The Winter Wonders of Barnsley Resort

The Winter Wonders of Barnsley Resort
Words by Rebecca Deurlein
Photos by Barnsley Resort

Just an hour northwest of Atlanta, Barnsley Resort is sprawling yet cozy, a getaway so perfectly comfortable that you may never want to leave your private cottage. 

From archery and clay shooting lessons to horseback riding and quail hunting—Georgia is the quail sporting capital of the U.S.—this Southern getaway will summon your outdoor spirit and nurture your inner self with good food, Southern music, Barnsley’s signature pecan bourbon, and family get-togethers around fire pits.

Established in the mid-nineteenth century as Godfrey Barnsley’s grand estate home known as The Woodlands, it eventually opened to the public, who were eager to stroll the estate’s elaborate gardens. In 1999, the property evolved into a resort—one where details matter, from the accommodations to the activities to the food. 

With its natural woodlands and rolling hills, the property is a draw for outdoorsmen and those with a competitive nature. Barnsley partners with John Burrell’s High Adventure Company and the Beretta Italian shotgun brand to provide everything you need to try your hand at quail hunting, from guns and ammo to dogs that will flush and point out the prey. The team will even fillet and pack your quail for transport back home. 

Learn the meaning of the words “smooth and deliberate” taking a clay shooting class with Randy Mangum. Tuck that Beretta shotgun against your face and shoulder, follow the clay with your eyes, and feel the exhilaration the first time you hit a moving target. With two fifteen-station clay courses featuring covered five-stands and eight traps setting off clays from different angles and heights, you’ll be challenged as you unearth your hidden Annie Oakley.  

Prefer targets that sit still? Air rifles and archery are a fun diversion and a great way to strike up friendly competition with your friends and family. When hunting isn’t taking place, a UTV ride around the grounds opens up beautiful vistas. And if calm is more your speed, wander the legendary gardens leading up to the ruins of the original Barnsley home. They are at once haunting and beautiful, and the traditional English boxwood garden surrounding them is a lovely way to pass an hour. 

In fact, the entire grounds are breathtaking. The upscale hunting lodge lobby is everything you desire in winter—a crackling fire, warm rugs anchoring cozy sofas, and the resort’s signature bourbon in an old-fashioned still. Bourbon tastings are a convivial way to meet your fellow travelers and take home a drink recipe so you can recreate the memory. 

A stroll beyond the main building leads to a Mayberry-esque cul-de-sac dotted with private cottages, sweet homes where you’ll find a basket of firewood on your front porch, a cushy family room where you can cozy up to that fire, and a clawfoot tub and plush robes in your bathroom. Down the middle of this hamlet are firepits and chairs, twinkling lights, and at Christmastime, an abundance of decorated trees and wreaths that would make the Grinch’s heart grow five sizes.

The Outpost gift shop, with its green tin roof and log cabin façade, front porch, and rambling creek, is simply adorable and the perfect place to finish up your holiday shopping. On that same street is a popular outdoor meetup, the Beer Garden, where Southern Christmas music becomes the backdrop to the quaint winter scene. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample the barbecue here. Pitmaster Paul Patureau, who trained with Peg Leg Porker’s Carey Bringle in Nashville, has been barbecuing for over forty years, and it shows in his smokey, flavor-mingled dishes. Patureau makes roughly eight gallons of his own barbecue sauce each week, and he has created all of the rubs for the brisket, ribs, beer can chicken, pork, and fish served on property. 

Woodlands Grill, the main restaurant that overlooks the golf course, serves three meals a day, all of it through-the-roof delicious. Executive Chef Javier Cuesta makes fall-off-the-bone braised short ribs and Alaskan king salmon cooked to perfection, and he even knows his way around kettle cooking, producing creamy, heavenly eggs from atop an open fire. 

There is a reason so many families make Barnsley their annual tradition—especially for holiday gatherings. While the 3,000-acre property caters to everyone from golfers to spa dwellers to brides and grooms, you never feel lost in a crowd. The resort has worked hard to grow slowly and intentionally, with a deep desire to create curated experiences. 

Barnsley beckons you outside. It pulls you away from your cell phone and Netflix and reminds you how much fun it is to shoot an arrow, ride a horse, or toast marshmallows by the fire. The simple pleasures take you back to your childhood, and the food and drinks, along with excellent customer service, make you glad you’re an adult.