Whether you consider it a golf haven, a spa, or an outdoor adventure destination, Barnsley Gardens is a great place to spend a few days. Repeatedly named one of the best Small Luxury Resorts and only a few miles from I-75, Barnsley's renown has been growing throughout the eastern United States. You will have to make reservations well in advance of your stay, especially on weekends and during the summer.
In 1837 construction began on the Western and Atlantic Railroad. Savannah-based businessman Godfrey Barnsley, who shares many remarkable similarities to Rhett Butler, found the site of his estate The Woodlands, which he intended to build on a horseshoe-shaped ridge in present-day Bartow County. Construction of the estate was delayed by the same economic problems that delayed the Western and Atlantic Railroad, because Barnsley was counting on it to transport materials he needed to build the home. His wife Julia died before work began on the estate, but Barnsley continued after her death because he felt Julia's presence at the site. A major influence in the design was A. J. (Andrew Jackson) Downing, whose work also influenced Frederick Law Olmstead.
Godfrey Barnsley raised his family with servants but never remarried. During the Civil War a small skirmish occurred in front of his estate, known as the battle of Woodlands. James McPherson, commander of the Army of the Tennessee, slept in the estate on May 18, 1864, during the early stage of the Atlanta Campaign. Although he ordered his men not to burn the estate because Barnsley treated his slaves with kindness, they did a good deal of damage to the interior and gardens. His daughter Julia rebuilt the home and gardens to the way Barnsley had originally designed them. A tornado ripped the roof off the main estate in 1906 and the family moved to the adjacent building, originally designed for cooking.
A portion of the Barnsley home
Slowly, property was sold off to help pay to maintain the family but when Miss Addie died the estate, outbuildings, and property was sold. Over the years the land was used for farming, ranching, and poultry although folks who knew of the ruins would park along a nearby road and hike into the estate and the overgrown gardens. In the late 1960's the owner cut off this access because vandals began destroying the historic estate. Prince Hubertus Fugger-Babenhausen of Germany purchased the estate in 1988 and began to revitalize the historic gardens. In 2004 the prince sold the estate to two Dalton businessmen who have continued to develop the property.
Each of the "cottages" are rustic looking, upscale duplexes or quadraplexes that features a plush feather bed intended to look like an antique, comfortable bathrooms with a walk-in shower and a large, free-standing bathtub, a rear-entrance to a parking lot and a front entrance on a grassy mall that spans the complex end-to-end. The first street, Downing Way, provides walking access to the registration office, the Outpost, the clubhouse/Woodlands Grill, the "beer garden" and the Rice House. In the center is a "town hall" which doubles as a beautiful chapel when a wedding is taking place.
Within Barnsley Gardens are three places to eat, The Rice House, Woodlands Grill and the Beer Garden. Open for dinner, the Rice House features an upscale menu, favoring some exotic dishes including quail, fish and seafood along with the standard Filet Mignon. For a light lunch or dinner, the beer garden offers sandwiches on panini bread and appetizers like pretzels and quesadillas. The Woodlands Grill offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a full bar. Breakfast is served buffet-style, while lunch and dinner offer selections from a menu including a variety of steak and hamburgers, fish, seafood and chicken. Of the three, the Woodlands Grill is the best, although all three served excellent food.
Rolling hills are the trademark of the par 72 Barnsley Gardens golf course
One of the attractions in Barnsley Gardens is the Jim Fazio designed golf course The General (named for The General, one of the participants in The Great Locomotive Chase). The par 72, 7,180 yard course features Fazio's astounding ability to use the natural lay of the to create a course. As a tribute to Downing, Fazio personally supervised the layout of the course, utilizing not only the native plants but also its dramatic drops and climbs to create a somewhat intimidating layout, at least the first time you play it. Two shorter holes literally drop off the side of a central mountain, making difficult par 3 shots.
In addition to the golf, It is Barnsley Gardens outdoor adventure activities that drew us to the resort. Our favorite was the horseback riding with Scott Thompson, a friendly guide who took us into the mountains surrounding the estate. The one-hour ride was enough of an adventure for me, but my wife, who is an experience horsewoman, took on a more difficult ride with Scott for a second hour. In addition to horseback riding, the trails can be hiked. The 3.5 mile Creek Loop carries visitors to a stream on the Barnsley Estate, then returns to the starting point.
Fly fishing is taught in a lakeside setting, and Barnley has a sporting clays course. Bike rentals (for 12 miles of off-road bicycle adventure), registration for all outdoor activities and a gift shop are all at a trading post type house known as the outpost. Pre-register at the time you make your reservation, especially for the more popular guided activities.
Plan at least a 2-day stay to enjoy everything Barnsley has to offer. The town of Adairsville is about 7 miles from the Gardens and Cartersville is about 12 miles, but you probably won't want to leave once you are there. Be prepared to make your dining reservations when you book your rooms and plan to eat at the Rice House at least once. The upscale food and presentation is truly elegant. A small museum is adjacent to the original Barnsley home, which was the living quarters for the family from 1906 on. Maps and interpretive signs guide visitors through a tour of the historic area.
From Atlanta: Take I-75 North to Exit 306. Turn left on GA 140 and travel 1.8 miles to Halls Station Road. Turn left and travel 5.5 miles to Barnsley Gardens Road. Turn right and travel 2.6 miles to the entrance to Barnsley Gardens on the left.
From Chattanooga: Take I-75 North to Exit 306. Turn right on GA 140 and travel 1.8 miles to Halls Station Road. Turn left and travel 5.5 miles to Barnsley Gardens Road. Turn right and travel 2.6 miles to the entrance to Barnsley Gardens on the left.
Alternate directions from Atlanta: Take I-75 North to exit 288 (Main St., Cartersville). At the light at the top of the ramp, turn left and follow the road through downtown. Continue straight ahead on 293 (it comes in from the right) and stay on it to Kingston. Just after the road rises to cross the railroad tracks, turn right on Hall's Station Road. Continue north to a left on Barnsley Gardens Road and travel 2.6 miles to the entrance on the left.