We’re fresh off a trip to Barnsley Gardens Resort in Adairsville, Ga., a countryside retreat tucked away on 3,300 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills. The bucolic spot provides a nice setting for outdoor activities, and you can make the most of it with a Jim Fazio-designed golf course, horse stable, hunting preserve and sporting clay course. The private cottages and resident Fairy Godmother — a romance concierge who helps personalize everything from picnic baskets to marriage proposals — charmed us, but we were especially intrigued by the Three-Star hotel’s history.
We were able to walk through time by visiting “the ruins,” a Civil War-era manor that was built by Englishman Godfrey Barnsley in the 1840s for his beloved wife, Julia (sadly, she never lived to see its completion). The remaining structure is a red-bricked beauty, lacking windows and a roof (it was blown off in a 1906 tornado), but elegantly draped in ivy. The home has wide, wood-planked floors with working fireplaces and garden views in most rooms, and it plays host to plein-air weddings throughout the year. At night, the ruins are gently lit and offer excellent stargazing. It’s also a romantic place for a fireside dinner — that is, if you can brave Julia Barnsley’s ghost, who is rumored to make an appearance from time to time.