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Clent Coker

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Guns and Roses: 5 Reasons to Love Barnsley Resort

Guests can arrange just about any type of special event for small groups or large. We enjoyed a bourbon tasting one evening on the lawn with Blake Black, bartender extraordinaire, who rose to our challenge to create a new drink – the peach old-fashioned.

I can’t sing. I can’t draw. And I can’t arrange flowers to save my life, despite my garden club membership. (I’m the token remedial member.) I can now add shooting, golfing and fly fishing to the list of things I have no natural talent for.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy all those things, and love getting a chance to give it a go. That’s one of the reasons I love Barnsley Resort, a 3,000-acre resort about an hour from Atlanta. I tried my sometimes unsteady hand at several new activities and indulged in old favorites as well on a recent getaway.

And those are just a few of the reasons I’ve fallen in love with this charming property. Here are all five:

Skip Smith showing me how to hold and shoot a gun. If any sporting clays ever attack me, I’m ready.
  1. The Chance to Try New Things 

The itinerary for our “Annie Get Your Fun” girlfriends getaway included lessons with experts on shooting clays, fly fishing and golf. Three things all our instructors had in common were a great deal of knowledge about their sport, patience with a group of novice women and the ability to teach well.

For our venture with SpringBank Sporting Club at Barnsley, one of the top facilities in the country, we drove to course in the woods and gathered in a covered five-stand layout. (Impressed with my lingo?) We got a safety lesson that included how to hold a gun – a first for some of us. We then put on our safety goggles and ear plugs and under the expert tutelage of our instructors, proceeded to shoot at flying orange clays, with loud blasts closely followed by squeals of delight when one of us hit one.

The course includes a five-station Executive Course and 26-station course where you simulate shooting game like quail and rabbits. We made our way around a few stations, with our instructors patiently guiding us as we hefted the shotguns and took aim at the darting orange discs, missing way more than we hit.

We whacked hundreds of balls on the driving range during our lesson. I’m not sure I’ll ever take up golf, as my favorite part is still zipping around in the golf cart.

The fly fishing lesson was much quieter, as we practiced casting flies on the large pond, aiming to place a straight line on the water. Time didn’t allow us a full fly fishing experience, but several options are available. We admired the trays full of carefully crafted flies, many blinged out, and learned that rather than call them pretty, we should compliment them by calling them buggy. A decidedly more manly term.

Another morning we jumped on new tricked-out golf carts and hit the Fazio-designed course for our golf lesson, starting first on the driving range. While those pros at The Masters make it look so effortless, we found it a bit more challenging to make that ball soar towards the hole. It was fun to take a whack at a huge stack of balls, resolving each time as zillions of golfers have before us, to do better with the next shot. 

  1. The Chance to Indulge in Activities I Love

 In between all that shootin, golfin’ and fishin’ there was plenty of time to relax and enjoy some of my favorite activities. Activities include hiking on the many wooded trails, kayaking on the ponds, playing bocce, tennis, horseshoes or disc golf, lounging in the pool or enjoying a cold one at the Beer Garden. A trip to the spa helps soothe any aching muscles, while evenings spent relaxing on Adirondack chairs on the lawn are a favorite memory for me.

Guests can grab makings for s’mores from the lobby and toast the night away in more ways than one.

  1. My home during my stay at Barnsley. I had a swing on the front porch and a couple of chairs on the back to indulge in one of my favorite activities – porch sittin’.

    The Charming Cottages 

With claw-foot tubs, writing desk, huge deluxe bed, wet bar and comfortable seating options, the cottages at Barnsley are some of my favorite accommodations anywhere. There’s plenty of room to spread out, work if necessary, and even room in the tub for two on those romantic weekends. Oh, and did I mention the fireplace? On a previous trip with my husband, we enjoyed a room-service dinner by the fireplace for a delightful evening on a chilly, rainy night.

Barnsley has 90 cottage guest rooms and suites, arranged in tree-lined lanes that lend it a small village feel. There are six multi-room Estate Cottages if you’re traveling with a group. More options are coming within the year when the new three-story, 55-room Inn at Barnsley Resort opens.

  1. Barnsley’s History and Ruins
We had cocktails by the fire followed by dinner in the Manor House Ruins one evening, a simply enchanting night.

Speaking of romance, Barnsley’s very existence stems from a love story.

We learned this and more from historian Clent Coker, who regaled us with stories of Barnsley, a passion of his since he was a boy growing up in the area. He has written a book on Barnsley, “Barnsley Gardens at Woodlands,” and supplied historical photos for the small museum housed in the ruins.

We enjoyed meals in Woodlands Grill and a memorable pig roast in the Beer Garden. One morning at Woodlands I ordered this cathead biscuit, big enough for three meals.

Originally called Woodlands, the estate was built by Godfrey Barnsley for his bride Julia in the 1840s. But Julia and their infant son died before the house was finished. He completed the home and ornate gardens, and his family lived there for generations.

Despite damage caused by Yankees during the Civil War, the house and family remained. But in 1906 a tornado left the house in ruins. A new owner restored the property and opened it as Barnsley Gardens in 1991. He made the wise decision to keep the Manor House Ruins, now one of the most popular spots for events on the property.

The love stories continue as many couples begin their married life on adjacent lawns of this enchanted venue.

The heirloom gardens are spectacular, and include 200 varieties of roses. The more knowledgable members of my garden club could even identify a few of them. If you aren’t able to stay in Barnsley overnight, day tours of the gardens are available.

  1. The Getaway-From-It-All Factor 
Preparations for a pig roast in the Beer Garden. We had pig, fried chicken, Brunswick Stew and fried catfish. They know how to cook at Barnsley.

I’ve always been a city girl. When my brownie troup went to visit a dairy, our photo was in a local paper with the headline, “City Girls See Cow.”

But living in a city has a certain stress factor, especially for a writer with constant deadlines. And more so now in Atlanta where the highways seemed to have gathered in revolt with some bizarre new closure every few days.

A visit to Barnsley from Atlanta is a quick and easy antidote to stress, and worth the longer travel time from other parts of the country.

When I drive through the gates and am greeted by the friendly staff, I can take a deep breath. And relax. Exactly what I’m looking for in a getaway.

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