Where to Go: Barnsley Gardens Resort, Georgia

Barnsley Gardens—Spirit of Love

by Kathie Farnell

Just an hour north of Atlanta lies a hauntingly beautiful garden whose story is one of love, loss and rebirth. Barnsley Gardens Resort, just outside the little town of Adairsville, began life as Woodlands, a plantation whose centerpiece was the Italianate antebellum mansion designed by Godfrey Barnsley for his wife, Julia. Godfrey had elaborate gardens planted and even hauled in an enormous fir tree that still stands one hundred seventy years later, but his project seemed doomed; before the elegant house was completed, Julia died.  Much later, Godfrey was wandering disconsolately through his gardens when he saw his wife’s spirit floating above a fountain.

She told him to finish the house.

He did.

Photo credit: Jack Purser

His troubles weren’t over, though. The Civil War took a devastating toll on the beautiful house, and a 1906 tornado finished it off. So completely were the ruins of the house hidden behind overgrown shrubbery that when German Prince Hubertus Fugger purchased the 3300-acre property in 1988, he was startled to discover that he had also acquired the remains of what had been one of North Georgia’s most beautiful mansions.

Today, Barnsley Gardens is listed on the Conde Nast Traveller Gold List as one of the World’s Best Places to Stay.  Guests come from all over to its luxurious cottages, arranged in a setting designed to evoke a nineteenth-century English village. The resort hosts weddings year-round and 99% of them take place in the ruins of the mansion house.

Photo credit--Barnsley Gardens Resort

At first, this sounds rather sad—getting married in the wreckage of somebody’s house. However, the atmosphere is one of enchantment, with the stately brick ruins lit by hundreds of candles, and roaring fires in the huge fireplaces casting a glow on the beautifully-maintained gardens. In addition to weddings, the ruins are also in demand for intimate candlelight dinners and cocktail receptions.

Photo credit: Jack Purser

The Rice House—the resort’s fine dining venue, located near the ruins in a nineteenth-century farmhouse—is a popular spot for large receptions. Other dining options include The Woodlands Grill, which overlooks the eighteen-hole championship golf course, and the Beer Garden, a popular spot for pre-wedding parties. The intimate European-inspired spa offers a full menu of services (while we were there, options included the rather startling Warm Cranberry Massage) including mud wraps and reflexology.

In fine weather, guests enjoy exploring the resort’s miles of trails, fishing, canoeing and horseback riding. Picnic baskets are available for guests exploring the gardens—or just enjoying an intimate evening by the fireplace.

Barnsley Gardens Resort is located near Adairsville, Georgia, one hour north of Atlanta via Interstate I-75. For more information on planning a wedding at the Gardens, check the website at or telephone 877-773-2447.

Top photo courtesy of Barnsley Gardens Resort.

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