Driving along the rolling Blue Ridge Parkway, I couldn’t help but wonder when we’d get there. Having spent my formative years in Southwestern Virginia, it’s a part of the state I thought I knew well, but I was discovering on that lazy drive from Washington, DC that much of what I consider to be Virginia’s most beautiful region was still unknown to me. But that’s why I was there, to discover a new destination, one that has quickly become famous as one of the country’s top resort properties – Primland.
Its antecedents go back generations, but the luxury hotel and resort known simply as Primland only began life a few years ago in 2009. That’s ultimately why I was so surprised when I first discovered it while reading a travel magazine. I consider the Blue Ridge to be my hometown, and the fact that one of the country’s top ranked properties was hidden away in the mountains left me dumbfounded. I shouldn’t have felt bad though, partly due to its relatively recent emergence onto the luxury travel scene, but also because of its small size, luxury travelers are still slowly learning about this remarkable hotel.
The Primland Story
I love history and so I soaked up the history of the land surrounding Primland as soon as I arrived. The current hotel rests comfortably on 12,000 acres of Southwestern Virginia mountains and woods, a secluded area that’s been used as a prime spot for hunters for generations. The currents owners have held the land for decades, but it’s only been in the last few years that the full vision was realized. Originally purchased as a forestry business, by the 1980s the business also included a large reserve with activities like hunting, fishing, sporting clays and horseback riding. Over the years the services expanded, a world-class golf course was installed and then came the Lodge and surrounding accommodations themselves, ultimately resulting in today’s luxury resort Primland.
What Makes It Special
Reviews of hotels and resorts are inherently boring and I understand that. They’re also boring to write, believe it or not, which is why I only do them when the experience is truly something special, like at Primland. I anticipated a special long weekend away and all of my expectations were quickly met and then surpassed. Ultimately though, Primland has a certain “It” factor that few other places have and I think this is due in large part to its small size. While they have recently added new treehouse lodgings and cottage accommodations, the main Lodge itself has just 26 guestrooms, which guarantees an experience that is intimate and almost personalized. Walking into the door, the front of house staff were ready and waiting for me, nothing for me to do except explore my room and relax.
There are a variety of room options, but all are spacious and offer a sense of place that is rare to find. The entire property is designed in what I would call a modern rustic feeling. Wood is everywhere, reclaimed cedar in most cases, and it feels like you’re staying in a friend’s mountain cabin tucked far away in the woods. And that is honestly what the experience is like. Whether it was relaxing by the outdoor fireplace cooking S’Mores, enjoying a private breakfast in my room or exploring the massive property, staying at Primland was less like a corporate hotel experience and more like a lovely weekend away with friends.
This feeling is one that can’t be created; it really just has to happen. The surroundings are definitely part of the magic, but so is the staff. I’ve often said that anyone can build a fancy hotel, but it’s the service and the dedication to hospitality on behalf of the staff that truly defines a luxury experience. Even though many of the staff members had limited experience in the hospitality business before joining Primland, their self-education and desire to succeed has paid off and the result is honestly a group of the most attentive resort staff members I’ve ever met. Nothing was ever a problem, anything was possible and I was always met with a smile. That goes a long way and without it, Primland would not be the success that it is today.
Experiencing Nature, Not Just Looking At It
While there are plenty of opportunities to relax and do nothing at all at Primland, either in the spacious lobby or their nature-inspired spa, I think that this is the perfect place for the active traveler. There are far too many activities to list, much less actually do, but being outside in the middle of nature is I think a defining part of the Primland experience. I’m not a hunter or angler, so I skipped those activities but I did find some solace in the woods through an unlikely adventure – disc golf. This niche sport is played using special Frisbees on a course that looks very much like a golf course. This full, and massive, 18-hole course winds through pastures and woodlands, giving guests the chance to experience nature in a different way and getting a workout at the same time. While I don’t hunt, I do surprisingly enough enjoy shooting, so I was sure to also book some time with the sporting clays. Under the guidance of one of Primland’s shooting experts, I held my own as I attacked the flying clays without mercy.
I also spent a morning joining in on what is one of the most popular activities at Primland – offroad adventures on an ATV. Led ably by staff who know the forests well, we set off for a couple hours of fun exploration around the beautiful mountain terrain and finding special viewpoints that made it feel as if we were the only people in the Blue Ridge.
What separates Primland from other resorts isn’t actually found in the woods, it’s found high up in the heavens. Primland is home to what I believe is the only Observatory Dome at a resort in the world. The modern glass enclosed “silo” attached to the main building has a secret on the top floor. The dome opens and swivels 360 degrees to give Primland’s massive Celestron telescope a chance to observe stars and planets millions of miles away. The staff astronomer leads guests through a nightly Tour of the Universe, in which she focuses the telescope on celestial phenomena that most people have never seen before. The tour concludes with a walk outside where, again under the guidance of the astronomer, guests see the night sky in a way that’s hard to find – without any light pollution. It’s rare in this modern age to see such a full array of stars with the naked eye and is just one more reason why Primland is so very special.
The Overall Effect
I knew I would enjoy my experience at Primland even before I left home; it’s one of the top ranked resorts in the country for a reason. But what I didn’t realize is how completely I would enjoy the experience. Nothing was off the mark, from the delicious meals (which deserve a post in their own right) to the friendly staff and of course the scenery of Virginia’s Blue Ridge, everything clicked in a way that is very hard to find. I’m a curmudgeon and can almost always find fault with a hotel or resort, but in all honesty I found no flaws at Primland. My only fear is though that others like me will discover it and it’ll be much harder to get a room the next time I want to disconnect with modern life and reconnect with the real world.