Story and photos by Joe Tennis
Perched high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Primland Resort sprawls across 12,000 acres. Seriously, it’s huge—with lots of room to hike, bike, hunt, fish and golf.
It’s also big on making guests feel rested and relaxed. Rooms are spacious and artfully decorated, many with a European flair and modern yet comfortable. You can opt for valet parking and have someone carry your bags. Or, coming here, you can simply do it all yourself.
Primland lies in the laid-back southwestern corner of Virginia, where homespun hospitality practically requires treating your neighbor the same way you want to be treated. Coming here also simply means having a good time, says Santana Lawson, a mixologist from nearby Mount Airy, N.C.
On a Sunday night, Lawson delivers my dinner—a spinach salad followed by a trout stuffed with crabmeat. I wash it down with a flight of craft beers. Still, Lawson tempts me with more on the menu, including a dessert stuffed with bacon. Is that healthy? I ask. “At this elevation,” she says, grinning, “I would say calories don’t count.”
Indeed, Primland sits up high, at about 3,000 feet above sea level. Just a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, it’s lined by miles of its own roads plus even more miles of trails, including portions of what was once designated the Appalachian Trail. That old AT, here, has now been restored for guests to explore, hiking among rocks and rhododendron.
Breakfast at the resort can include made-to-order spinach omelets at Elements, the main restaurant at Primland, which also serves seafood and steaks for dinner. For a lighter touch, you can stop in the 19th Pub, with its casual indoor and outdoor dining areas, or you can sample such fare as a tasty Shrimp Po’ Boy at the Woodland Grill.
Primland took its name from its founder, the late Didier Primat, a French businessman. For years, in the 1980s, it was simply a business that sold firewood off the mountainous land in Patrick County.
Getting here from Hampton Roads, Primland is a straight shot across the state—right down U.S. Route 58. But, coming here, you do climb high into the heavens. At night, expect the sky to be quite dark at the lodge, surrounded by forests. Yet, without light pollution from nearby cities, that makes it practically perfect for stargazing.
After hours, the resort offers “Tour of the Universe,” a popular program that includes taking a look at the stars through a high-powered telescope. Guests can also climb the Primland tower, shaped like a silo. There, an astronomy expert points out the lights of the heavens, noting stars, planets, comets and moons.
Away from any kind of metropolis, Primland essentially sits in the middle of nowhere. It’s also so big that it requires having two main entrances: from U.S. 58 near Meadows of Dan and another, the south alternate entrance, near Claudville.
Come morning, you can hop on horseback. Popular equine tours are led by schoolteacher Sara George, who offers plainspoken observations when stopping to see deer or wild turkey. “People enjoy coming out here, just seeing the woods,” George says. “You listen to nature: the wind blowing through the trees and the birds singing.”
Other adventurers can mash the gas of an off-road vehicle and splash through mud puddles on the many miles of Primland’s paths. “These things can cover a lot of ground,” says tour guide Nick Seymore. “You’re probably talking 20 or 25 miles in a couple-hour ride.”
Primland’s long list of other activities includes guided hunting trips, guided fishing trips, sporting clays, tennis and golf. The immaculate golf course at Primland overlooks the craggy Pinnacles of Dan and is meticulously manicured. Designed by Donald Steel, The Highland Course overlooks the Dan River Gorge, the Pinnacles of Dan and North Carolina’s piedmont.
For the ultimate rejuvenation, as well, nothing beats an afternoon of massage therapy followed by a swim at Primland’s indoor pool. Many opt for the popular full-body massage then meditate in the relaxation room, sipping hot tea and reading Native American literature.
New this year, you can book a suite at the Fairway Cottages. Styled to satisfy guests wanting versatility, the cottages include large rooms for parties, big beds and terrific tubs as well as spacious decks that appear to nearly hang over the lip of the Dan River Gorge.
You can also climb inside a treehouse—hidden down a lane, away from the main lodge. Staying inside that structure is truly the most ultimate private palace and aptly named: a tree literally grows out of an observation deck.