Golfing With Ghosts

Just one hour from Atlanta, the Barnsley Inn offers a golfing getaway steeped in history

Tucked away in the woods an hour outside Atlanta, the Barnsley Inn, and Golf Resort is a property with a very mixed identity. The modern resort, which is owned by a German prince and princess and built around a 19th-century Italian-style mansion, opened less than two years ago. It features a challenging 18-hole Jim Fazio course and a manicured English boxwood garden. According to legend, the resort also is home to the ghost of Julia Barnsley, who is said to be the inspiration for Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.

The original manor house, or ruins, as the staff calls it, is all the more alluring because a tornado ripped it apart in 1906, leaving just the main structure.

Target Clientele: Barnsley is an ideal setting for weddings, which can be held in a charming chapel in the middle of the grounds. The resort also has a meeting facility that can accommodate up to 500 people.

Accommodations: Barnsley is built to resemble a small town instead of a hotel. In fact, there is no hotel but rather 33 separate English cottages housing a total of 70 suites. The cottages have living rooms with a fireplace that is stocked with wood, and the doors lead to a front and back porch with rocking chairs. The tall feather beds are an unusual touch, as are the vases, books, and candleholders placed around the rooms to give them a homey feel. The rooms come with bathrobes, coffee pots, irons and ironing boards, two-line phones, CD players, hairdryers and bottled water, which is replenished daily by the staff.

Public Areas: Barnsley has a little something for everyone, from a full-service spa to clay-pigeon shooting. But it is the par-72 golf course that is the main draw. It was designed to fit in as much as possible with the natural landscape of its 378 acres at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The challenging course includes tree-lined fairways and creeks, Bermuda grass and 77 bunkers. Course and cart fees range from $65 to $100, depending on the season. A service cart makes the rounds to offer beverages to golfers.

If golf is not the activity of choice, the spa at Barnsley is an excellent diversion. The therapists use the upscale line of pure Jurlique products, and the signature therapy is the rose body treatment that uses rose oil and rosewater freshener in a body wrap.

Dining: There are two restaurants on the property. The Rice House next door to the garden and ruins is the more formal and romantic of the two. The chef has a flair for presentation, and there is a wide variety of exquisite Southern dinners with a great selection of seafood and steaks. The casual Woodlands Grill serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner indoors and on a porch that overlooks a pond and golf course. Afternoon tea is served in the reception hall.

Strongest Selling Points: The cottages are tops in lodging. They have large bedrooms, sitting rooms, and bathrooms with antique furnishing (especially the large claw-footed tub that comes with rubber duckies and fine bath gels). The grounds also are a treat with various flower gardens and 150-year-old boxwoods.

Service: The service from check-in to check-out is impeccable. Friendly check-in staff and waiters enhance the stay. The spa therapists are extremely well trained.

Could Be Improved: The lighting is not adequate over the mirrors in the bathroom areas, and the closet space is limited.

Rates & Packages: From July 1 through Sept. 2, rates begin at $215 per night for a Manor Cottage Junior Suite, which is one of four suites within a cottage. The entire two-story Barnsley Cottage, which has two bedrooms, is $625 per night. Rates do not include taxes and service fees.

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