The sun beamed brightly through the aged, weathered brick wall that once held a roof. Ivy clung to the sides, invading the space, enforcing nature’s eminent domain. This is an old and previously neglected structure–its walls hold history and beauty.
I was standing in the ruins of the manor house of the former Barnsley Estate, now located in the Barnsley Gardens Resort in Adairsville, 15 minutes north of Cartersville. The ruins, now a museum, once stood as a symbol of Godfrey Barnsley’s wealth. Today it still presents itself with sophistication and beauty.
According to Barnsley’s Historian and Museum Director Clent Coker, the original manor, called Woodlands, was an estate built by Barnsley for the love of his life, his wife Julia. Barnsley began construction on his Italianate villa in the 1840s in the north Georgia foothills on land that once had been inhabited by the Cherokee Indians.
I met Coker during my visit to the ruins. As I roamed through the museum, Coker gave a historical overview of the estate and its former glory. The manor house, one of several buildings on the estate, had indoor plumbing, marble imported from Italy and France and furnishings from around the world.
Housed at the museum are various Civil War artifacts and household relics from previous residents. But the real treat was the look and feel of the walls. The bricks were amazing–colors ranging from a dull crimson to a dusty rose. They were uneven and worn with no two bricks the same–a stark comparison to today’s bright, cookie-cutter manufactured bricks. I was touching history–built more than 170 years ago.
The beauty stretched beyond the walls to the well-kept garden below–a maze of shrubs and flowers complete with a pond and fountain.
Barnsley Gardens Resort has an 18-hole championship golf course; three restaurants–The Rice House; Beer Garden and Woodlands Grills–and a full-service spa. Guests are housed in unique and well-appointed cottages, featuring king-size beds, hardwood floors, fireplaces, large flat-screen televisions and claw-foot soaking tubs.
But staying indoors would be a disservice to the full Barnsley experience.
There are trails that wind throughout the vast property. You can walk, bike or drive. I chose to drive, not a car but a golf cart. The carts are available to rent, and it was the best way to explore the resort. (Don’t forget your camera!)
There are open grassy lawns, fields of wildflowers and ponds with large shady trees. Recreation options include golf, horseback riding, tennis, swimming, hunting and Frisbee golf. Although I didn’t ride a horse, I did visit the stables and had an opportunity to see and interact with the horses.
You don’t have to stay at the resort to partake in its recreational and dining services. Visitors can pay a $10 entrance fee to access the grounds at Barnsley. While there, I dined at the Rice House–a formal dining experience. The building is a restored 1854 farmhouse that was the former home of Fleming Rice and his family. The log building was originally located in Rome, Ga. but was moved to Barnsley Gardens in 1994.
The food was amazing. I’m not a salad lover, but the grilled romaine stalk topped with smoked bacon, fried onions, blue cheese and Dijon-herb vinaigrette was an excellent choice. My entrée was grilled apple-lacquered pork tenderloin with sweet potato hash and dessert was ice cream topped with fresh berries and an almond cookie. The flavor and presentation were great, and the service was excellent. Our server was attentive, had solid food knowledge and made good recommendations.
Barnsley Garden Resort was a nice end to my Cartersville road trip. I will definitely make a return visit, stay longer and take in more activities. On my next visit, I will also bring my dog because the resort is pet-friendly.