Around 1840, Godfrey Barnsley, a planter and exporter from Savannah, settled near what is now Rome, Georgia and built a grand Italianate home and estate as an ode to love for his young wife, Julia. Their story reads like a romance novel—some say Margaret Mitchell visited and was inspired to create the mythical Tara in her literary classic, Gone With the Wind. But, frankly my dear, there is more to this resort than literature.
Despite its romantic history, some people go to ℹ️ Barnsley Resort for the adventure. The retreat, only an hour from Chattanooga, is always beckoning with extraordinary amenities. So, a few of us decided to take the resort up on its ladies’ adventure package. I was joined by architect and developer Heidi Hefferlin and community volunteer and organizer, Liz Clark Grant. The pursuits of a fine Southern estate awaited us.
Arriving at Barnsley, we met for an al fresco lunch at the resort’s beer garden. Sitting at picnic tables dappled by sunshine on a clear early fall day, we enjoyed beverages ranging from sparkling lemonade to a nice German Riesling. ℹ️ The Reformation Brewery from Woodstock, Georgia was on hand to offer a flight of its best craft beers, too. And by all accounts, the food was amazing. Beginning with Brunswick stew and Hoppin’ John black-eyed pea salad, the chef served local favorites like collard greens and roasted corn from Riverview Farms, crowned by Riverview’s own pit-roasted pig and served with a smoky Appalachian barbeque sauce.
After settling into our rooms, in cottages that simulated a convincing 19th century pedestrian village, we headed out for an afternoon of horseback riding. It was a leisurely ride through wooded hills above the property’s 18-hole Fazio designed golf course. The stroll back from the barn through the estate’s formal gardens was a delirious diversion with the heady scent of English boxwood and a profusion of bright late-season flowers to enjoy.
The ruin of the manor house creates a backdrop for a botanical wonder. In his day, Godfrey Barnsley planted lavish gardens that have been restored and specimens of exotic trees and shrubs are identified throughout the historic section of the property. A vegetable garden nearby supplies the resort’s three restaurants. There is also a small museum on site.
No ladies’ adventure getaway would be complete without a quick spa visit and the Barnsley Resort Spa did not disappoint us. Guests might try the “Relax and Refresh” signature treatment, or if the weather is warm enough, a dip in the saltwater pool adjacent to the spa.
At dusk, we shared stories beside a fire pit on the broad commons at the center of the village before heading for the ℹ️ Woodlands Grill, a casual dining restaurant open throughout the week and on the weekend. Providing a broad menu and offering bar and veranda seating, it overlooks the first tee of the golf course and the lake. The Woodlands Grill serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. But there are more options.
ℹ️ The Rice House is open on Friday and Saturday evenings and for special events. This fine dining restaurant is located at the other end of the commons in an authentic farmhouse, complete with bullet holes left over from a Civil War battle. Often wedding receptions and parties are staged here, as well as, at the mansion ruin nearby.
In the center of the property is a lively Beer Garden, near the ℹ️ SpringBank Sporting Club. It serves sandwiches and light snacks, keeps daily hours and is an easy stop for returning shooters or fly fishers.
The SpringBank Sporting Club manages the hunting seasons of the 1,800-acre SpringBank Plantation, the sporting clays course and private instruction for both shooting and fly fishing. It is home to the country’s only ℹ️ Caesar Guerini Wings and Clays Shooting School, named for the Italian gun maker. The Club’s sporting clays instructors are NSCA certified and its hunting guides are some of the most knowledgeable in the Southeast. World class bird dogs and retrievers are available or hunters may bring their own gun dogs. Shotgun rental and ammunition are on hand if you cannot bring your own gun.
Led by Skip Smith, director of the program at SpringBank, the group rode out to the clays course in golf carts the next morning. After trying a couple of different shotguns, I settled on a 20-gauge over-and-under made by Syren Fabarm, designed especially for women. With a slightly shorter stock and lighter weight, I conserved energy and improved my accuracy.
“The Syren is not a modification of a youth gun,” says Smith. “It has been designed specifically for women.” Smith is from upstate New York, where he spent 20 years working for Remington. Now in his tenth year at SpringBank, his encouraging style of instruction is powerful and important to a successful and enjoyable experience. “He really knows how to explain what you need to do,” says Liz Grant. “And where you can improve.” Grant does the course with her husband several times a year.
Each station offers a unique challenge with clays propelled from various angles and intervals. The shots are staged against different backdrops, with the sun at differing locations. Clays at some stations simulate the flight patterns of a variety of game.
“It’s best to trust your first instincts,” says Smith, calmly.
Heidi Hefferlin says, “Yes, the course is challenging, but that makes it more fun.” She thinks there is something for everyone at Barnsley Resort. “Good architecture, a beautiful landscape, great shooting guides and demanding courses, not to mention exceptional cuisine—all make for a good time,” she says. “I’m coming back.”
Ladies’ getaway packages may be customized to the interests of your group.
Visit barnsleyresort.com for more information.