Located in the foothills of the North Georgia mountains (45 miles southwest of Ellijay), the Barnsley Gardens Resort ruins offer a rare glimpse of the state’s pre-Civil War history.
Most of Georgia’s early 19th century landmarks were destroyed during Maj. Gen. William Sherman’s march to the sea.
The Union Army’s “scorched earth” approach was designed to break the back of the Confederacy by disrupting the South’s economy and transportation networks.
Along the way, they destroyed military targets as well as key industrial sites, infrastructure, and even civilian property.
Read on for a taste of the tragic pre- and post-Civil War history of the English Manor built by Godfrey Barnsley in the 1840s, as well as a look at the beautiful North Georgia Resort that welcomes visitors to this historic estate today.
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BARNSLEY GARDENS RESORT INFO
ADDRESS: 597 Barnsley Gardens Rd, Adairsville, GA 30103
ACCOMMODATIONS: One-Bedroom Cottage Suites (Sleeps 4); One-Bedroom Arbor Cottages (Sleeps 4); Manor Rooms & Estate Cottages (Sleep 6 to 18); 55 guest rooms & suites at the Inn at Barnsley Resort.
SPA HOURS: Mon-Thu 9am to 5pm; Fri-Sat 9am to 6pm; Sun 9am to 4pm
DIRECTIONS: From Atlanta, take I-75N to exit 306 for GA-140 toward Summerville/Adairsville. Use the left 2 lanes to turn left onto GA-140 W/Folsom Rd SE (signs for Bernsley Garden). Go about 1.8 miles and turn left onto Hall Station Rd NW. In 5.5 miles, turn right onto Barnsley Gardens Rd. The resort office is about 2.5 miles down on the left.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- VISITING THE BARNSLEY GARDENS RUINS
- BARNSLEY ESTATE HISTORY
- THE BIRTH OF BARNSLEY GARDENS RESORT
- BARNSLEY RESORT SPA
- BARNSLEY RESORT COTTAGES & INN
- BARNSLEY RESORT RESTAURANTS
- BARNSLEY GARDENS GOLF & OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
VISITING THE BARNSLEY GARDENS RUINS
There’s an eerie air to the Barnsley Gardens Resort ruins at night.
Dim light guides our way through the maze of English boxwoods in the formal garden. The wind rushes through ancient imported trees.
The imposing frame of the once-stunning manor looms large before us, with candlelight casting a haunting glow on the ghostly Italian-style architecture.
The mysterious mood that seems to surround the ruins makes sense once you learn more about the history of Barnsley Gardens, which dates back nearly 180 years.
It begins a love story as tragic as anything William Shakespeare ever concocted, includes death and financial ruin, and has rumored connections with a famous Southern icon.
As told by resident historian and museum director Clent Coker, the Barnsley saga is a dramatic Southern epic that’s practically begging for a Hollywood film adaptation.
BARNSLEY ESTATE HISTORY
In the 1840s, English cotton baron Godfrey Barnsley purchased 8,000 acres of former Cherokee land in Bartow County. There, in the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, he planned to build a magnificent estate for his beloved wife.
Unfortunately Julia, a shipping heiress from Savannah, succumbed to consumption before construction was completed. She ultimately died just a few hours before her husband returned from his trip to New Orleans.
The grief-stricken Barnsley abandoned his grand vision for the estate (which was originally known as Woodlands) for a year. Then, according to legend, Julia’s ghost appeared to him in the English gardens and instructed him to finish work on the manor for their six children.
Godfrey forged on, only to lose his vast fortune during the Civil War. Union soldiers ransacked the estate and stole more than $150,000 in valuables (which would be worth millions today).
After he returned to New Orleans and unsuccessfully attempted to rebuild his fortune, his daughter Julia (who was rumored to be the inspiration for Gone With the Wind character Scarlett O’Hara) struggled to renovate the property.
In 1906, a tornado blew the roof off of the home, forcing the nearly destitute family to move into the kitchen wing. In 1935, one of Godfrey’s great-grandsons murdered his brother in a dispute over control of the property. You can still see the bloodstains on the floor today.
Seven years later, the entire Barnsley estate was sold at auction. It eventually fell into ruin due to decades of owner neglect.
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THE BIRTH OF BARNSLEY GARDENS RESORT
The estate’s return to glory began back in 1988, when Prince Hubertus Fugger of Bavaria purchased the 1300 acres of land on which the resort currently resides.
The Prince originally planned to demolish the ruins and rebuild from scratch. But then he met Mr. Coker, whose family’s connection to the Barnsleys dates back over 100 years (and who owns dozens of the historical artifacts now housed in the Barnsley Museum).
After learning about the property’s rich antebellum history, the Prince and his wife began restoring the Barnsley Gardens, opening them to the public in 1992.
A few years later, the Fuggers built Barnsley Gardens Resort, which now ranks among the most highly-rated North Georgia resorts. The property reimagines an authentic 19th-century pedestrian village, so guests feel as if they’re visiting a true Southern country estate.
Now owned by a team of private investors, the resort is like nothing you’ve ever seen. A favorite romantic place for weekend getaways from Atlanta, it transports you into a time-warped alternate reality that seems both historic and strangely modern at the same time.
BARNSLEY RESORT SPA
Our Barnsley Gardens Resort experience began before we even checked in, with a visit to their European-style spa.
Like all buildings on the estate, the spa’s architecture was based on the principles of Andrew Jackson Downing (the original designer of The White House grounds and the Washington Mall).
But inside the services are decidedly 21st century, with a range of facial and body treatments, massage treatments, and salon services.
The Barnsley spa also offers complimentary steam, sauna and whirlpool; as well as a variety of customizable packages designed to deliver hours of pampering. In our eyes, the spa is one of the key factors that makes Barnsley Gardens one of the best resorts in Georgia for couples.
A 50-minute couples massage worked wonders for rubbing away the stress of our work week. Afterwards, we eagerly drove from Registration to our Arbor Cottage suite to enjoy the other fruits of our “Romantic Hideaway” weekend.
Note that in-room massages can also be arranged. Check pricing for Barnsley Garden Resort on Booking.com.
BARNSLEY GARDENS RESORT COTTAGES & INN
Once you visit, it’s easy to see why Barnsley Gardens Resort has received critical accolades such as Travel & Leisure’s “500 World’s Best Hotels,” Condé Nast’s “Top 75 North American Resorts,” and Zagat Survey’s “Top 50 Small Hotels in the U.S.”
Our English-style garden was immaculate, and the rustic rocking chairs on the front porch were perfectly in-tune with the resort’s laid-back country vibe.
Opening the barn-wood door, we were wowed by an expansive interior filled with homey antiques, a stone-hearth fireplace, and a wet bar, where a chilled bottle of champagne awaited us.
The high-ceiling bedroom featured an antique king sized bed, while the ample bathroom featured a massive marble-tiled shower and a claw-footed bathtub.
In addition to the six Manor Cottages, Barnsley Gardens also offers one-bedroom Cottage Suites and Arbor Cottages that sleep up to four people. Their Manor Rooms and Estate Cottages can sleep anywhere from 6 to 18 people. And the Inn at Barnsley Resort offers 55 guest rooms and suites.
All Barnsley cottages feature hardwood floors, wood-burning fireplaces, and clawfoot tubs. Many include two separate one-bedroom suites, each with a living room, king size bedroom, and porches perfect for enjoying the pastoral view, and sounds of birds chirping nearby.
There are no weight limits for pets, but all dogs must be on leashes for the duration of their stay. Standard amenities include pet beds, bowls, and treats, and it’s possible to arrange pet sitting services with advance notice.
See more details for Barnsley’s room options and pricing on Booking.com.
BARNSLEY RESORT RESTAURANTS
Later that night we made our way along the village’s tree-lined walkways to the Woodlands Grill, a lodge-like steakhouse named after the original Barnsley estate.
There, we struggled to determine whether the lightly fried lobster tail with horseradish sauce, gargantuan jumbo shrimp over lobster risotto, or perfectly cooked filet mignon was more delicious. In the end, it was a tie.
Our meal the next night in the Rice House, which offers an epicurean spin on classic Southern cuisine, was equally divine. With its intimate ambience and upscale decor, it’s a great place for a romantic dinner for two.
The Grill offers a buffet breakfast we heard rave reviews about, but we elected to stay in and have room service. The resort also offers a seasonal, German-style beer garden featuring light snacks, beer, and wine in an outdoor setting centered around a roaring open-pit fire.
BARNSLEY GARDENS GOLF & OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
For those seeking an active North Georgia vacation, Barnsley Gardens Resort features a broad range of outdoor activities.
These range from horseback riding and cycling to hiking, fishing, and canoeing/kayaking on their 10-acre lake. The on-site Orvis Pro Shop offers private shooting and fly-casting instruction, as well as a sporting clay course.
The Barnsley Gardens Golf Course, designed by Jim Fazio, was ranked the #1 Golf Course in Georgia by GolfAdvisor.com. The rolling 378 acress of championship greens are surrounded by stunning scenic views of the lake, forests, and mountains.
Garden-variety sports enthusiasts can also play croquet, bocce ball, or badminton in the picturesque Town Square.
In short, there are a million things to do in this unusual North Georgia resort.
But with its luxurious cottages, top-notch amenities, and attentive service, the truth is that you can have a memorable time simply by embracing the distinctively Southern serenity of Godfrey Barnsley’s love-inspired dream. –text & photos by Bret Love, featured image via Booking.com