ruins, which also houses Coker’s museum with myriad photographs, artifacts, and other memorabilia. He also has written a book, Barnsley Gardens at Woodlands, chronicling his findings.
Barnsley Resort is 200 miles—or three hours by car—southeast of Nashville.
The pet-friendly resort comprises 90 guest rooms and suites among its Downing-style cottages (starting at $209 a night). Sleeping combinations range from split houses to estate cottages, ranging in size from two bedrooms to seven, ideal for larger groups. Each accommodation has its own porch.
The SpringBank Sporting Center offers a variety of outdoor activities, but clay shooting is far and above the most popular option. With a course consisting of 15 stations—not to mention a five-stand for groups and private lessons—it’s the perfect sport for enjoying the fall weather and crisp mountain air. Through the end of 2015, the resort is offering a Syren Shooting & Spa Package (from $660 a night), which includes credit for The Spa at Barnsley Resort, where guests can indulge in signature treatments like the Beautifully Balanced Massage or a Deep Forest Detox scrub and mask.
Teeing off at the 18-hole golf course is another favorite Barnsley pastime, as are horseback riding, kayaking, cycling, tennis, paintball, and lawn games like bocce and disc golf.
Barnsley boasts a pair of restaurants: The Woodlands Grill is the more casual of the two, with fare ranging from seared ahi sliders to a Jack and Coke chicken—and plenty of gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options, too; meanwhile, Rice House, an old 1800s farmhouse that was dismantled and relocated from nearby Rome, offers the resort’s nightly fine dining experience each Thursday through Saturday. There’s also the Beer Garden, with more than 30 craft brews in rotation and a number of casual German bites like bratwurst available to order.
Barnsley Resort spares no expense when it comes to the holidays. Winter festivities kick off on November 25 with the fourth annual Lighting of the Ruins, in which more than one million lights are illuminated throughout the 1800s manor house, English-style village, and surrounding gardens. There are also wreath-making classes, gingerbread workshops, s’mores makings for roasting over the fire pits, and other holiday cheer on tap throughout November and December.