The song on rotation in my head as I wind my way up to the gate at Primland Resort is "Mountain Song" by Flatland Cavalry. A seemingly appropriate song choice for this five-hour road trip from Wilmington, NC, to Southwest Virginia (about 40 minutes North of Mount Airy and the NC Border.) The secluded ecolodge is tucked beneath the purple-hued Blue Ridge Mountains in a speck of a place romantically called Meadows of Dan. And while images of big skies, huntin', fishin', and hikin' are on my mind, Primland is no ordinary mountain retreat.
By Colleen Thompson
Traveling through the rural, bucolic Virginia countryside, with its rolling hills and collective of horses and alpacas meandering endless stretches of farm fields, is already an escape. And I'm settling into my happy place, where curving horizons touch the edges of the sky. Reaching the private gated entrance to Primland, there are another 20 minutes of winding roads through dappled sunlit forests before arriving at the wooden and glass main lodge with its attached spacey-silver-silo. Rugged and ritzy all in one glance.
The 12,000-acre property, now part of the luxury Auberge Resorts Collection, was originally purchased and built by French oil baron and billionaire Didier Primat in the 70s. A lover of the outdoors and Virginia's unspoiled landscape, Primland was once Primat's private estate. The property has since been inherited by his heirs, who also own a 2000-acre restored French chateau called Domaine des Etangs in the Charente-Limousin region.
Understated and elegant, all the furnishings and thick wooden beams throughout Primland are made from reclaimed tobacco barns in Virginia, which lend warmth and just a hint of a calming woodsy scent that I wished I could have bottled. The natural elements and accents of white oak, stone, and glass are everywhere, and the clean, modern design is perfectly balanced and in harmony with the surrounding landscape.
Part of the property's charm is that while it is a five-star luxury retreat, and indulgent on every level, it is also unfussy and wrapped up in Southern hospitality where nothing is too much trouble. You are here to escape everyday life and retreat into an untouched wilderness - while still being pampered with luxury accommodations, gourmet food, and fine wines, but being dressed in khaki pants, a Polo shirt, and even strap-on waders at breakfast, are perfectly acceptable.
The idea at Primland is to be active, not just lounge around doing nothing (although you could). It's more like packing in as much as possible in a day, kicking back with a cocktail, rounding off with a sumptuous meal, and hand-selecting the wine for dinner from the private two-story cellar. And there are plenty of things to do, from archery, clay pigeon shooting, guided hunting, trout fishing, ATV trails, hiking, and horse riding. And if you're still seeking adventure after dinner, you can head to the observatory for some star gazing.
The Mountain Room
Primland offers an array of accommodations, from the main lodge to chalets and wildly romantic treehouses. Staying at the 26-roomed lodge has the advantage of having easy access to the 19th Pub, Elements Restaurant, the observatory, and the lounge area. Booking The Mountain Room, as the name suggests, will allow you to wake up and see the Blue Ridge Mountains in all their glory at sunrise in the distance. The room is an elegant balance of contemporary country, with white Frette linens and plush robes, cedar wall paneling, textured milk and honey-colored wooden floors, and chunky leather seating. The open-concept bathroom, with sliding privacy panels, is strikingly beautiful with European glass mosaic tiles, double sinks, a deep soaker tub, a walk-in shower, and Bvlgari bath products. It's really akin to having an in-room spa. Did I mention there is a turndown service?
As with everything at Primland, there are no shortcuts when it comes to pampering. The Auberge Spa incorporates unique combinations of Native American healing rituals with advanced treatments and Tata Harper Ecocert skin care products. The Dragonfly facial combines sculpting techniques and facial cupping paired with a face, neck, and head massage. A high-frequency current wand is used to reduce the appearance of fine lines and eliminate unwanted skin bacteria. The result is a soothing, relaxing experience with the bonus of looking (or at least feeling) a decade younger. If you’re not rushing off to hike in the woods, there's a lounge area where you can sip herbal tea overlooking the tranquil butterfly garden. There is also an indoor saltwater pool and hot tub overlooking the grounds.
Little Touches, Big Impressions
It's the little things and attention to detail that set places apart. The lavender spray on the bedside table. A sample of lemon-infused olive oil from the estate on the dresser. Providing guests pillowy marshmallows and long-pronged forks to gather around firepits on the patio and roast sticky treats while watching the sunset over the Highland Golf Course. Or that they stock artisanal Bar Hill Gin at the 19th Pub that can be sipped fireside while flipping through the Life & Love of Trees. And then of course there's the food.
Elements, Primland's signature restaurant, embraces the symbolism of earth, water, and fire in a beautiful space with floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the fairways, high beamed ceilings, and a centerpiece floating glassed fireplace. Food is prepared by Executive Chef Ryan DeRieux, who pays particular attention to incorporating ingredients from the Primland gardens and natural surroundings. My dinner started with fried quail, fresh corn grits, bread & butter pickles, and a smudge of sorghum syrup. An entrée of grilled elk with blackberry jus alongside creamed greens of collard, kale, Virginia white cheese, and crispy shallots was sublime. Dessert was hand-churned banana ice cream, fresh figs and paper-thin wafers. And breakfast, was no less extravagant, with fresh biscuits, hand-gathered eggs, wood-smoked salmon, brown-butter waffles, and coffee from Rosetta in Lynchburg, Virginia. The service was impeccable, and the food was faultless.
Watching Galaxies Collide
On arriving at the lodge, you first notice the silo-shaped attachment to the main building - Primlands state-of-the-art observatory - a unique and compelling addition to the resort. With low light pollution, the night skies' altitude and clarity offer some of the best stargazing on the East coast. The rotating astronomy dome opens onto the night skies allowing a 360-degree view where powerful Celestron CGE Pro 1400 and CPC 800 telescopes display everything live on large HD monitors. Resident astronomer Corrie-Ann Delgado's enthusiasm and passion for all things celestial are palpable and highly informative. And watching the moon up close on a clear Virginia night is near impossible to beat.
If a remote country escape is what you seek, where being outdoors and basking in nature is a priority, but never having to give up lush bedding, all-out pampering, gourmet food, and crafted cocktails, well then, Primland will check every box on your proverbial luxe list.