The porch swing has an endearing squeak. My tall glass of iced tea is welcome on this beautiful May day beneath cloudless blue Georgia skies. A mild breeze ruffles the pages of my newspaper.

Yes, the paper kind that you hold in your hand.  

Out front, a village green stretches the length of a row of cottages on either side. A couple of folks occupy two Adirondack chairs, reading and relaxing. A young woman laconically rides by on a bicycle. Just down the way, a family plays cornhole.

This is Barnsley Resort in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Georgia. Just about a three-hour drive from Nashville, it has long been one of my favorite getaways. It’s accessible, it exudes Southern hospitality and it’s pet friendly.

Over years of traveling with my beloved dog, Puppy Stout, I’ve found that many of the best hotels and resorts welcome our furry friends. Pup and I first visited Barnsley 15 years ago. It bears repeating.

Of course, you need not take a dog to enjoy this far away, long ago place.

I love the English-styled cottages with their glistening hardwoods, a fireplace for chilly nights and even a window seat perfect for a dog or a human to watch the world go slowly by.

New as of last year is an inn that sports about 50 luxuriously appointed rooms.  While brand spanking new, they have the look and feel of old money. These are not pet-friendly.

The resort is a cornucopia of things to do, or not. Either way, time spent here is immensely enjoyable.

An 18-hole award-winning Jim Fazio-designed golf course beckons. Or, there’s horseback riding, miles and miles of walking trails, guided nature walks, catch-and-release fishing, the 28-station sporting clays, hunting, fly fishing, canoes, kayaks, a pool and an adjacent spa.

Also on property, a farm complete with barn and critters. In May, we spotted baby goats. They’re almost as cute as puppies.  

One of my favorite things at Barnsley is the ruins of a grand 1840’s Southern estate. An Englishman, Godfrey Barnsley, built the refined brick manor home for his beloved Southern wife, Julia. Alas, life took a tragic turn. The young bride died, as did the dreams that began and ended here.

A subsequent fire and the Civil War ravaged the structure but left hauntingly beautiful ruins, perfect for appreciating history or hosting a wedding for new dreamers. Its gardens are a calling card with marvelous mounds of boxwoods and blooms centered by a fountain in this English-styled piece of peace.

It’s enchanting to wander through the rooms. Silent walls that held dreams still reach up to the sky.

The resort’s 3,000 acres were once a private plantation. Today, they are home to this private resort styled with English taste and refinement. It’s the sort of place where you drive in and never get back in the car until time to leave.  

Parting is always such sweet sorrow.

Three restaurants on site serve up Southern fare with heaping helpings of hospitality to match.

The Rice House, a 19th century farmhouse that was moved to this property from Rome, Georgia, whispers elegance.

The Woodlands Grill has a great and very approachable menu. Its interiors have an English hunting lodge atmosphere. I enjoyed meals on the patio that overlooks the emerald green golf course. The food is spot on. From homemade pasta to scallops, every bite I had was delicious.

A very casual beer garden offers outdoor seating beneath strings of white lights. The picnic tables are perfect to savor pub food and craft beers. 

Evenings at Barnsley have a decidedly sweet touch. Circular brick firepits surrounded by Adirondack chairs dot the Village Green. Logs are at the ready as are matches and starter, perfect for s’mores. The inn is stocked with everything needed to make your own beneath a starry sky. No Boy Scout training required.

My visit last month was all about R&R (rest and relaxation). A visit to the spa enhanced the down time. There’s nothing like the hush of a spa to chase away the worries of the world.

Vicki Stout serves as SEM’s travel and food editor. She is also a freelance writer and marketing and public relations consultant.

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